Why You're Losing Patients to the Practice Down the Street
These days, dental patients have a lot of options. If they’re not happy with their current dental home, whether it’s because the team members aren’t friendly enough or the practice’s hours just aren’t convenient, they won’t hesitate to make their next appointment at the practice down the street.
This is why so many practices struggle with patient retention. Patients have high expectations, and when they decide a practice isn’t for them, they usually don’t tell the dentist or team members why they’ve opted to move on. This is not only frustrating, it’s costly.
To build a successful practice, you need to develop a base of loyal patients who accept recommended treatment and refer you to family and friends. And I’m talking about patient retention numbers that reach 85% or even 95%. Seem impossible? It isn’t, and I’m here to help you get there. First, you need to understand why patients leave and what you and your team members can do to make them want to stay.
You don’t offer flexible payment options. Dental treatment can be expensive, and many patients simply can’t afford it on their own. So if you present a case that costs thousands of dollars but don’t offer third party financing options like CareCredit, chances are the patient will look for a practice that does.
Third party financing helps reduce the financial burden, allowing patients to pay in small monthly chunks instead of writing one large check. This not only makes patients more likely to stay loyal to your practice, it also makes them more likely to accept treatment – boosting productivity and your bottom line.
Your customer service is lacking. Patients expect to be treated a certain way when they walk into your dental office. They want to feel comfortable and cared for, and that happens when you put a focus on customer service.
How, you ask? Train team members to greet patients with a friendly smile as soon as they walk through the door. Offer them water as they wait to be called back for their appointment. Help them fill out paperwork, especially if they’re nervous, and do everything you can to put them at ease. Let them know they’re in good hands and the team cares about their wellbeing. This is a great way to make patients feel more connected to the practice and win their loyalty.
Your case presentations are too short. If you’re like most dentists, you likely don’t have a lot of time to go over treatment chairside. You probably spend five, maybe 10 minutes explaining the procedure and why it’s important before you move on to the next patient. While you might think this is enough, it really isn’t. Patients likely have questions, but they won’t feel comfortable asking these questions if they can tell you’re in a hurry to get to the next operatory (which of course they can). This often makes patients feel like you don’t really have time for them, so they decide to find a practice that’s a bit more attentive.
I suggest hiring a Treatment Coordinator to present treatment for all producers in the practice. This team member can spend as much time as necessary going over all the procedure details with patients and educating them about the importance of accepting treatment. This shows patients your practice cares and you want to make sure they understand exactly what to expect, from how long the procedure will take to any home care they’ll need to do post-op. This again helps strengthen that all important connection, which leads to loyalty.
You don’t take patient complaints seriously. Trust me, I understand patient complaints can be annoying. But ignoring them does nothing except hurt your practice. When you shrug off their concerns, it shows patients you don’t care about their experience or value their opinion, and that’s a good way to send them looking for a new dental home.
When patients complain, really listen to what they have to say. Apologize for the problem and let them know you’re working to find a solution – then follow through. Trust me, if one patient brings up an issue then there are others who have the same complaint, they just didn’t bother to tell you. Bottom line: Taking patient complaints seriously will help you grow your practice and fix problems you didn’t even know you had.
Your hours don’t work for their schedule. Your patients are busy people. Between work and family obligations, many find it difficult to fit in dental appointments during typical business hours. These patients are always on the lookout for practices that offer early morning, evening and even weekend appointment times – and they won’t hesitate to leave your practice if they find one.
If you don’t already, I suggest you consider offering these flexible hours. Many of your current patients will love the ability to schedule appointments outside the normal business day, and you’ll likely attract new patients who find these hours more convenient for their schedule.
If you want to build a successful practice with a strong patient base, offering great dentistry isn’t enough. You also have to connect with patients, educate them about the value of dentistry and meet their needs. When you do, they’ll stay loyal to your practice for years to come.
Next week: 5 ways to boost patient retention and practice productivity
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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