Chances are, if you were to actually ask your clients what they want, they'd more quickly deliver a list of things they don't want. What they don't want, in fact, is closely allied with what they do and there's a definite theme: they want less so they can have more.
For example, they want less bombardment of information. They want to know what they need to know culled into a manageable package. They want less change. They want simple solutions. They want remakes without accountability. They want less expense and more profit. They want things done in less time. They want less aggravation and more delegation. Get the idea?
In fairness, many of their wants are ones we all grapple with. We all have a lot on our plate, probably too much, yet we don't know which items to wrap up and save for another lifetime. We should have seen it coming: back in the 1980s, when cell phones and laptops were in their infancy, we had all the warning signs we needed. We're a society in love with our ability to multitask and we owe it all to the great enabler: technology.
Digitized information--a most incredible, enlightening and wonderful resource--also distorts, confuses and confounds; as a result, we are overwhelmed. Because it's become so difficult to separate fact from subjectivity, it's hard to know who to listen to, what to believe and how to assess technologies to determine if they're right for us. For dentists, keeping up on technology is one more segment of their practice that demands their time, time that continues to become ever more precious and rare.
So here's the thing: this presents an opportunity for you. Take note: there aren't many laboratory-related articles in the dental journals. It's bad enough that dental schools give lip service to dental technology; it's worse that dentists have so few channels to educate themselves about the incredible advances that we're experiencing on our side of the dental field.
The funny thing about this is that, in the ADA's Future of Dentistry Executive Summary, last updated in 2002, it recommends that "the dentist must remain the repository of laboratory skill and knowledge." The report states that, "The laboratory industry should not become the authority on laboratory procedures..." and further explains that "there are no national standards for dental technicians [and]...a shortage will create a risk situation..." As such, it recommends that the dentist should be "a knowledgeable director of laboratory procedures to insure [patient safety]."
You may already be red in the face with irritation, like I was, upon first read. It does come across in a way that really harkens back to that old "slave/master" dynamic of yesteryear; however, read in context with the entire section, I read it to mean that the dentist must not relinquish ultimate responsibility for his patients' well-being.
So how, exactly, is the GP supposed to do this? Here's where opportunity knocks. As a lab owner, you have your client's trust. Your opinion, pardon the expression, has teeth, especially where materials are concerned.
But, because of the heretofore mentioned information overload, you need to find a way to keep the communication flowing without spilling over. When people feel overwhelmed, they shut down. Dentists don't want you to eat up yet more of their time. Whatever information you impart needs to be delivered as succinctly as possible. Everyone's focus is on getting in, getting it done and getting on to the next responsibility.
Of course there are always exceptions. I know there are many examples of terrific dentist-technician relationships, ones that have turned into fishing and biking buddies, ones that break out the beer on Super Bowl Sunday, ones that team up to attend CE courses, ones that invite lengthy technical dialogue. But for the most part, it seems to me, the best way you can give a dentist what he really wants is to deliver more in less time. The way to his loyalty is to make it as easy and seamless to do business with you as possible.
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