31 – The importance of the pilot

Whenever contemplating a major change, do some market research.

This does not mean engaging expensive researchers to conduct surveys and focus groups on your behalf. The best way to do market research, especially when it comes to pricing, is in the actual market. Run a trial, or pilot, program, using the new pricing arrangements with a sub-set of real clients.

It is over to you as to how you select those clients. Some practices will ask preferred and more engaged clients to be part of the pilot. Others will randomly select some clients and ask them to move to the new pricing model. Some may pilot the program with the most ornery of clients, as a means of ensuring that a detailed critique is as likely as possible. Others will ask all new clients commencing during a set period to use the new model.

The idea is that the trial will allow you to identify weaknesses, deficiencies or resistances in the new model before you roll it out and expose your entire client list to the change. Sometimes these problems are easily solved. It is much easier to communicate a solution to a few clients than it is to communicate it to all clients.

If the issues are not easily solved, then you have limited the number of clients exposed to the problem to a relatively small number. And your existing model still exists, so you can often move the trial clients back to it if the new model really fails.

Conversely, and more optimistically, if the new model works well, then you will have been able to identify its strengths. These can then be used to communicate the change to the whole client group. You may even be able to gather testimonials from the clients who participated in the trial.

Staff will be used to the new model and they will be better able to explain it and its benefits to your clients.

When running a trial, make sure you set aside time to evaluate it. This should be done both during and after the trial. The key thing to evaluate is client satisfaction. Clients are the lifeblood of your practice and it is their experience that you need most to keep in mind with any element of your pricing.

The Dover Group