Are You an “Invisible Dentist”?
Google is one of the most popular search engines available and is used daily by millions of people. In the last two months I have been asked the same question by two different dentists in two completely different geographical locations: “Where are my patients?” You can Google that question, but you won’t get the answer you are looking for. These separate practices belong to established general dentists with long-term friendly, professional staff and clean, organized offices with aesthetic appeal. Parking is great, locations are favorable and their fees are fair. They both accept PPO insurance and are in-network for a few plans.
So what’s the problem with this picture? There are several different factors that can affect patient retention, and it takes some time to fully analyze all of the contributing influences.
People are using Google and other search engines to find new dentists and are also looking at their current dentist’s website to get answers to questions about staff, services, insurance and financial issues, and links to their reviews. They are also curious to see if the practice is on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Some patients may be asking “Where is my dentist?” when they have a difficult time finding the practice online.
Searching on Google is an opportunity for comparison shopping for the patient. For the office, a great website is critical for obtaining new patients and retaining the current patient base. It is a way to connect to the practice beyond the confines of the dental treatment room and billing desk.
The evidence is seen in the schedule in the form of open time on the doctor’s schedule and cancelled and unfilled hygiene appointments. A panic mode of negativity can cause the dentist to frantically blame some or all for the holes in the schedule. The dentist is usually partially right because some people are to blame – but before casting the net to catch the perpetrators, take a look at the “big picture” of practice systems for flaws.
Gaining new patients and retaining existing patients require that you update your website at least annually and every time you add new services, new staff, new associates, new hours and new insurance networks. One dentist in this story had been in practice for decades and was scaling down his hours. The associate who was a prospective buyer of the practice was working more hours. Patients had not been informed of the existing dentist transitioning out of the practice and thought perhaps he was retiring. The associate was not mentioned on the website so there was confusion. On top of that, the associate was listed online as working in another practice ten miles away. As patients phoned in for a recall appointment they were told their regular dentist was not available that day for the examination, but the new dentist could take care of their needs. Patients ended up leaving due to lack of communication and trust.
The other dentist in this story had not updated her website for ten years. Her name did not come up at all in a Google search for dentists in her town. She had not updated print advertisements in the local newspapers in almost as long. The ads had grown tired and lacked critical information about the practice. Neither the website nor the advertisement mentioned that the dentist was now doing “one day crowns” because a CEREC machine was purchased five years ago. There was also no mention that she was doing orthodontic services such as Invisalign in her practice.
Both practices were pre-scheduling all of their hygiene patients, but if the patient called to cancel and did not reschedule, they weren’t getting called back. New patients were on lists to move up should there be a cancellation, sending a message that the practice was busier than it really was.
Staying connected to your patients with the online presence of a great website and social media connections is imperative on today’s information highway. In the same respect, internal marketing in the form of patient follow-up lets patients know you want their business and they are less likely to seek dental care elsewhere. Want McKenzie Management to analyze all of your business systems? Call today for a consultation on practice analysis and dental consulting services to keep your practice growing and thriving.Forward this article to a friend
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