Build Long Term Valuable Relationships with Patients
While many dentists tend to be overly concerned about the number of new patients coming into the practice each month, patient retention is where practice profitability is best achieved. The ability to retain patients makes a big difference in the patient’s average value. It’s been shown that if patient retention is at 50% the average value is $1,200 per patient. If you retain 75% of patients, the average value jumps to $2,500. In other words, patient value more than doubles.
Chatting with the patient for five minutes or less every six months is not building a relationship. It requires a bit more consideration and effort than that, but will pay huge dividends in the long run. Two things in particular are essential to retaining long-term loyal patients:
Start with your new patients; establish a system in your office in which every new patient is sent a handwritten personal thank you note from the doctor, no exceptions. Keep it simple and straightforward, but also personal, for example:
It was a pleasure meeting you at your new patient appointment on Wednesday. Thank you for choosing our practice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time. And best of luck to your daughter in her upcoming soccer season!
Sincerely, Dr. GoodDoc.
The key is personalization. A handwritten, personalized note carries far more weight and value to the recipient than generic pre-printed cards. Making it personal merely requires that, with the help of your assistant, you gather a few nuggets of personal information during your conversations with the patient.
While I’m on the topic of thanking patients, don’t overlook your referring patients. They have paid you and your team the highest compliment. Sending flowers or other “showy” gifts to the workplace is one of the best ways to generate a “buzz” about your practice. The fact is that anytime someone receives flowers, everyone wants to know what the occasion is and who they are from. And if everyone is talking about your practice, it’s likely to generate even more referrals.
Next, address those aspects of the dental visit that patients dislike the most, starting with injections. There are products on the market today that enable you to give injections that are truly painless. This is particularly important when giving a shot in highly sensitive areas, such as the palate or upper incisors. These are experiences that patients remember for better or worse. And don’t overlook topical anesthetics for dental hygiene visits to minimize discomfort as much as possible.
Watch your timing. Neither the patient nor the dental team appreciates it when staff run behind. It’s essential that the Scheduling Coordinator fully understand how much time is required for procedures. Additionally, consider checking hygiene patients when it is convenient for you, the doctor, rather than at the end of the hygiene appointment. This requires a little adjustment at first, but can significantly improve efficiency.
In addition, pay attention to the subtle messages that the employees send to patients, specifically, their smiles. If Sarah, your assistant, can smile with confidence and tell the patient that Dr. GoodDoc is her dentist and he is absolutely the best, this has a huge positive impact chairside in selling treatment. Moreover, it will make the team member feel good about working for your practice.
Most importantly, make it easy for your patients to pursue treatment. They like you. They like your team. They trust your recommendations. But they are afraid of the price tag. Provide financial options. Offer 10% off if they pay with cash or check. Consider 5% off if they use a credit card and pay at the time of service. Provide outside financing options as well. The 12-months interest free financing from CareCredit is my personal favorite. Yes, the practice has to pay a fee, but the patient gets treatment and the doctor gets paid. All you have to say to the patient is: “How does 12 months interest free financing sound to you?” and they are usually thrilled to pursue your recommended care.
Finally, don’t disappear for six months. Keep your name in front of your patients. Send birthday cards, articles, magnets, electronic newsletters, recipes, etc. Companies such as 1-800-Dentist have products that make ongoing communication with patients easy, convenient, and effective in helping you to build long term positive relationships with all your patients.
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