Patients not impressed? These are the reasons they don’t come back

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Losing patients hurts. It hurts your practice productivity, your bottom line and even your pride. You often have no idea why patients opt to seek care elsewhere, making it a frustrating and costly problem that seems impossible to fix.

The challenge is, patients have high expectations when they walk into your practice—as well as a lot of other options. If they don’t like something about your office, whether they had to wait for a long time to see you or they didn’t think the front office staff was friendly enough, it’s easy for them to make their next appointment at another practice. That’s why it’s critical for your office to stand out, and for you to create a positive, experience patients won’t soon forget.

So how can you impress your patients and make them want to call your practice their dental home? First, you have to understand what’s driving them away. Here are some of the most common reasons patients don’t come back, and how you can address them.

They don’t feel special. Showing patients they’re valued is key to winning them over, and it starts with making exceptional customer service a priority.

Train team members to greet every patient with a friendly smile, and to do whatever it takes to put them at ease from the moment they arrive. Help them fill out paperwork, offer them a drink and let them know they’re in good hands. These small gestures will go a long way in making patients feel comfortable, and that leads to loyalty.

You don’t take complaints seriously. Sure, patient complaints can be annoying. It’s easy to shrug them off and move on with your day, but that isn’t going to do anything to help your patient retention numbers. If patients think you’re disregarding their concerns, they won’t hesitate to call another practice when it’s time to make their next appointment.

When patients bring up a problem, really listen to what they have to say. Thank them for letting you know and assure them you’ll find a solution—and then actually find a solution. They’ll appreciate your efforts to improve their experience at your practice, and will likely reward you with their loyalty.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if one patient is complaining about something, other patients are likely having the same issue—they just didn’t take the time to tell you. Look at complaints as an opportunity to improve your practice, because that’s exactly what they are.

There’s no connection. If you want to grow a loyal base of patients who accept treatment and refer, you have to spend time developing relationships. That means getting to know your patients and building a rapport.

Ask patients about their families and their jobs. Talk with them about their oral health goals and how you can help them meet those goals. Educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health and why you’re recommending treatment. If they say no to that treatment, don’t just accept that answer and move on. Find out why, then work with them to overcome their perceived barriers to care.

All these efforts will show patients you care about them, making them feel more connected to you and your practice—which also makes them more likely to return and to accept treatment.

It’s difficult for patients to pay for treatment. Dentistry can be expensive, and many of your patients likely can’t afford to write a large check to cover treatment. If you don’t offer third party financing options like CareCredit, these patients will likely either skip treatment altogether or look for a practice that does offer it. Either way, they’re not coming back to your office.

They can feel the tension. If your team is dealing with conflict, your patients will notice. Conflict impacts the way team members interact with patients. They won’t be as friendly or as focused on providing an exceptional experience and the best care possible. They’ll be distracted by the gossip and negativity that have taken hold.

All this will make patients uncomfortable, and could be enough to send them looking for a new dental home. That’s why it’s so important to handle conflict before it gets out of hand. As soon as you notice something isn’t right, sit down with the team members involved and work together to come up with a solution. Your practice will be better for it, and both your team members and your patients will be happier.

You kept them waiting. Your patients are busy people, and don’t have time to sit in your office all afternoon because you're running behind. They might give you a pass if it happens once, but if it’s a common occurrence, you can bet patients will start looking for a practice that’s more prompt.

To avoid this, make sure your Scheduling Coordinator is properly trained. Don’t have a coordinator yet? Now might be the time to hire one.

To grow your practice, you need a loyal base of patients who accept treatment and refer. Understanding why patients don’t come back will help you make the changes you need to increase retention numbers and boost your bottom line.

Next Thursday: Keep More Patients with these 5 TIPS. Share this Newsletter

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