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March, 2010

Working With Distributors: Service, Not Price, Comes First

There are a number of companies that sell supplies to doctors of chiropractic, but most DCs order supplies and equipment from only a small handful of distributors. More than 70 percent of the profession is aware of each of these companies. They are generally well thought of, with little animosity among clinicians.

Results from a recent survey show that most doctors order from at least two different companies. The results below provide insight as to how DCs across the country are effectively utilizing chiropractic distributors.

Customer Service and Product Selection

While the survey revealed a number of interesting facts, the ones that stood out the most are the primary reasons why doctors of chiropractic no longer purchase from a particular supplier. Interestingly enough, the primary reason that doctors stop doing business with a particular distributor is not that their prices are too high (only 10 percent).

What does matter most is good customer service, according to doctors surveyed. Poor customer service was the reason that almost half (46 percent) of those chiropractors surveyed stated as their reason for leaving a previous chiropractic supplier. While customer service is important in every business, it is critical for chiropractic suppliers.

Poor selection of products was the second reason why doctors of chiropractic left a particular chiropractic supplier. Almost one-fourth (23 percent) of those doctors surveyed left their previous supplier because they "didn't sell products I needed." 

Comparison Shopping for the Best Choice

Although the results suggest that doctors generally have a preference for dealing with just one vendor, they are buying their products from more two or more distributors, on average. This suggests that not every product is available from every distributor and that comparison shopping pays off.

Doctors of chiropractic are overwhelmingly (93 percent) the ones who ultimately decide which company or companies to order from. However, once that decision is made, the office manager or chiropractic assistant will place the actual orders in 41 percent of clinics surveyed. This is only a slight increase from a 2006 survey in which office managers ordered supplies in 38 percent of those chiropractic clinics surveyed. This change may be a reflection of the current economy.

Working With Distributors - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Quality and Price Make All the Difference

More than 80 percent of chiropractors surveyed had total confidence in the quality of the products offered by chiropractic distributors. Where they showed a lack of confidence was in the affordability or value of the products.

Less than half of those surveyed felt that they could "totally agree" that the prices were affordable (43 percent) or that the products were a great value for the money (32 percent). However, these percentages jumped significantly when the doctors surveyed were asked if they either "totally agreed" or "somewhat agreed" that prices were affordable (96 percent) or the products were a great value for the money (91 percent).

This pattern appears to hold true, regardless of what the product might be. This may be a reflection of the belief that if somebody agrees that a product is a good value or that they got a good price, they may not be able to get a better price later on.

A good parallel example of this is one of the arguments in favor of fixed-price car dealerships. No matter how good a deal you got on your car, you probably think that the next person who walked into that dealership probably got a better deal.


Price may always be an issue when it comes to making purchases for your practice. It is only prudent to be looking for the best price, particularly in these economic times.

In their efforts to be budget-conscious, most doctors of chiropractic are comparing distributors and making the initial decision of which ones with whom they want to do business, based on both price and product selection.

Product selection continues to be a factor in staying with a particular chiropractic supplier. Almost a quarter of those doctors surveyed stated they had left a previous supplier because it "didn't sell products I needed."

However, ultimately it's quality customer service that matters the most. This is the key to maintaining a good working relationship with your chiropractic distributor(s), according to our survey.

If you don't feel you're getting the kind of service you deserve, talk to a supervisor or manager. With current economic conditions, these companies know that being responsive to the customer is a top priority and will be more than willing to give you the service you deserve.


  1. Chiropractic Distributor Survey. MPA Media, completed Sept. 24, 2009.

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