New Patients: What Keeps Them Coming...or Not
Have you found yourself wondering lately where have all the new patients gone? It used to be that you could count on a certain number regularly streaming into the practice, but for the past 8-12 months you’ve noticed a change, and it’s killing your bottom-line. The trend is particularly troubling considering that the economy has been steadily improving for several months. So if you can’t blame the economy, what is it? Someone or something is cutting new patients out of your practice.
If new patients are not in your chair, they are in someone else’s - and there’s likely a very good reason (perhaps several) as to why. More marketing and advertising might give you a temporary boost, but I can virtually guarantee you’ll be facing the same shortfall a couple of months down the road. You need to discover the “why” behind the loss.
It’s time to pull your head out of the operatory and examine your practice from the patient’s perspective. Is something happening when prospective patients call? Everything sounds fine on your end, at least when you happen to hear staff exchanges with patients. But what if you could sit on the prospective patient’s side of that phone call and be the proverbial fly on the wall?
It’s called a telephone assessment, and it enables doctors to gather valuable feedback as to what calling your practice is like from the patient’s point of view, a “mystery patient” of sorts. Without fail, these evaluations are eye opening for the doctor and instructive for the staff. They enable the team to objectively evaluate their telephone strengths and weaknesses in communicating with patients. Moreover, they give dentists the opportunity to hear their practices from the patients’ point of view. It enables doctors and their teams to gather a far better understanding of how effectively the business team communicates the practice brand, particularly in new patient exchanges. But the best part is, the assessment enables you to identify exactly where the practice can improve - in first impressions with prospective patients and phone communication overall.
Certainly, it requires a fair amount of courage to take the microscope to what is truly the front door of your practice. Human nature is such that most dentists want to believe all their patient experiences are positive and their entire team is simply wonderful. However, the numbers often indicate otherwise.
The good news is that once shortcomings are revealed, most teams take quick action to address them. In many cases, staff simply don’t realize how they come across to patients over the phone. Moreover, they don’t understand their actions are having a negative effect on the office. Yet once they become aware, in most cases, they are ready and willing to make necessary changes. But dentists have to be willing to investigate the problems in order to implement solutions.
Don’t stop there. Consider surveying your patients to gather some honest feedback from a good cross-section of your existing patient base. It’s very rare for patients to voice concerns directly to the dentist. Why? Because in most cases, patients like you and respect you, and unless they are very upset, few will ever call problems to your attention.
They really don’t want to bother you with a negative report on how rude and unfriendly your front desk staff is. They don’t want to trouble you with information concerning the apparent lack of consideration your financial coordinator displays when it comes to making sensitive financial arrangements in front of a waiting room full of curious listeners. They don’t want to tell you about the hygienist’s interesting but inappropriate stories.
Each of these negative experiences slowly chisels away at patient loyalty, and then one day you personally do something that becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Like any other strained long-term relationship that ultimately fails, the turning point is seldom a major infraction. Rather, it is the culmination of many smaller and seemingly insignificant breaches that ultimately splinters the relationship. And quietly, the patient decides to check out that dentist her sister has been raving about or the one who did the amazing smile makeover on his colleague. Whatever the reason(s), unless you make the effort to find out, you will likely never know exactly why seemingly loyal patients walk away from your practice. They just disappear, leaving you to absorb the ongoing financial fallout.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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