From the Information Age to the Recommendation Age in Orthodontics

In the past it was difficult to find information on many subjects, especially orthodontic treatment for the  consumer. In order for parents to make an informed decision, they relied heavily upon referrals from general dentists to guide them through the selection process, based on their dental knowledge and experience. Today, we have too much information. Patients and parents can search on the Internet and find out anything they want to know about orthodontics.  Now they are overwhelmed and look for guidance from people they trust…friends and family. 

Parents today, don’t have enough time to sort through all the information and make sense of it all.  Recommendations are a method of sifting through the hodgepodge and getting right to the heart of the information.

When I oversaw computer conversions and integration of systems, I relied heavily on our computer tech.  He was a computer guru who understood both software and hardware platforms. He also knew what was currently installed on our system and most importantly, what would work and what may cause problems. For me, it meant that I could safely outsource my computer knowledge to him, freeing up more of my time for other areas that needed attention.

It’s no longer an Information Age but a Recommendation Age…

At first, I was always questioning and probing  him for more information and knowledge or sometimes even venturing to the Internet for answers, buying books I had no time to read and saving articles that sat in a pile.  II always thought, that if I kept at it long enough, over time, I would gain enough knowledge to make my own decisions when purchasing equipment. But like many, time was not on my side, technology changed, and choices had to be made. I finally gave in… now I just accept his recommendations at face value, without question, knowing that his is the smarter and wiser way to go.

Today, orthodontic information is only a few clicks away and easy to find on the internet. Seeking information is no longer the issue – making smart decisions based on the information gathered is now the problem.  And here’s the kicker- there is so much data that it may well push anyone into a state of paralysis by analysis. No wonder patients and parents look to family, friends and their referring dentist as their main source of referral for orthodontic treatment providers, especially with the myriad of choices within the profession that you have to consider. General dentists and pedodontists are jumping on the band wagon, more and more, as orthodontic treatment providers since the advent of Invisalign.

How do parents escape paralysis by analysis? One method is to ask someone with first hand experience. This means seeking out recommendations from people with prior experience in orthodontic treatment, whether it be for themselves or their children, friends or family. Recommendations serve as a fast way of sifting through the mire of information overload, just as my computer tech directed me to the correct hardware when building computer systems.

So how do you thrive in the Recommendation Age?

Be Clear On What You Offer In your written marketing materials, website content and “one on one” communications during case presentations, stick to the facts. Strip all information that is not absolutely accurate.

Ask and Inform Survey your patients and parents and follow through on recommendations, if it works within your practice vision.  On one of our surveys, one mom asked for a diaper changing area in the rest room. This request was very doable and one was installed in a timely manner. However, a few parents always request evening or weekend appointments.  If this does not work within your practice vision, acknowledge your understanding of the request and be forthcoming with why your practice does not comply.  I would often explain to parents that our staff also has children, day care issues, and wants to spend quality time with their families. They generally are more understanding after the explanation. Being proactive, rather than reactive often is the better choice when communicating practice policies.

Well Trained Staff  Team members, in all areas, should be well trained and versed in their positions’ office protocol. Not every situation is black or white; there are sometimes shades of grey, depending upon the circumstances. General rule of thumb for any business, “When in doubt ask”. However, too many shades of grey lead to a poorly run system, especially when overriding appointment templates. Everyone needs to be on the same page, including the orthodontist.

Over Deliver with customer service to create “trustworthy” sources of recommendations.

The old adage that a bad experience elicits ten times as many bad recommendations as a good one is even more true, in the Recommendation Age.   Always keep this in mind.