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Maybe the Most Damaging Number to a Dental Lab Most Are Not Tracking


The mark of a competitive dental laboratory lies in its ability to provide high-quality restorations and services, knowledgeable technical support, and effective customer service. And labs should have data collection tools to support those, as well as, of course, financial KPIs. However, there is one customer-facing KPI I never see data collected on, or tracked, in a dental lab, and that is following the doctor's instructions.

The Importance of Following Instructions

Imagine the frustration a dentist must feel when they get a case back and they see the lab blatantly did not follow their instructions or requests. Such instances most often make the case unusable, requiring rescheduling of an unhappy patient, lost chair time, and additional expense.

Now I know I have readers shouting at their screen saying “what about when the doctor is wrong?” To be clear, this article is only about those cases where it is determined that the lab blatantly and carelessly missed an instruction or request.

“Nothing makes a dental lab look more incompetent, taxes their reputation and hurts their pricing power more than not following clear instructions by the doctor.”

Instances like this happen far more often than lab owners realize due to many reasons, starting with “following instructions” is not a tracked KPI. And as we’ve often heard, “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed.”

This is not an exact number, but if I had to guess the national average for following instructions, I’d have to put the number at around 92%. With labs at the lowest end of that range having to continually keep lower prices for their clients to tolerate it. Labs exceeding that number provide a more hassle-free, frustration-free experience to their doctors that contribute to overall value, doctor retention and pricing power.

What should the KPI be?

Start by asking yourself this simple question. "How many times per month are we willing to look completely incompetent and tax our lab's brand because we missed clear and obvious instructions from our client?" Then back that number into an acceptable “following instructions KPI.” The numbers will shock you.

Using an example like doing 1,000 cases per month, and establishing a "following instructions" KPI of a seemingly impressive 98%. would mean you were still willing to have 20 instances per month of making blatant mistakes that make your lab look incompetent, tax its brand and hurt your pricing power.

Then you have to think about who is going to happen to. Because if it takes 120 doctors to send those thousand cases, that means you’re likely going to risk losing 20 of them. Shocking calculations, I know.

Keep in mind, this would be an even distribution of errors among your customer base since we only count those instances that were blatant errors on the lab's part. That means the error was not with the doctor, so it could have happened to any of your accounts.

“Without data collection and reporting on a KPI for following instructions, leadership typically has a very skewed understanding of how bad the problem may be."

Making it Tangible

Try this in your lab. Even using the example above, 1,000 cases per month, 120 doctors, 98% following instructions, affecting 20 doctors, that means that in just a single month, you could be taxing your brand, sometimes irreparably, with 16% of your customer base. Which means the idea that your lab is incompetent could touch every one of your doctors every 6 months or twice a year.

Those are the kinds of numbers that may start to make sense in the context of a typical lab's attrition rate, or the average time a doctor spends with a lab before switching.


Following instructions is a critical, yet typically overlooked, aspect of running a successful dental laboratory. Implementing effective measures and tracking a "following instructions" KPI can ensure a better, hassle-free experience for doctors that leads to improved customer retention and pricing power for labs. Labs should set targets, create data collection and reporting methods and be diligent about reducing the number of instances where clear and obvious instructions are blatantly missed.

Contact 8&9 Consulting today to see how to use the "following instructions," and other customer-facing KPIs, to improve customer satisfaction and retention in your dental lab.


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