How Do Clients Choose a Clinic?
the million dollar question in dental clinic marketing is, How do customers decide on a clinic in which to receive care? Although going to the dentist is not something people look forward to, at some point clients must decide on a dentist or clinic. As professionals, it is important that we understand the customers’ decision-making process, because if we know what is important to them and understand how they make decisions, we can make the necessary adjustments so that they will ultimately turn to us for dental care.
In the context of consumer behavior, one of the most popular models which attempts to explain consumer decision-making processes is the Fishbein Model. According to the Fishbein Model, when a customer faces a complex purchasing decision, he or she will execute a market survey and examine, on average, three alternatives. During the market survey, the customer will formulate a position that constitutes a “score” for each alternative examined. This is done based on the parameters they find most important, such as quality of care, costs, etc. According to this model, the brand that receives the highest weighted score among the alternatives examined will be chosen. For example, a student will choose a car that receives the highest score in the categories of savings and reliability, since these parameters are most important to him or her. A wealthy family man, on the other hand, will choose the safest and most spacious car.
How, then, will Mr. Smith choose a dentist or dental clinic according to the Fishbein Model? The answer is – in approximately the same way.
First, we must answer two important questions: What are the most important parameters when choosing a dentist or dental clinic? And, how much weight do customers attribute to each parameter?
During my first years as a dental clinic consultant, I made sure to conduct market surveys in each clinic I worked with – partly because I wanted to identify the specific strengths and weaknesses of each clinic, but also in order to learn about how consumers of dental care thought. One of my questions in the internal and external surveys was, What do you consider the most important features when choosing a dental clinic? The results did not surprise me, but they did surprise many clinic owners. What did surprise me was the fact that the results were almost identical across all the clinics. The process of choosing a dentist or dental clinic is, in fact, the same pretty much everywhere even though many professionals are certain that their location has its own rules.
Let us review the results – the four most important features for dental customers, in order of importance:
1 . Professionalism of the dentist or dental clinic
2 . Personal attention
3. The clinic’s location
4. Treatment prices
You’re probably not surprised by these, but we should pay attention to the importance attributed by customers to every category: The dentist or clinic’s professionalism is the most important parameter and impacts 53% of the customer’s decision. Personal attention is the second most important parameter and affects about 31% of the customer’s decision. The location of the clinic is the third most important parameter and constitutes about 9% of the customer’s decision. Last on this list is the price, surprisingly. The parameter that we might have guessed would be the most important constitutes only about 7% of the client’s decision when choosing a dentist or dental clinic.
Incidentally, additional studies show almost identical results.
A survey conducted by the Zimmer Implant Company, which examined patients who underwent or were meant to undergo dental implant surgery, found that the price of the implant surgery was the last parameter in the clients’ list of considerations and affected only 4% of customer decisions. In fact, the longevity of the implant, which is in fact the “professionalism,” was shown to carry the most weight among customers: 55%.
Simply put, customers give you and your clinic a total score based on the qualities that are most important to them and compare these scores with the scores of the other clinics. If you receive the highest score, the customer will decide to undergo treatments at your clinic. If your competitor receives a higher score than you do, the customer will turn to them for dental care.
The most interesting fact is that the clinic’s professionalism (53%) and personal attention (31%) constitute a whopping 84% of clients’ decision process when choosing a dentist or clinic. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that whoever wins when it comes to these two parameters will win the customers over. If we narrow down the reasons for winning the customer’s heart and pocket, we can say that most clinics have a relatively good score in the field of personal attention (I have encountered only a few cases of clinics that severely mistreat their clients) and therefore those who succeed in producing the best professional impression win the client over.
It is worth noting that these considerations are the average, and apply to most customers; however, there are customers who put different weight on different parameters. There are, for example, those who are so afraid of the dentist that the parameter of personal attention and empathy exhibited by the dentist are most important to them. There are also some for whom price is most important. These patients convince themselves that there are no differences between clinics, or even if they prefer another option, they can’t afford the price. However, as the surveys I conducted show, for the vast majority of customers professionalism and personal attention are the most important in choosing a dentist or clinic.
Many dentists mistakenly believe that customers prefer their competitors because they offer lower prices. It’s always easier to blame the price than to admit that you failed at the sales process. Customers who prefer a competitor whose prices are lower do so, in most cases, not because of the price but rather because the more expensive clinic was unable to show them that it was also more professional and that there is justification for the higher prices it charges.
Remember – customers are willing to pay more (within reason) on the condition that they understand the additional benefits they will receive for the higher prices. This is basic consumer behavior. It is no accident that the bestselling vehicle worldwide in recent years is the Toyota. Consumers believe that they get more for their money – reliability, saving, value, etc., and are therefore willing to pay more.