3 Signs it's Time to Revamp Your Recall System
All too often dentists have no idea how their recall system, or lack thereof, is hurting their practice. They think the postage-cheap, cutesy postcards they send out to their recall patients do the trick, and if their hygienist or office manager happens to find time to squeeze in a few phone calls now and again, that’s just a bonus. I hate to break it to you, but these doctors couldn’t be more wrong.
The fact is, recall is often the most ignored practice system, yet it’s also the system that has the most potential to increase practice revenues. Investing in recall will help improve your patient retention numbers and increase production, and that leads to a more robust bottom line.
Simply put, this forgotten system is crucial to your practice’s success. Still not convinced? Here’s a look at three signs it’s time to revamp your recall system, and how these oversights are damaging your practice.
1. Your hygienist is in charge of recall. Your hygienist does not have time to call patients on the recall list. Hygienists need to focus on producing and educating patients while they’re in the chair. Besides, recall is too important to be something your hygienist gets to when he or she can.
Make recall a priority. Consider hiring a Patient Coordinator who is responsible for reaching out to a specific number of recall patients every day and scheduling a certain number of appointments. This dedicated person should be trained to effectively communicate with patients about the importance of scheduling appointments and maintaining their oral health. Hiring a Patient Coordinator and tasking that employee with recall will help you improve patient retention and drastically increase your production numbers.
2. Patient retention is abysmal. You might think your patient retention rates are just fine, but when you really take a look I bet you’ll find room for improvement. Let me break it down for you. I recently did a survey that covered dental practices in business for an average of 22 years. The survey revealed a patient retention ratio of 31%. So that means if you have 1,000 patient records on file, you actually only have 300 active patients.
You want patient retention to be hovering at closer to 95%, and one way to do that is by re-energizing your recall system. Armed with a well-written script and updated patient information, have your Patient Coordinator call past due patients and get them on the schedule. Send patients professional marketing communications, and educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health. If you’re using a patient communication system, then you better make sure you’re getting the statistics to “know” that it is getting you the results you’re after.
When you make an effort to reach out to these patients, you’ll find they’re more likely to come back, thus boosting your patient retention numbers, practice production and your bottom line.
3. Cancellations and no-shows are common. Broken appointments are a tell-tale sign something is wrong with your recall system. Why? If your practice deals with a lot of cancellations and no-shows, part of the problem stems from pre-appointing.
Most practices have scheduled hygiene patients six months out for as long as they can remember, but this simply isn’t an effective way to build your schedule or operate your recall system anymore. Think about it. Do you know what you’re doing six months from now at 2 p.m.? Neither do your patients, and chances are, even if they commit to that time today, something will come up that will lead them to cancel.
Not only that, scheduling six months out gives you the illusion that your schedule is full, so there’s really no need to start working the recall list. Until, of course, those last minute holes threaten to ruin your day. When your schedule seems full, patients who are ready for treatment can’t get in to see the doctor, and that means they’ll start looking for another office to call their dental home.
You don’t have to drop this system entirely, but consider offering some of your patients the option to be contacted two to three weeks before their scheduled appointment. This can be especially effective with patients who are known for cancelling at the last minute or for not showing up at all, and frees up slots for recall patients who are ready to schedule their next appointment.
Recall is not a system that can be ignored. Start investing in it now and you’ll soon reap the benefits of a healthier schedule, more loyal patients, increased practice productivity and a growing bottom line.
Next week: Fix your recall system and grow your practice.
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
The All Important New Patient Telephone Call
How do you know if you like someone you meet at a party? My experience has been that I can determine within the first five minutes if I “like or don’t like” someone after an exchange of a few words. It is the same with potential new patients calling your office. Your business team answering the phone has to make an instant connection with the caller to increase the probability of the new patient keeping their appointment.
Have you ever found yourself either in a new town or in need of care from a different doctor? You make the phone call, the office asks about your insurance benefits, they give you an appointment and hang up. Did you feel that you established a “relationship” with this office during that call? My guess is no.
Why is establishing a relationship so important? First, as I mentioned above, people determine early on in a conversation whether they like you or not. Your business team is an extension of you, your personality and the atmosphere of your practice.
Second, a potential patient is much more likely to extend the courtesy of calling to cancel their appointment should they have a conflict, as opposed to simply not showing up, if there is a relationship established during that initial call. If the patient liked your front office team member when they called for the appointment, they will now feel obligated to reach out again regarding the change. Would you really care whether or not you called if the person you spoke to was not interested in you as a person? Probably not…why should you? If they treat you like a number, they probably have plenty of patients and you don’t really matter.
How should you establish a relationship? Below are some very important points that I would encourage your business team to incorporate into their new patient call script. Implement a “New Patient Telephone Form” to help establish a call routine and avoid forgetting to ask or give valuable information to make the visit more pleasurable.
• Answer the phone by thanking the caller for taking the time to call YOUR office, opposed to another office in the area. Remember, they have more than one option!
