Since the Great Recession began in 2008, American fertility rates have continuously declined; in fact, fertility rates hit an all-time low in 2018. Similarly, actual total births in the US have steadily declined and are currently at levels not seen since 1987.
While economic downturns historically decrease fertility and birth rates, we are also seeing cultural changes that have contributed to the continued decline even after the Great Recession ended. Millennial women, more so than previous generations, are putting off having children and teen pregnancies have hit record lows each consecutive year since 2009. In fact, teen pregnancies in 2018 are down 58% compared to 2007 and down 72% from the 1991 high.
The orthodontic industry has started to experience the negative impact of these trends and it will become progressively worse over the next 10 years at a minimum. If you haven’t planned for these trends, you need to start immediately.
Competing for Non-Adult Patients
As the non-adult prospective patient pool continues to shrink over the next decade, competition for this coveted patient group will heat up. Practices who deliver a premium customer experience, especially pertaining to practice atmosphere, interactions, convenience, and payment affordability, will likely win within this patient group.
If you are the lowest cost option in your area, you need to offset your lower fees by minimizing appointments and emergencies so you can handle the increased volume by expanding your capacity. Additionally, even though your overall fee is the lowest, you need to make sure you are also the most affordable regarding your minimum down payments and monthly payment amounts. For example, if your overall fee is $4200 but your minimum down payment is $1200, your are immediately cutting out over half of the prospective patient population.
If you are the highest cost option in your area, you will need to deliver a premium experience if you are demanding a premium price. The good news is many consumers today are willing to pay a premium for a superior experience. However, they want to be WOWed from their first interaction with your practice through their last. When evaluating your practice’s Patient Experience, please review our Optimizing Your Customer Experience post for some key areas to review on your customer journey map. Additionally, by offering more affordable minimum down payments and monthly payment amounts (aka extended payments), your premium fees can fit the budgets of more area households. OrthoCatapult® has made this extremely easy to do with our OrthoAccept™ tool. In fact, you can even collect interest on your extended payment options while doing so. See it in action and help more patients “Start Now”.
If you are neither the lowest or highest cost option in your area, you likely need to approach your business and services very similar to the highest cost option described above. For an average to subpar experience, consumers will focus solely on price; since you are not the lowest cost, you will likely lose that battle or be forced to lower your fees. If you offer a premium experience and more affordable pricing and payment options, you can still compete for the top end patients as long as your practice is viewed as a premium brand in your local area. If there is a major discrepancy between the experience, especially in regards to flexibility, office atmosphere and technology, you will likely lose out to the premium branded practice even though they are the highest cost option.
There are several ways to grow your practice, but you need to make sure your customer experience matches your fee structures compared to your competition.
The OrthoCatapult® Team