Last year, we asked one of the Aligners team to order impression kits from four of the main clear aligner providers. Here are their thoughts on how everything went. Hopefully, it may be helpful to some of you.
Ordering impression kits is the first step to successful treatment with clear aligners. Filling in your details and ordering your kit means that you’re starting your teeth straightening journey. First impressions really do count, so I decided to put them to the test.
I wanted to see what it was like to be new to the world of clear aligners. I wanted to put myself into the shoes of someone that’s just getting started. So, I didn’t just order one home impression kit. In fact, I ordered kits from most major clear aligner providers.
Which companies made great first impressions? Did any companies fall at the very first hurdle? Here’s what it’s like to get started with a home impression kit:
I expected great things from byte. One of the key features of this aligner provider is their unbeaten speed. Thanks to the HyperByte tool, you could cut your treatment time in half. If they could get their impression kit right, I’d be really impressed. Fortunately, byte did not let me down.
Ordering the impression kit was very easy. I could do it on the go, using my cell phone, and there were lots of payment options including Apple Pay for convenience.
To get started I needed to make an account, but this didn’t take very long. I provided byte with my shipping address and answered a few relevant questions. The online forms worked with Autofill, so it took just four minutes to place my order for a kit.
Once I’d ordered my home impression kit, I was kept up to date by email. I received an order confirmation, followed by shipping emails to help track my order to my door.
Home impression kits from byte are shipped with fast delivery by FedEx. As I was waiting, byte sent further emails with tips to help me use the kit correctly. By the time the kit arrived, I felt confident I’d know how to use it.
Change of Plan
As well as reviewing the ordering process, I put customer support to the test. At 18:20 on the day my kit had been shipped, I sent byte an email. I asked for my impression kit to be diverted, as I’d be out of the country when it was due to be delivered.
Sending an email to byte, I received an automated reply almost instantly. This was quickly followed by contact from a ‘byte adviser’. Emily dealt with my query after some friendly, brief and quick back-and-forth email exchanges.
I received a compact box, smaller than the kits provided by competitor Candid. This home impression kit was very good quality and had a premium feel. Inside, instruction books were nice and clear with very easy steps to follow. Everything was clearly labelled, and there was a strong cardboard returns box with free priority postage.
I received a couple of follow-up emails, to check that the kit had safely arrived and that I was happy with the contents. These emails seemed friendly and personal, though I suspect they were fully automated.
A few days later, having ignored the impression kit, I received a further email to check again and make sure I was still happy.
Smile Direct Club
As one of the leading providers of clear aligners, as well as a brand providing many other dental care products, Smile Direct Club had already made quite a good first impression. Most new customers have already heard of Smile Direct Club, so could they meet my expectations?
I used my cell phone to order my home impression kit. This was easy and took less than three minutes, but the Autofill feature didn’t work on the forms I filled in. Smile Direct Club could have designed the forms to make this even quicker, but ordering a kit didn’t take much time at all.
It was easy to create my online account, and I needed to provide just a few details like my date of birth and a chosen password. This gave me access to an online dashboard where I could start tracking my Smile Direct Club teeth straightening journey.
My Smile Direct Club impression kit was shipped the day after I ordered it. I was able to log in to my Smile Direct Club dashboard to check when my order had been shipped.
Change of Plan
Putting customer support to the test, I emailed to ask if my impression kit could be diverted to a different address. I explained that I wouldn’t be out of the country when the impression kit was due to arrive. I emailed at 18:25, but didn’t receive a response.
Compared to other providers, AlignerCo is a relative newcomer. AlignerCo isn’t a well-known brand, so I wanted to see how they’d stand their ground in an arena with much bigger companies. They offer very affordable teeth straightening treatment, ideal for people on a budget. Would the experience of ordering a home impression kit really emphasize how cheap their service was?
I used my cell phone to order my AlignerCo impression kit. The website wasn’t as user-friendly as I’d have liked it to be. It was particularly hard to order the kit using a handheld device, because the website hadn’t been optimized for a small screen. I couldn’t create an account. The whole experience felt clunky.
Interestingly, I was given the option to order two impression kits. You order per customer, so nobody should need to order two impression kits at once.
Thanks to a website that wasn’t very slick, and a form that was hard to fill in, it took me almost 10 minutes to place my impression kit order. Other companies can do this so much faster, if you’re trying to order on the go.
After ordering my AlignerCo home impression kit, I received a confirmation email. Later I received a shipping confirmation that went into a lot of detail. As they shipped my impression kit, AlignerCo sends a PDF manual and YouTube instruction video. This gave me time to learn about the kit before it actually arrived.