• Always introduce yourself. Example: “Thank you for calling Jones Street Dentistry – Dr. Brown’s office. This is Nancy. How may I help you today?” Don’t forget to smile when you are on the phone. The caller can “hear” your smile.
• After the introduction, ask the caller how they heard about your office. Not only is it vital to the marketing of the practice, but it also assists in creating rapport with the caller based on their referral source. Example: “I just moved here from Florida and a co-worker gave me one of your cards.” Your response might be something like: “Mrs. Jones, how nice to have you here in our beautiful town/city. We appreciate your co-worker recommending us. We value all of our patients and their referred friends.”
Business team members, say it like you mean it, because you should! Dental offices across the country are scrambling for new patients. Every time that phone rings, you should be happy. If you want to see your dentist concerned, watch what happens when the phones stop ringing.
Continue your conversation with the caller by asking about their “chief complaint.” Obtain information for contacting them (home, work, cell, email). If you don’t need their address, avoid asking this question. It is important that the call lasts around 5 minutes, so don’t ask questions you don’t need the answer to. If you distinguish the length of time for the initial appointment by age, then ask the age of the patient. If you need if for insurance eligibility, ask permission to check the patient’s eligibility as a courtesy to them.
Please remember to save all the insurance questions for later in the conversation. Avoid implying that your primary concern is what kind of insurance they have. You may argue that your office doesn’t take HMOs, and you don’t want to spend 3 minutes establishing rapport only to discover they only have HMO benefits. But in this situation, all is not lost. You made a friend and you never know who they know!
Conclude the call by inviting the caller to visit the practice website for directions, new patient information and forms, and to learn more about the practice. The website should have current photos of the doctor and team, as well as other “inviting” photos of the practice without clutter, handpieces and other “scary” items. Make sure that the call is friendly, inviting, informative and welcoming, and thank them for choosing your office!
Marketing like the Super Bowl Advertisers
111.5 million people watched the Super Bowl this year. Some cheered for the Sea Hawks, some for the Patriots, and the rest for the commercials. I look forward to the commercials each year because I want to see who is the most creative and who gets their message across without someone in the room having to explain it. It is intriguing to see what kind of messages are created to communicate with 111.5 million people. The sensitivity of the brand message must hit the target that is most likely to purchase the product or service. If you can hit 100% of your target within that 111.5 million people, you have a successful campaign.
A lot can be learned by taking a close look at the advertisers who are brave enough to put their best marketing efforts in front of such a huge audience. One of my favorite super bowl advertisements this year was from SquareSpace. SquareSpace offers a simple website publishing platform. They decided to put their product on stage by creating and showcasing a “sleep sound” album featuring Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges. Now for the younger crowd who may not know Jeff Bridges as the “Dude” in the classic movie The Big Lebowski, this ad may have looked like an old hippie doing a chant. Cool and intriguing, the ad tweaked your imagination to learn more by inviting you into Jeff Bridges website DreamingWithJeff.com. This ad won’t appeal to everyone, but I think it hit the target of those interested in building a better website.
The best ads combine creativity with a call to action. Some ads don’t appear to be about the product, but instill a trigger motivating you to buy the product. For instance, the Budweiser ad featuring the cute puppy and the Budweiser Clydesdale horses is not about drinking beer…but just about everyone loves puppies, horses and a story with a happy ending. Too much fear in the call to action can cause a negative reaction, such as Nationwide Insurance’s ad about a young boy who doesn’t have the opportunity to grow up because he is killed in an accident.
How do we apply these lessons in advertising to dentistry? Focus on the benefits for the patient in the group target by identifying that group target. There are tools to define your target market within your practice demographics. These are not only demographics, but psychographics that include the buying habits of your target group. What services do you offer that your target wants from a dentist? Find and meet the needs and desires of your target market. Generational differences are very influential in marketing dental practices today. Mobile/digital technology and social media are important for the millennials or Generation Y. If you aren’t texting them or at least emailing them to confirm their appointment, they are going to think you are extinct.
If your demographics include Baby Boomers or “seniors” born between 1946 and 1964, be careful that you don’t treat this group like they are handicapped in any way. The benefits should focus on looking and feeling your best. Never focus on “they aren’t going to want to buy the services because they aren’t going to live long.” According to studies, 25% of this group are still working and don’t intend to retire. Because of this, I would rethink “senior discounts”, which may be viewed by some Boomers as you being out of touch with this group.
Marketing and advertising are not strong points for most dentists. That is why it is important to rely on recommended experts who have a reference of success in the marketing of dental practices. McKenzie Management offers a great marketing division, sensitive to your particular branding and advertising budget. Marketing your dental practice is no longer a reactive approach to holes in the schedule and low new patient numbers. It is the daily practice of knowing and representing the needs and desires of your patients. For more information on branding and marketing, call McKenzie Management today. To grow and prosper in 2015, consider updating your business and management skills by taking a customized training course in Office Management.
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