Turn Today’s Dental Consumer into Tomorrow’s Loyal Patient
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Before the person walking into your practice ever becomes a patient, they are a consumer. And when they’re evaluating your practice against the others they are looking at it with the critical eye of a customer who is about to make a large investment in both time and money in what they hope will be a long-term relationship. Make the most of a few critical determining factors – service, reliability, stability, expertise, and price.
#1 Service is number one because consumers expect excellent service, and it is one of the most essential but often overlooked factors that will instantly set your practice apart from others. Excellent service begins with the first phone call and continues with every interaction thereafter. Something as simple as welcoming all patients – new and existing – to the practice by name when they walk in the door conveys a sense of appreciation and good service. Looking patients in the eye when you speak to them and when they speak to you tells them you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and you are sincere in what you have to tell them.
Keeping your cool even though it may be one of those “full-moon days,” and treating each individual as though they are the only patient you have to take care of today puts the patient at ease because they feel the practice has things well under control and their best interests at heart. Knowing the answers to common questions, and providing thorough and complete information tells them you have your act together and are well trained/prepared. Similarly getting back to them when you say you will with the answer to a question indicates that you value their interest in your practice.
#2 Reliability - Patients expect the office to run reasonably on time. If the doctor or hygienist is behind schedule, telephone patients so they can make changes in their plans or reschedule if necessary. If you can’t reach the patient and they have to wait for more than 20 minutes, give them a letter signed by the doctor that apologizes for the inconvenience, thanks them for their understanding, emphasizes that the practice makes every effort to remain on schedule; however, occasionally special circumstances arise that affect the schedule, and include a $5 gift card to a Starbucks or a similar gift in the envelope. The patient may still be frustrated about the delay, but they will appreciate that the practice acknowledged the inconvenience.
#3 Stability – A solid team is the mark of a strong practice. If Ann is at the front desk when the prospective patient calls, but has been replaced by Nichole when the patient comes in for their first appointment who is later replaced by Joe when the patient returns for treatment, you can bet that this new patient is going to develop concerns about the stability of your practice. If the make-up of your team seemingly changes as often as the seasons, patients begin to wonder about things, in particular, the quality of your care and the competency of your staff, and often those concerns are for good reason. If yours is a revolving door practice, it’s a strong indicator of some serious shortfalls in your personnel systems, including hiring, training, employee evaluations just to name a few.
#4 Expertise – Brag about each other. You simply cannot overemphasize the expertise of the doctor and the team. Take every opportunity to convey the message of excellence and quality. If a patient asks a team member if the doctor is good at a particular procedure, answer with an emphatic “Yes! She/he is the best.”
The new patient packet and the practice website should give information about the entire team’s training and experience, particularly the doctor’s. Routinely, inform patients about continuing education classes staff have participated in. This is as simple as placing an 8 x 10 frame at the reception counter that highlights the staff member’s accomplishment. For example, “Please join us in congratulating Dr. Jones for her recent certification from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.”
#5 Price – Make it easy for patients to accept treatment and pay for that treatment. Provide clear financing options that are both practice friendly and patient friendly. Partner with a patient financing company, such as CareCredit. These firms provide excellent financing options that benefit both doctor and patient.
Make the most of what you have to offer today’s consumers and you will be far more likely to enjoy them as your patients for many years to come.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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