By Ashley Lord, August 4, 2020
As Managing Director for Benco Dental Company, a third-generation family business, Chuck Cohen has learned what it takes to maintain loyal and happy customers: always think of them first.
Because this dental distributor is privately held, Cohen doesn’t have to worry about Wall Street, the stock market or investors. He, along with the rest of the Benco team, can truly focus on customers by listening to feedback and going out of the way to meet their needs.
“Not every company has the luxury of being able to focus on the customer,” Cohen said. “That’s what makes Benco different. When it all starts with the customer, it changes your calculus. It changes your perception. It changes everything.”
Unlike leadership at a publicly traded company, Cohen can think in decades rather than quarters, he said. Metrics like revenue and profitability, while important, aren’t the top priority. Customer satisfaction is—whether that means giving dentists access to the latest technologies that will help them grow their practices or offering them guidance on purchasing decisions.
“Our goal is to exceed 20 percent of sales from products introduced in the last three years. Last year we were over 22 percent,” Cohen said. “That’s a very important number. There are all kinds of new products and technologies in dentistry, and as a distributor we must make sure we tell our customers about the newest, latest and greatest and encourage them to upgrade the level of care they provide their patients.”
The Distributor Advantage
One of the benefits of partnering with Benco is the full-service distributor’s experienced and knowledgeable sales team. They know the industry and, unlike many other companies, can talk with dentists about a variety of products in different categories, Cohen said. They give customers choices and help them select products and equipment based on what’s best for their practices.
That value is easiest to see on the equipment side, Cohen said. Dental equipment can be expensive, and because there are so many choices on the market, there’s also plenty of confusion about what to buy. An educated, customer-focused sales rep can steer dentists in the right direction, helping ensure they don’t overbuy or underbuy.
In a market where Amazon and other e-commerce providers continue to grow, this is an important distinction, Cohen said. Traditional dental distributors like Benco offer a level of service these companies simply can’t match. From sourcing products to providing purchasing guidance, distributors offer dentists real value, which is something Benco customers appreciate.
“The right salesperson with the right level of education who’s interested in building a long-term relationship has a lot of value,” Cohen said. “For us, it’s not about making a short-term sale. So, we want to make sure we have happy customers at the end, not customers with regrets.”
The Technologies Driving the Industry
While there are many technologies advancing dentistry, Cohen said 3D imaging is the innovation Benco is experiencing the most success with. Dentists are starting to see 3D imaging as a requirement for endo, implant surgery and other surgical procedures.
“We’ve got great manufacturers to work with on the 3D imaging side,” he said. “It’s one of those technologies changing the way dentists practice.”
Cohen also recognized chairside CAD/CAM as another top technology and explained that the Benco team identified that advancement early on and championed open architecture systems before they were popular. And then of course there’s 3D printing. Dentists are investing in printers to create temporaries, splints and mouth guards, all of which can be printed while the patient waits. And soon, dentists will even have the ability to 3D print a crown.
Digital impressions are also helping to advance the industry, Cohen said. Digital scans are “far superior” to traditional impressions, allowing dentists to provide patients with better care.
“The innovation, research and development are all amazingly advanced compared to where we were just a generation ago,” Cohen said.
Benco’s Private Label Offers Even More Value
While Benco doesn’t have a manufacturing site on premise, the distributor does offer a private label line. Benco Brands features a variety of products from disposables to sophisticated endo instruments.
“We spend a lot of time sourcing and developing private label products,” Cohen said. “We have a high bar for quality because these products have our family name on them.”
Cohen describes the private label gloves as one of two “jewels” of the company’s offerings. Benco was one of the first to bring the new version of nitrile gloves to the market, he said. The stretchy gloves offer an improved touch and feel. The other jewel? The line of hygiene products that includes a sonic toothbrush, whitening, floss and a manual toothbrush.
“This is important because our customers asked for it,” Cohen said. “We can put buying power in our customers’ hands by sourcing products that are better and less expensive than traditional products. We were one of the first on the market with nitrile gloves. Even some of the traditional manufacturers didn’t see the potential growth in the glove business and how important those products would be to our customers.”
Through the private label, Benco brings overseas manufacturers to the U.S. that would have otherwise struggled to find a place for their products.
“The U.S. can be a tough market to crack,” Cohen said. “We partner up with manufacturers and introduce their technology under our brand. It’s a win/win for us and the manufacturer and it’s a win for the dentist.”
DSOs Changing the Dental Distributor/Dentist Relationship
The Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) Benco serves have a different set of needs than traditional customers, Cohen said. Every DSO has its own unique objectives, strategies and history. The key is to get to know every organization, learn what the dentists behind it want to accomplish and then help them achieve it.
So, what are DSOs looking for that individual dentists typically aren’t? They want more detail, better pricing and a more straight forward value proposition, Cohen said. They want reporting around equipment support and service, including what they have in the office, what has been serviced, what preventative maintenance has been completed and what equipment needs replaced soon.
While this information is also helpful to traditional dentists, many don’t know to ask for it until their sales rep tells them its available. This is changing the relationship between distributors and individual dentists for the better, Cohen said.
Recognizing Women Who Are Changing the Industry
About 10 years ago, the team at Benco identified a change in dental profession demographics, Cohen said. More women were beginning to choose dentistry as their career, bringing a unique viewpoint and approach to patient care to the industry. To recognize that, Benco created the Lucy Hobbs Project Award, named after the first woman to graduate from an accredited dental school.
Every year, Benco presents the award to women advancing dentistry. The team also plans an event, The Lucy Hobbs Project Celebration, to recognize women in dentistry and all they bring to the field.
“This is hugely important because women are literally changing dentistry as we know it,” Cohen said. “And we should celebrate that.”
A Family Tradition
Benco Dental has been a privately held family operation for three generations, and Cohen said he hopes that tradition will live on. With fourth generation family members just entering or finishing college, it’s too early to say for sure, but he’s optimistic the family leadership tradition will continue.
And of course, Benco will continue to focus on putting customer needs above all else, an approach that fosters loyalty while also attracting new business.
“We have a lot of long-term customers and a lot of new customers too,” Cohen said. “A lot of millennial dentists want to understand how to build a practice. One of the wonderful things about dentistry is there are a lot of ways to practice it, a lot of practice models and a lot of different procedures. A full-service dental dealer can provide you with a level of information and service you just can’t get anywhere else.”