AlignerCo did not provide a tracking number for my shipment in their confirmation of shipping. A tracking number was sent by FedEx at a later date.
Change of Plan
As with the other providers I tested, I wanted to add a small challenge. I emailed customer support at 18:45 and asked about changing my address. I told them that I would be out of the country when my home impression kit would be delivered.
AlignerCo said they’d charge me $30 to divert my kit to the UK. They dealt with everything by email. The emails lacked personality and responses were a bit slow, but my problem was successfully resolved.
After my impression kit had arrived, I stored it away and ignored it. A few days later, I received an email to remind me to create my impressions.
All emails I received from AlignerCo were basic text-only emails. They lacked any friendliness and personality, which added to the sense that AlignerCo lacked experience. Small changes could have made a big difference to these first impressions, but for a small company working on a budget, they seem to be providing good service.
Candid’s treatment costs are higher than most of their competitors. I was keen to find out if the higher prices translated to better service right from the start. Would Candid’s higher prices be reflected in their impression kits, or did they hope that customers would see the added value later in the process?
I ordered my Candid home impression kit online, using my smartphone. The whole process was quick and easy, with a user-friendly interface. Even though Candid asked a very comprehensive list of questions to check if I’d be a good candidate, I was able to create an account to save my answers and could work through their questions in no time.
The long list of questions for Candid treatment was very reassuring. I felt as though they were really taking care of my health and safety. Other companies send their kits with fewer questions, but there’s something good about knowing that most of the checks are taking place before this. I didn’t feel like there was any chance that I would be wasting my money, because they were screening for suitable candidates before you’d paid anything up-front.
If you order a home impression kit from Candid, be prepared to read through a lot of legal disclaimers. As well as doing what they can to protect their customers, Candid are protecting themselves. There’s nothing too out of the ordinary, but remember that you’re going through dental treatment without in-person supervision. The legal disclaimers reflect this lack of face to face contact.
Working my way through the onboarding process, using Candid’s slick dashboard, took about 10-12 minutes in total.
I didn’t receive an order confirmation email. Most companies will confirm that you’ve ordered their impression kit, but this didn’t happen with Candid. Was this a long-term problem, or was I just unlucky?
Fortunately, I did receive shipping confirmation two days later. This included a tracking code, so I could keep track of my impression kit.
With other providers, I put customer support to the test by asking to divert my home impression kit to a new address. With Candid, I already had a reason to contact the support team. I made contact to address the lack of order confirmation email.
Candid’s support team were very responsive and friendly. They quickly let me know that my order had been processed correctly.
Candid’s home impression kit is reassuringly stylish, with a premium look and feel. When it arrives, you’ll really feel like you’ve chosen a provider you can trust. The delivery was followed by an email to let me know that my kit had arrived. The delivery email also included a link to some guides to getting started.
Candid’s large box walked me through three very easy separate steps. The instructions were clear, and I also received a strong box for return shipping. With this, I knew that my dental impressions would safely get back to Candid’s lab.
When you order your home impression kit, you’re going to be enthusiastic. You’re excited about the prospect of a straighter smile and you want to get started straight away. These first impressions really matter, just as much as the rest of the process, so I’m glad I was able to test a few providers and see how they handled these first moments.
There were two clear winners, standing high above the competition. I found that byte and Candid both offered user-friendly websites, great customer support and premium kits that looked amazing when they arrived.
The email tips from byte made sure that I felt confident using the home impression kit, with follow-up emails to check that I was happy with the product. With Candid, the clear instructions were provided in the box.
Smile Direct Club seemed a lot more professional than newcomer AlignerCo, but when it came to providing email support they let me down. Of the companies I tested, Smile Direct Club were the only ones that didn’t respond in time. Other companies were able to divert my home impression kit, but Smile Direct Club didn’t manage this.
If you’re not going to need fast customer support, then there’s no doubt that Smile Direct Club offers a service that’s better than budget choice AlignerCo. Yet, despite AlignerCo’s lack of personality this company did everything it needed to. I never felt like AlignerCo were a company I couldn’t trust because even without the fancy branding they sent the home impression kit quickly.
If I’d ordered a home impression kit that I’d intended to use, and stayed at home for a few days to wait for its arrival, I could have been very happy with any clear aligner provider. But, byte and Candid stand out as my winners. Both providers make great impressions from the very start, with an experience that keeps up the hype from the moment you order.