3.29.13 Issue #577 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

New Patients More! Better! Best!
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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... And you already have them. Yes, you already have them. These are the patients who already like you and trust you. They offer huge potential. But you are looking at them through the same old tired lens. Some of your best “new” patients are your existing patients. 

Case in point: In 2008, at the dawn of the Great Recession and well before the worst of it hit, “Dr. Brown” was ready to sell his Texas practice. It wasn’t growing and hadn’t been for some time. He was losing money. New patients had all but completely disappeared. In a last ditch effort to salvage his practice and his career, he invested in a few continuing education opportunities. He learned how to perform some new procedures. He learned how to effectively present treatment plans. And he learned how to deliver a truly excellent new patient experience. The only problem, Dr. Brown didn’t have any new patients. But that didn’t stop him. He decided that in his practice every patient coming in for an appointment – any appointment – would be treated like a new patient. 

The results were huge. Treatment acceptance exploded, and the referrals cascaded into Dr. Brown’s practice. Within one year, he had to hire an associate to keep up with demand – and that was at the height of the recession. Best of all, he was passionate about his profession once again.

Oftentimes, dentists are so concerned about numbers of new patients, they lose sight of the potential that existing patients offer. Current patients are, well, just patients. They are no longer “special” and they know it, but dental teams are often oblivious to the fact that they are treating these bread and butter patients like yesterday’s leftovers.

Remember this: 80% of dental practices are losing more patients than they are gaining new patients. Doctors and dental teams in practice after practice are utterly convinced that long-term patients will remain loyal and simply keep returning. “I have had many of my patients for 15-20 years,” you profess. At least you think you still have them. You assume that if a patient has come to your practice for a few years they will keep returning. Yet rarely do you actually check the numbers to confirm your perceptions. Nor do you think you need to do anything special to keep them returning.

Doctors and dental teams also falsely assume that these patients are well aware of the services the practice provides. “We have brochures in all of the treatment rooms. Patients know all about our services.” You have wallpaper in your treatment rooms too, and patients are more likely to notice your wallpaper than your brochures. And if they do spot those handy pamphlets that could educate them about adult ortho, veneers, whitening options and the like, they assume they don’t need the services or would not be candidates for the treatments because you have not suggested it to them. You have not handed them a sliver of information or bothered to mention that you now offer adult ortho and would be happy to talk to them further about how it might be an option for them to consider. You haven’t conducted a comprehensive exam on existing patients in years. You haven’t talked to them about the exciting continuing education programs you’ve attended recently or the amazing advancements in dental materials and treatment options available today.

Practices spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and revenues trying to win new patients, yet existing patients merely mark the hours on the schedule. They are seldom given a second thought. How often do we hear advertisements offering a special deal or promotion for new customers, new patients, new clients. What about the long-term, loyal customers? They are routinely taken for granted, which is why these special promotions are effective.

The customer that is taken for granted in Dr. Joe’s practice likes the idea of being treated to something special at Dr. Sue’s practice, so she leaves Dr. Joe’s practice, reasoning that while she likes Dr. Joe well enough, he’s getting older and maybe Dr. Sue’s practice really is better. After all, she has a special whitening product she’s offering. Of course, so does Dr. Joe, but his practice never seems to get around to talking to patients about it – unless they are new patients, that is.

Make your patients feel “new” every time they walk in your office.

Next week, how well “connected” is your practice?   

For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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