As a result of the Great Recession and slow recovery, most consumers—including the parents of prospective orthodontic patients—behave differently now when it comes to spending. Even those who intend to go forward with ortho treatment for their children are typically not accepting treatment at the first practice they visit. They are shopping for the best "deal" they can find.
The best time to prevent this behavior is before it starts, and the best way to do that is with an active observation program.
Observation is Really Relationship-Building
A practice should bring a child into observation with two objectives. The obvious one is to track oral development so that actual orthodontic treatment can begin at the ideal time. The less-obvious objective is to build a strong relationship with the parent and child. Some guidelines for success
• Everyone on the team, not just the orthodontist and the treatment coordinator, should be scripted to welcome and show personal interest in parents and patients, building the relationship with each visit.
• Schedule free observation appointments every 6 months.
• Treat late arrivals, cancellations, and no-shows seriously, contacting the parents within 24 hours to reschedule and stressing the importance of regular observation.
• Script interactions to speak of "when," not "if," the patient will start treatment at your practice.
• As the time for treatment nears, point out the savings for observation patients when they move into treatment at your practice, including: 1) free observation x-rays; 2) familiarity with the child’s oral development, eliminating the need for an initial evaluation appointment; 3) the ability to initiate treatment at the optimum time, resulting in a shorter, less costly treatment program.
Orthodontic shopping is a reality in the new economy. However, by building a strong relationship through observation, your practice can stop the shopping before it even begins.