Several quantitative and qualitative surveys carried out internationally by Key-Stone to analyze the perceived image of the main implantology brands have highlighted how the quality perceived by dentists has undergone a real transformation: the dentists are showing new needs and a change in the value system driving their choice of the implant brand, as well as their purchasing behavior.
The shift in the implantologists’ expectations and in the selection process
Change in patients’ demand and stiffened competition among dental practices, well noted by many manufacturers and distributors in the sector: these are the main drivers that have strongly changed the market of implantology. The shift in the needs and expectations of implantologists has led to a change in the relationship between dentists and suppliers, thus impacting the entire process of implants selection. It is in this dynamic picture that in the last pre-pandemic years we have observed both an increase in the number of practices offering implantology treatments and a strong turnover of brands used (about 40% of dentists have changed brands in the last five years), a sign of some tacit dissatisfaction with the value proposition of the brands or the evidence of the not-always-met implantologists’ expectations.
Quality perceived by implantologists: from the technique to the sphere of relationship and customer care
Through various studies carried out at European level, we have analyzed the dentists’ perception about their own dental practice business development, as well as their purchasing activity, their satisfaction with the main brands and their choice behavior, not to forget the coverage and performance of the leading brands.
In the patterns of the perceived quality experienced by implantologists, we move from purely technical and functional considerations to opinions involving more the relationship and assistance given by the supplier, its services and its brand image.
The concept of “expected quality”
Through the analysis of the implantologist’s satisfaction with the manufacturer, Key-stone’s research shows how the concept of “expected quality” by dentists is based on four macro-areas:
- Innovation and scientificity
- Technical benefits
- Training and customer care
- Convenient price
Innovation and scientificity
The items concerning the first area of interest “innovation and scientificity” are related to the concept of reliability of the supplier. This is an area often associated with longstanding and highly prestigious international brands. The items are mainly related to the reputation of the manufacturer and the brand, than to the product.
The items of the “technical benefits” area depend on the intrinsic characteristics of the products themselves rather than on the brand. In this area, the experience gained by the implantologist with that specific product is relevant. This is true in the relationship not only with well-known brands, but also with less prestigious suppliers the implantologist is already familiar with.
Training and customer care
The “training and support” area concerns items such as clinical and technical training, but also aspects relating to the personal relationship with brand representatives and suppliers, as well as to the customer support services provided by the manufacturer.
The “convenient price” resulted as an essential factor of implantologists satisfaction. However, the research also reported that dentists prefer a price aligned with the perceived benefits and not necessarily cheap. In general, an “excessively affordable” price positioning, even if judged positively by a large number of dentists, is nearly always associated with the concept of “necessary compromise”, rather than total quality.
The concept of “total quality” in implantology
As shown in the image, the items determining the dentists’ purchasing process (excluding price) fall under a concept of “total quality”, characterized both by technical and innovative aspects, and by elements more related to the technical-clinical support and to the personal relationship.
International players vs Local champions
If we observe the horizontal axis referring to the quality as proposed in the image, we see how if large companies (“international players”) are more often positioned in the area of innovation and of the scientific and technical aspects, local companies (defined ” local champions “) cover the area of training and customer care, which is closer to the personal relationship with dentists. Their positions are independent from the vertical axis, which indicates the perception of a more or less convenient price as offered by the manufacturer.
Changes in the needs of implantologists
Key-Stone’s recent international surveys show that frequently, the driving factor to evaluate implant solutions different from those currently adopted (when these choices are not dictated by purely economic reasons) comes more and more often in pursuit of greater ease of use, training, customer care and close relationship provided by the supplier. An improvement that is therefore needed no longer only from the point of view of technical performance, but through quality aspects relating to the simplification of procedures and company closeness to the dentist, in terms of support and training.
The new post-pandemic scenario
The outbreak of the pandemic has led to a change in the patients’ needs, with a focus on the demand of the low-middle class population. A quality treatment offered nonetheless at affordable prices involves the development of systems characterized by an excellent value for money. In this market segment, characterized by the so-called “value” brands, the local champions – if present – stand out, generally identified with competitive prices (although not cheap), perception of high quality and solid scientific literature.
Opportunities for producers
This results in a competitive scenario where international players, in order to maintain their position, will have to focus on a diversified portfolio. The mid-range brands or local champions, instead, will have the opportunity to seize this opportunity to their advantage, exploiting this increased need for quality systems at convenient prices.
The dentist’s offer
From the dentist’s point of view, it will be increasingly frequent to diversify the offer by combining an innovative and “no compromise” implant with more affordable options with adequate quality, to meet the aforementioned greater demand for this type of implants.
In this scenario, technical support, training and close relationship with the clinicians will therefore play a key role.