February 2015
Volume 6, Issue 2

Does Your Online Presence Have a Pulse?

Make sure your website is working for you

By Terry Fine

It’s 2015. A website with just your laboratory’s logo and phone number just doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, thriving dental laboratories’ websites are more than digital versions of a billboard or mailer. They’re interactive tools that drive sales.

Because early technology made the price of developing a truly interactive web presence outside many businesses’ budgets, many dental laboratories opted for a simple, static web presence. In 2001, this was a viable option, as there was little functional distinction between a website and printed marketing collateral. These days, improvements in web capabilities make interactivity feasible within any budget and have created an environment in which users expect a website to cater to their specific needs.

For a dental laboratory, building an interactive website merely means anticipating your dentists’ needs and providing clients with the tools to make working with you as easy as possible. While every laboratory’s needs are different, most should consider adding these basic functions.

Case Scheduling

If your dentists are searching for a list of your turn times, counting working laboratory days on a calendar, and then guessing at shipping times, they’re wasting time case planning. Working from the turn times you list on your fee schedule, a developer can easily develop a widget that enables a dentist to select a restoration type and the day he or she plans to ship it. Once the dentist submits the form, the script calculates the ship date, taking into account weekends and holidays, and provides the shipment date of the case from your laboratory.

Print Shipping Labels

Some laboratories mail prepaid shipping labels to their dentists, while others let dentists fuss with labeling and paying for their submissions. By integrating a function into your website that enables dentists to print shipping labels, you simplify the submission process on their end.

UPS and FedEx provide developer toolkits with application program interfaces (APIs) that give developers the power to generate shipper-compliant labels directly from a browser. They even give you the option to offer different levels of delivery, such as 2-day or next-day service. You can enable dentists to schedule a pickup from the carrier after the dentist prints the shipping label. Don’t worry about racking up unused shipping costs; your account is charged only when the carrier picks up the packages.

Pickup Requests

Similarly, an interactive website provides dentists in your pickup area with the opportunity to request a pickup without the need to phone your laboratory. A simple form can be used to request a pickup day and time, which is then sent to your customer service department. A more robust option can automatically send text messages to the driver responsible for the applicable pickup zone notifying him or her that a case is ready for pickup, automating the process as well as providing valuable convenience for your local dentists.

Quest for Supplies

How often does your laboratory field calls from practices that need shipping labels, case boxes, prescription forms, and other supplies? How much time could your dentists—not to mention your office staff—save by making it easy to request those materials using a web form?

Product Information

Manufacturers offer a wealth of supporting documentation for their products that provide clinical information and help dentists prepare and seat restorations correctly. Having this material handy can be particularly helpful when dentists consider trying a new product, as it gives them confidence knowing they’ll perform the procedure according to specifications. Collecting this information in a central area on your website turns your laboratory’s website into a practical reference for dentists.

A properly constructed website does more than get your laboratory’s name out on the web. It anticipates dentists’ needs and strives to cater to them. Of course, dentists can find your telephone number on your website and collect that information themselves, but your website can serve as a clearinghouse, saving your clients time and effort.

If you’re used to considering your website as just another billboard on the information highway, this kind of functionality may seem little more than nonessential extras. You couldn’t be more wrong: Your laboratory is perceived as a good working partner, saving dentists administrative time and making your facility more attractive than your competitors.

Even more importantly, a new dentist-client will have fewer steps for sending work to your bench. In the time it takes one to look up your phone number and call your office to request prescription forms and shipping materials, the dentist can download and print materials and have the case ready to ship. Why give a prospective dentist-client an opportunity to find another laboratory’s website or fall back into the habit of sending work to the usual laboratory?

Conclusion

There’s no single formula for a winning dental laboratory website. If yours isn’t adding value to your relationship with dentists by making their lives easier, it’s not pulling its weight.

Terry Fine is president of AMG Creative in Fort Collins, CO.

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