12.25.09 Issue #407 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Patients Have a Choice: Make it Clear
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Dental teams – doctors, business staff, assistants, hygienists – see patients day after day. While the dental care provided may be excellent, often the experience and the process can come across to the patient as yet another expense without much return. You may think or feel as though you are providing excellent customer service but today’s “high expectation” patients, who are questioning their expenditures more than we’ve seen in decades, want to feel the time spent in your practice is truly worth the investment.

If they don’t feel that the investment is worth it, you’re likely to experience more patients missing, skipping, or cancelling appointments, long before you have even the slightest inkling that there’s a problem. Seldom is there any fanfare in their departure, just a sudden realization one day that you haven’t seen so and so for a very long time, or you run into Mrs. Such and Such in the grocery store and after some small talk you realize that you cannot remember the last time you saw her, her husband, or their two children in the chair.

Make the most of the moments you have with your patients. Take just two minutes to maximize the importance and value of your care. The hygienist tells the doctor what she/he has found and subsequently discussed with that patient. The doctor immediately knows that the patient is prepared to hear a more detailed diagnosis and treatment plan. The patient, in turn, understands the value of ongoing dental treatment and sees yours as a clinically reliable team in which she can place her trust and her limited health care dollars. 

In addition, recognize that your practice’s relationship with the patient truly is a partnership, as without them there is no practice. Look your patients in the eye and say: “thank you for choosing this practice.”  Give them a letter from you and your team thanking them for their ongoing confidence in the practice and their commitment to pursuing excellent oral health. If you haven’t done this, try it. You’ll find that your patients are both stunned and thoroughly impressed. 

While you’re at it, during the next staff meeting develop a list of steps the practice could take to regularly show patients they are appreciated. Start with the new patient welcome packet. Is it warm and inviting? Does it motivate the patient to desire the services provided? Does it help the patient get to know the team members? Does it put them at ease? Does it thank them for choosing your practice?

Next, evaluate your procedures for thanking patients for referrals. Consider a four-step plan for those patients that consistently send new patients to your practice.

  1. For the first referral send a thank you note and a small token gift such as a certificate for a specialty coffee at a local coffee bar, or pastry at a local pastry shop.
  2. For two referrals send a thank you note and a fruit basket or gift certificate to a local bookstore.
  3. For three referrals send a thank you note and bottle of wine or tickets to the movie theater.
  4. For four referrals send a thank you note and a gift certificate for dinner for two to a local quality restaurant.

Routinely show patients that you value them by taking time to discuss their oral health goals, answer their questions, and show interest in them and their families. Treat each patient as if they are the single most important person to enter your practice today.

Inform patients about a service you offer that they may not be aware of. Tell them how a continuing education program you and/or your team recently completed will benefit them. Provide information on dental topics that they see and read about in the news media, such as whitening, implants, or the link between oral health and overall health. Direct them to a credible website such as your state dental association or the American Dental Association. In educating your patients, you emphasize the value of ongoing dental care and the dentistry that you and your team provide. Moreover, you reinforce to each of your patients that you genuinely value their health and wellbeing and your practice is well-worth their financial investment.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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