Australasian Dental Practice

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30 Sep 2018 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 34

What we can learn from sharks

By Dr Brett Taylor

I had a conversation once with three men who had survived great white shark encounters.* One of them (my uncle), had carved out a very successful career filming great whites up close and personal. The other two, however, had lost half a leg and 40% of blood volume respectively (their encounters were actual attacks) and were lucky to be alive. What I learnt from them was to stay away from great white sharks. A simple message, but a good one to remember. What we learn from sharks in general, however, is a little different and a little more relevant to the business of dentistry.

A shark has to keep moving to stay alive. The same rule applies to our dental practices. Today is not the same as yesterday. Times change and we have to change to stay afloat. Staying still (i.e. doing nothing different) in your practice is a recipe for death. Well, business death anyway. When I graduated in 1985, there was no advertising allowed. You relied on word of mouth for new patients. Nowadays, things are very different. I don't need to tell you the lengths some practices go to attract new business. I'm sure many of you still just rely on word of mouth for new patients, but it's not as easy as it once was, is it? And don't get me started on dental tourism! I used to make the point in lectures that dentists didn't compete with each other; they competed with travel agents. My point, back then, was that when it came to discretionary dental spending (aesthetics, C&B, etc.), patients would often choose a holiday over getting their teeth fixed. Now they can have a holiday AND get their teeth fixed. That's hard to compete with.

So what's my point? The business of dentistry is getting tougher and we need to be smarter about the way we practice. We need to keep moving (like the sharks), work differently, try different things and above all, be innovative to ensure we don't go backwards.

Which brings me to an innovative new product called Channel D. Several years ago, I was talking to Dr Michael Sernik. Michael is a dentist and a well known international lecturer. I'd attended his communications courses countless times over the years and quite frankly, I thought his ideas were brilliant. I've always had an interest in human interaction and Michael and I would dissect and debate the nuances of why saying particular things evoked particular responses (sounds pretty geeky doesn't it? Guilty as charged I!). Anyway, the conclusion I drew from all of our discussions was that effective communication was essential for business success, but that it was very easy to get it wrong. I used to joke to him, I don't need to learn this stuff Michael - I just need to get you to sit in my reception and talk to the patients for me. You generate the work and I'll just do it. And so the seeds of Channel D were planted. How good would it be to have a communication expert like Michael talking to your patients "perfectly" every time? Telling them what they needed to know, in the way they needed to hear it? Well, that's what Channel D does!

Channel D is unlike anything you've ever seen. In a nutshell, it's a collection of customised silent videos that run in your reception area. The videos are designed to motivate and educate. Most dental education videos are ridiculously graphic and detailed (and too often scary).

Channel D is NOT like that. It focuses on WHY treatment is beneficial. It does that by making the videos memorable, relatable, funny and above all, entertaining. The waiting/reception area is not what it once was. Everyone has an encyclopaedia, a movie theatre, a TV station and a radio station on their person, at all times. A few brochures and a before and after album scattered around reception are NOT going to get noticed. To get noticed, you have to be smart - and Channel D is very smart. It gets noticed. Patients put down their phones to watch it.

Now I need to declare my interest here. When Channel D started to become a reality, I demanded I become beta tester No 1. I've watched it evolve and it's evolved into something fabulous. My patients adore it. They come into my operatory in a good mood (because the videos are funny). They joke with me about things they've seen. It creates conversation.

They ask me questions about things they've seen. They demand treatment as a result of things they've seen. I've literally had people tell ME that they should have ceramic fillings instead of plastic because they're stronger. That they should get their teeth straightened because they'll then be easier to clean. That they need a crown to protect the tooth from breaking because "it's like a crash helmet". I had a new patient recently who needed a root canal therapy. I was about to explain it to her when she said "it's OK, I saw the video in reception, I understand, let's do it". How good is that? No amount of describing Channel D, however, is going to do it justice. I would encourage you to go to and have a look for yourself. It's become an integral part of my practice and is hands down the best return on investment (ROI) of anything I've ever done.

I continue to keep looking for ways to innovate (to keep moving like the sharks), but with Channel D in my corner, the business of dentistry is a lot easier. It can be a lot easier for you too. Go on, look it up now! I'm sure you'll be impressed. And yes, one of the videos really does have a shark in it. Uncle Ron would be proud.

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