Expectations are High, but How’s
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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So, you expect that advertising campaign you recently purchased to bring in the mother lode of new patients. It was a risk you were willing to take because the sales person told you that similar campaigns have been tremendously successful. That may well be true, but when it comes to marketing your practice, it doesn’t end with the cute little jingle, the slick postcard, and the special offer.
The next time you invest in a marketing campaign, think beyond what you hope to get out of it. Step back and consider what your patients are expecting from their decision to seek your services. You’ll be far more likely to benefit from that marketing investment long after the flurry of new patient calls settles down.
Look first to build upon the patient’s basic expectations. Set aside units in your schedule for new patient appointments during the most popular times of the day. Evaluate your staff’s routine communication with patients. If necessary, train them to ensure that a friendly person is prepared and ready to answer the phone with a smile on their face and in their voice. Once the appointment is made, follow-up is key, send the patient a packet of information immediately.
Next consider the new patient’s wants and expectations, starting with reliability. New patients want a doctor and team they can count on. They want to have confidence in your entire team. They want to know you will be there for them not just for this special “one-time” dental deal, but at 6 p.m. some summer evening when little Ricky falls off his bike and lands face first on the pavement.
Timeliness - They expect the office to run reasonably on time, and if doctor is significantly delayed, they want your staff to make some effort to reach them in advance.
Information - Patients expect to be able to ask questions and receive clear answers. They want to understand the options that are available to them and why you are recommending a particular course of treatment. Education and information are key in helping patients to feel that they are making informed decisions. Make use of educational materials and websites to make your case, and train your entire team to answer basic questions about dental procedures.
A caring attitude - They want to feel that the entire staff cares, not just the doctor. Pay attention to routine communications that can inadvertently send prospective patients down the street. For example, the new patient who calls to schedule an appointment and is greeted with the question, “Do you have insurance? No? Let me tell you our financial policy” immediately feels unwelcome and defensive. Educate them first on the excellence of the doctor and team. Get into the rules and regulations later.
A chance to be heard – Patients want you to stop what you are doing, look at them and listen to what they have to tell you. If you’re too busy focusing on what you have to say to them, you will miss valuable opportunities to learn more about their needs, their wants, and their expectations of you and your team.
Acknowledgement - Patients don’t want to be ignored when they walk into the reception room while the business team shares war stories from the night before. They want to be greeted with a smile and a sincere “Welcome to Dr. Keith’s practice, Mrs. Jones. We sincerely appreciate that you chose this office.”
Consistent quality - They expect the highest quality care that you and your team can deliver –the first time and every time they step into your practice.
Promises kept – Patients expect you to deliver what you promise. If your ad says that your office uses only the latest in state-of-the-art equipment and materials, they expect to see that from the moment they walk in the door. If you promise the most relaxing dental experience they can ask for, be prepared to deliver.
Step back and look at your practice from the patient’s standpoint. How would you want to be taken care of? How would you want to be greeted when you walk in the door? Do you deliver on what your advertising campaign promises? And finally, given the dental marketplace, why should new patients return to your practice after that special promotion has concluded?
Routinely look at your practice through your patients’ eyes
and you’ll need far fewer special promotions to keep patients coming through your doors.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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