Alexandra Dental Care has earned itself a reputation as a quality practice that is focused on delivering preventive dentistry, backed up by many years in business. Josie Hutchings, Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, caught up with Practice Manager, Zoe Sharp, to find about more about their path to success. Here she shares their story…
After more than five decades in business, Alexandra Dental Care has just celebrated a bumper year – winning not one, but three industry awards. Last year also marked the 20th anniversary of the Derbyshire-based practice being managed by dentists Yogi Savania and George Savva. Despite their years in business, the team behind this successful practice are far from resting on their laurels and are continuing to drive forward, with the opening of a fifth treatment room taking place later this year.
Rewinding to the beginning of Alexandra Dental Care’s story, means going back to 1961 when the practice was established in the small mining town of Swadlincote. Originally it was an NHS practice, but in 2000, four years after Yogi and George took the business over, they decided to convert to private practice. Initially the two partners moved to private, with an associate following later. To make the transition to private practice as seamless as possible, they partnered with Practice Plan to offer a membership plan for their new private patients.
Zoe Sharp, Practice Manager at Alexandra Dental Care, says, ‘I think we were one of the first – if not the first practice – in the area to go private so it must have been very nerve-wracking at the time, but they needn’t have worried as the patients stayed loyal to us.
‘Now, all our dentists offer private service and while we do have some remaining NHS adult patients we don’t take on any new NHS patients, although we do still offer NHS treatment to under-18s. We find that patients come to us wanting private treatment, because our reputation is so strong.’
A trio of industry awards
That strong reputation, has been further bolstered this year with a hat-trick of awards within the past 12 months. Firstly, they won Best Team at The Dental Awards in May 2016, followed by two wins at Dentistry Awards in November for Best Practice (Midlands) and Best Team Member (Midlands). The latter was scooped by Dental Nurse, Lorraine Bates, who has been with the practice for 36 years.
Lorraine is part of a team of 15 dental nurses/receptionists who work alongside six dentists, two hygienists and treatment coordinators, and a specialist periodontist. Together they are able to provide a wide range of treatment including implants, orthodontics and facial aesthetics. Zoe believes it is a combination of teamwork, with everyone dedicated to providing high-quality preventive dentistry, plus a commitment to investing in training, technology and marketing that helps to make the practice such a success.
Training includes everything from clinical offerings such as implants, to a year-long sales course with Ashley Latter and specialist training from Practice Plan.
Zoe adds, ‘George and Yogi are very keen on every member of staff developing themselves and reaching their potential, because that enhances the practice. They are brilliant to work for as there’s no ‘them and us’, we’re a real team and they want everyone to develop and work to the best of our ability. We have monthly compulsory staff meetings which we all attend so that everyone knows what is happening, we are all singing from the same hymn sheet and we can proactively address any challenging areas.
‘Josie, our Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, is a really supportive source of training and advice as well. We asked her to come along to one of our staff meetings because we wanted to start growing the number of patients joining the membership plan. She came in and gave us sound advice and encouragement in the best way to go about it. We do find it relatively easy to promote the plan to our patients because of the support we received to set it up, which means we all really believe in and understand the advantages it can bring and we know it’s a positive benefit to patients, but it was great to have that extra boost to support our development.
‘We’ve all also attended practice management events that Practice Plan have held over the years that we’ve been with them, and we’ve come away with useful, practical tips that we can actually take away and put into practice to make the management even more effective and efficient.’
Maximising marketing success
Alongside their commitment to always improving and innovating, the practice has an extremely proactive approach to marketing.
‘We believe in investing time and money into our marketing and try and make it fun, we can often be found in our local town promoting our ethos of preventative oral health care,’ says Zoe.
As well as the more traditional channels of advertising in the local press, Alexandra Dental Care also makes use of social media, online blogs and radio adverts, they even have their own jingle. As a member of Practice Plan they have access to a dedicated in-house marketing and design team, which they make use of to create practice newsletters that are included in patient correspondence.
The team has also created presence within their community by attending local events, such as wedding fayres, sponsoring local teams and having stalls in the town centre to spread awareness of the services they offer and their preventative approach to oral health. A key part of this message is carried out by their Oral Health Educator who attends local schools to raise awareness of the importance of dental health.
Zoe explains, ‘We pride ourselves on the care and service we provide, and think of ourselves as a ‘listening practice’ – we take the time to listen to patients in order to provide a service they truly want. Ultimately, we’re a preventive dental practice, we like to educate our patients so they don’t actually need a lot of work doing, we want to help them maintain good oral health.
‘I think our patients really appreciate that approach, we have people who have been coming to see us for 20 years and they are like good friends now.’
A future of continued growth
They may have a well-established practice with a loyal patient base, as well as visiting patients who travel from as far afield as the USA and Saudi Arabia, but the practice is still committed to growing their services and their patient list.
As well as investing in technology such as CEREC, they will soon be opening their fifth surgery which will make room for another dentist and additional hygienist services. They are also dedicated to meeting monthly targets for new patients. Although, thanks to their well-earned reputation they find themselves in demand.
Zoe says, ‘The future for us is one of constant investment and innovation, that is what helps us to stay ahead of the competition and continuously enhance our patient care. The practice is constantly growing and improving on what we can offer.
‘We have built such a good reputation that we have 60 to 70 new patients a month calling us – but the key is how we handle them at reception and on the phone to ensure they become members of the practice. Many of those might be calling to ask about being an NHS patient, but by the time we’ve finished talking to them they are readily signing up as a private patient. I think that’s because we truly believe in what we’re offering here, if you believe in yourself and what you are doing, you have won half the battle.’