3 Lessons DSOs Can Learn from Other Industries

Engagement strategies from other industries are key learnings for dental practice leaders, too.

As the DSO model within the dental industry continues to grow in popularity, DSO leaders and dental practices alike are looking for inspiration to improve operations and promote growth wherever possible.

There are plenty of valuable lessons to learn from some unexpected sources, such as the entertainment, hospitality/travel, and retail sectors. These industries all specialize in meeting the expectations of their customers through consumer centricity, which is defined as putting the customer at the core of all business practices, according to McKinsey & Company.

Time to payment is at the core of any business, and optimizing how customers choose and pay for services has been a central part of business operations for ages. With the increase in technology-driven services, business owners across industries are looking to new ways to ensure the payment journey is as seamless and intuitive as possible. So, what can we as healthcare leaders learn?

Applying the Entertainment Industry’s Marketing Funnel

It’s safe to say that most of us have eagerly awaited a new movie in our favorite franchise or the kickoff of another sports season, but how does that translate to DSOs and their business? For starters, the reason we all have that anticipation to tune into what’s on TV or popular streaming services is because we feel loyal to that story or those players, so we find ourselves coming back to them time and again. This brand loyalty, so to speak, is what DSOs and dentists should be seeking from the patients they want to attract. In order to get there, we can take a look at the entertainment industry and how they utilize the marketing funnel to drive results.

According to Amazon, a marketing funnel is the journey a customer takes in their path to purchase and is broken into four major parts: awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty. The two points we want to look at in particular are conversion and loyalty. With conversion, consumers are encouraged to partner with a product or solution from that brand, and in this case, messaging would encourage patients to consider moving forward with dental care. From there, loyalty is established and fostered once the customer (in this case, the patient) has purchased the product or service by continuing to deliver on their needs.

The entertainment industry also uses technology to simplify the customer journey. For example, the utilization of digital ticket presales to ensure that a high-demand event can reach a wider audience is, from a high-level perspective, not so different from DSOs utilizing online portals to help simplify scheduling processes. Clearer, technology-enabled online communications that make accessing and paying for care easier for the patient can help foster a stronger patient-provider relationship, build loyalty, and also increase time to payment for DSOs.

We see how these parts can be applied to the patient journey and how for providers, conversion and loyalty are especially important. Now, to maximize on the efforts associated with these steps, DSOs have to think a little outside the box. Messaging is great, but there need to be tangible incentives that appeal to and attract new patients.

Taking Inspiration from Hospitality and Travel Industry’s Cost Communications

Pricing transparency is crucial for attracting and retaining customers. Imagine walking into a restaurant advertising free drinks in the window, but when the bill comes you find out that only applies if you’ve bought an entrée. You’d probably be pretty disappointed, and likely wouldn’t be going back to that restaurant. The same applies for your franchise’s patients. It might not be possible to provide the exact number for the out-of-pocket cost of a service the way a restaurant menu or hotel rate listing does, but there are steps your providers can take to help manage patient expectations.

For example, dental staff can work with patients to communicate what a range of their expected costs may be and provide information on how to approach their insurance company regarding coverage. Having a base range to work from can allow patients to discuss their yearly maximums with their insurance providers to find out how much, if any, of the costs may need to be covered out-of-pocket. And remember that for many people, unpredictable out-of-pocket costs aren’t just a stressful experience — sometimes they can prevent patients from receiving the care they need outright. According to Synchrony’s Lifetime of Healthcare Costs survey, 28% of patients have delayed care due to costs and 17% have even ignored recommended care as a result.

This is where having trained staff comes into play as well. In the hospitality and travel industries, building an emotional connection with a customer is just as important as being transparent. Forbes says leading with empathy can have a significant impact on customers and go a long way in building brand loyalty, with emotionally engaged customers three times more likely to recommend a product or service. So, training staff to be empathetic and knowledgeable on what solutions are available for patients to help them move forward with care — such as the CareCredit credit card — is always a good idea.

Utilizing Retailers' Approach to Optimizing the Customer Journey

“The customer is always right.” I’m sure we’ve all heard that phrase before, especially in the retail industry. Retailers across the country go to lengths unseen in any other industry to satisfy their customers, so we might have a thing or two to glean from these customer service experts –— such as online scheduling and technology-centric customer service support. To continue delivering on expectations, the industry as a whole is learning and implementing new ways to make payments easier for their consumers.

A study from PYMNTS found that 66% of retailers are shifting their resources toward more convenient payment options and a broader range of payment options. The same study found that retailers looking to achieve this should consider the following practices: remove in-store shopping friction, limit checkout complexity, and focus on optimizing real-time payments. These items can be translated easily into dental practices, and for DSOs, this means helping their dental teams access the tools needed to put these practices into action.

For removing in-store friction — or in a DSOs case, helping patients move forward with payment following their service — a practice could offer co-payments, to be made in advance through an online patient portal or provide quick check-in links or QR codes that allow patients to verify their information and prequalify for payment options before arriving at the office. Limiting checkout complexity can translate to simplifying payment and billing processes for patients, whether it be in-office or again by allowing for payments to be made online via a portal where all costs can be broken down clearly and concisely. 

Continuing to Build on the Patient Financial Experience

For DSOs or dental practices looking to bring these insights into their own industries, partnering with Synchrony to offer the CareCredit credit card is a key solution. CareCredit is one of the industry’s leading dental credit cards, with 12.7 million total open cardholder accounts and $40 billion in available credit. CareCredit not only offers an easy, contactless digital experience for patients, it also provides financing options that allow people to pay for the care they need over time, with no cash payment required at the time of the transaction. DSOs and dental practices receive payment in two business days from transactions using CareCredit, and CareCredit handles the collection and payment remittance process on behalf of DSOs and dental practices, which eases administrative workflows.

To make the payment process even easier on dental teams, CareCredit is integrated into a wide array of dental practice management software solutions, making it easy for dental teams to offer to patients and for patients to apply and prequalify with innovative, sophisticated technology that is simple to use and customizable. CareCredit offers training, point-of-sale materials, and more to help support payment conversations. Dental patients looking for a modern, flexible way to pay for dental care can apply in a dental practice, on any smart device, or over the phone, for the CareCredit credit card with no impact to their credit score. A credit decision is made within minutes and if approved, patients can use their account to pay for their treatment right away. CareCredit has a wide range of financing options available, from 6 to 60 months, depending on the purchase amount and need. Additionally, patients can use the CareCredit payment calculator to help estimate their monthly payments based on the amount of care financed and the financing option selected and dental teams can utilize the tool to help facilitate treatment acceptance conversations.   

Today, CareCredit is accepted in 85% of all dental practices, including some of the industry’s leading DSOs. It is also endorsed by some of the largest dental associations, including the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, and the American Association of Dental Office Management. Synchrony has more than 85 years in the consumer lending space, and CareCredit has been used in dental practices for more than 35 years.

As the DSO industry evolves, we continue our mission to provide best-in-class products and services by researching and introducing innovative ways to meet the needs of our partners and customers. We make it easy for DSOs to help their practices and their patients solve their most pressing financial challenge through modern, integrated financial solutions.

To learn more, visit https://www.carecredit.com/dentistry/.

About Matt Muscolo

Matt Muscolo brings more than 20 years of sales, product, and relationship management experience to his role as SVP and General Manager of Dental Practices at Synchrony. In his role, Matt is responsible for the development and execution of Synchrony’s dental industry strategy, including Synchrony’s leading health and wellness solution, CareCredit. Matt joined CareCredit in 2008 after 5 years with GE Money. He has a master’s degree in international business from California State University – Dominguez Hills and currently lives with his family in Southern California.




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