5 Reasons Your Practice Struggles with Patient Retention
If you want to create a thriving, profitable dental practice, you have to develop a loyal patient base. You need patients who trust you with their care, and who wouldn’t hesitate to refer you to family and friends. Yet, no matter what you do, your patient retention numbers remain abysmal, and it’s not only bringing you and your team members down, it’s costing your practice big.
The truth is, many practices struggle with patient retention. It’s frustrating I know, but there are steps you can take to turn it around. First you have to understand why patients don’t return. I’ve put together a list of five reasons patients don’t come back, and advice to help you grow patient retention rates to as much as 95% while also growing your bottom line.
1. You don’t connect with your patients. Most dentists prefer to focus on the dentistry, but no matter how good your clinical skills are, patients simply won’t come back if they don’t feel some kind of connection with your practice. Take the time to get to know your patients. Ask them about their family and their jobs, and talk with them about their dental health goals. Build a rapport, and encourage your team members to do the same. Let patients know you care about them, and you’ll win their loyalty.
2. You ignore patient complaints. When patients take the time to tell you their concerns, you better listen. Sure, patient complaints can be annoying, but trust me, ignoring them does nothing but hurt your practice. If you shrug off their concerns, patients will feel like you don’t value them or care about their experience at your practice, and that’s a great way to send patients running to the practice down the street.
Really listen when patients come to you with concerns. Apologize, and work to find a solution to the problem – a solution that will not only make the patient happy, but will also help improve your practice. Look at patient complaints as an opportunity for growth. After all, if one patient is upset because you don’t offer weekend appointments or because there was an hour wait to see the doctor, then I’m willing to bet other patients are experiencing the same problems, they just didn’t bother to tell you.
3. You make changes without considering your patients. Typically, when dentists make changes to their practice, they don’t think about what the changes mean for their patients. Instead, they simply focus on the benefits those changes can bring to the dentist and the team.
For example, while your team might be excited by the idea of implementing an automated phone system to eliminate interruptions, I can guarantee most of your patients will hate it. Think about it. Your patients are busy people, and when they call they want to speak with a live person to schedule their appointment or answer their questions. They don’t want to leave a message and then wait by the phone for someone to call back. And even though you can’t wait to cut your weekend and evening hours, your patients who depend on those appointment slots won’t feel the same, and will likely start looking for a new dentist who has a more flexible schedule.
Before you make major changes to your practice, I suggest getting patient feedback. At the very least, look at the changes from the patient’s perspective. This will help you avoid making changes that send your patients looking for a new dental home.
4. You don’t have time for them. When patients call your practice, they don’t want to feel like they’re bothering you, yet that’s often the case. The person who answers the phone is annoyed by these interruptions and either puts patients on hold right away or rushes them off the phone as quickly as possible. This isn’t how you develop loyal patients.
Make sure your team members are trained on proper telephone techniques and know how to make patients feel appreciated when they call. If you’d like some guidance on improving telephone techniques, consider taking my Telephone Skills Training to find out how you come across over the phone.
5. They have to wait weeks to get an appointment. When practices pre-appoint six months out, it makes their schedule look fuller than it actually is. So when patients call to try and make an appointment, they’re told they have to wait four, five, even six weeks to see the doctor, when in reality many of the pre-appointed patients taking up slots will cancel at the last minute or simply just not show up.
Instead of solely relying on pre-appointing, consider developing a hybrid method, and make sure your Scheduling Coordinator knows to leave room for patients who are ready to go forward with treatment. If you don’t, they may opt to find a new dentist rather than waiting for weeks to receive the treatment they need.
If you want to develop a successful, profitable dental practice, you have to find a way to boost your patient retention numbers. The first step is knowing what’s keeping patients from coming back. Avoiding these common pitfalls will help your practice develop a healthy patient base and a robust bottom line.
If you want an in-depth look at your practice’s patient retention, click here to take my free Patient Retention Assessment.
Next week, 4 ways to improve patient retention.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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