Why You're Losing Patients to the Practice Down the Street
These days, dental patients have a lot of options. If they’re not happy with their current dental home, whether it’s because the team members aren’t friendly enough or the practice’s hours just aren’t convenient, they won’t hesitate to make their next appointment at the practice down the street.
This is why so many practices struggle with patient retention. Patients have high expectations, and when they decide a practice isn’t for them, they usually don’t tell the dentist or team members why they’ve opted to move on. This is not only frustrating, it’s costly.
To build a successful practice, you need to develop a base of loyal patients who accept recommended treatment and refer you to family and friends. And I’m talking about patient retention numbers that reach 85% or even 95%. Seem impossible? It isn’t, and I’m here to help you get there. First, you need to understand why patients leave and what you and your team members can do to make them want to stay.
You don’t offer flexible payment options. Dental treatment can be expensive, and many patients simply can’t afford it on their own. So if you present a case that costs thousands of dollars but don’t offer third party financing options like CareCredit, chances are the patient will look for a practice that does.
Third party financing helps reduce the financial burden, allowing patients to pay in small monthly chunks instead of writing one large check. This not only makes patients more likely to stay loyal to your practice, it also makes them more likely to accept treatment – boosting productivity and your bottom line.
Your customer service is lacking. Patients expect to be treated a certain way when they walk into your dental office. They want to feel comfortable and cared for, and that happens when you put a focus on customer service.
How, you ask? Train team members to greet patients with a friendly smile as soon as they walk through the door. Offer them water as they wait to be called back for their appointment. Help them fill out paperwork, especially if they’re nervous, and do everything you can to put them at ease. Let them know they’re in good hands and the team cares about their wellbeing. This is a great way to make patients feel more connected to the practice and win their loyalty.
Your case presentations are too short. If you’re like most dentists, you likely don’t have a lot of time to go over treatment chairside. You probably spend five, maybe 10 minutes explaining the procedure and why it’s important before you move on to the next patient. While you might think this is enough, it really isn’t. Patients likely have questions, but they won’t feel comfortable asking these questions if they can tell you’re in a hurry to get to the next operatory (which of course they can). This often makes patients feel like you don’t really have time for them, so they decide to find a practice that’s a bit more attentive.
I suggest hiring a Treatment Coordinator to present treatment for all producers in the practice. This team member can spend as much time as necessary going over all the procedure details with patients and educating them about the importance of accepting treatment. This shows patients your practice cares and you want to make sure they understand exactly what to expect, from how long the procedure will take to any home care they’ll need to do post-op. This again helps strengthen that all important connection, which leads to loyalty.
You don’t take patient complaints seriously. Trust me, I understand patient complaints can be annoying. But ignoring them does nothing except hurt your practice. When you shrug off their concerns, it shows patients you don’t care about their experience or value their opinion, and that’s a good way to send them looking for a new dental home.
When patients complain, really listen to what they have to say. Apologize for the problem and let them know you’re working to find a solution – then follow through. Trust me, if one patient brings up an issue then there are others who have the same complaint, they just didn’t bother to tell you. Bottom line: Taking patient complaints seriously will help you grow your practice and fix problems you didn’t even know you had.
Your hours don’t work for their schedule. Your patients are busy people. Between work and family obligations, many find it difficult to fit in dental appointments during typical business hours. These patients are always on the lookout for practices that offer early morning, evening and even weekend appointment times – and they won’t hesitate to leave your practice if they find one.
If you don’t already, I suggest you consider offering these flexible hours. Many of your current patients will love the ability to schedule appointments outside the normal business day, and you’ll likely attract new patients who find these hours more convenient for their schedule.
If you want to build a successful practice with a strong patient base, offering great dentistry isn’t enough. You also have to connect with patients, educate them about the value of dentistry and meet their needs. When you do, they’ll stay loyal to your practice for years to come.
Next week: 5 ways to boost patient retention and practice productivity
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
Job Application Blunders to Avoid
Oh no, another untimely “I am quitting” notice. Most office managers and dental employers hate these words, and move toward the hiring process again with trepidation. The gusto of “we found someone!” is often replaced with “what was I thinking?” after hastily hiring an unsuitable applicant.
A professionally written resume can often be a smokescreen of less than desirable attributes, so it is wise to have the applicant fill out, in the office, a handwritten application. After review of the application and a check of references, a list of prepared, open-ended questions should be asked during a face-to-face interview. Or if you prefer, you can have a SKYPE interview to avoid having the applicant come into the office.
With employment laws varying from state to state, it is still a wise decision to be prudent when inquiring about the topics listed below. For the most part, there are federal laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that enforce much of these avoidable hiring issues.
1. Medical history, past disabilities or questions related to current disabilities should be avoided. Instead, be sure to include on your job post any physical requirements of the job, such as “must be able to bend and lift objects up to twenty pounds from a cabinet” or “must be able to stand on your feet for up to two hours at a time”.
2. You will want to include on your job application a statement that the application is not a “contract of employment” or an “offer of employment.” This disclaimer is to protect you from a claim from an applicant that the job was guaranteed. This comes up if the applicant was not hired or you hired someone else instead.
3. You will want to include on your job application a “nondiscrimination statement” informing the applicant that you are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate in hiring based on federally protected classifications, sexual orientation or marital status.
4. While it is relevant to question an applicant about their experience as related to the job requirements, it is not okay to ask about graduation dates and degree dates obtained in the education section of the application. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) this is viewed as discriminatory intent based on age, especially if the graduation date has no bearing on the job duties or the degree date is irrelevant to the job duties.
6. It is important to inform an applicant if you intend to have a criminal background check performed. This should be on a “stand alone” document and not included on the application form, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
7. It seems friendly to ask about family and children, but beware. Questions about childcare, number of children, marital status etc. can be determined as discrimination. In many states, marital and familial status is considered a protected classification and is not to be inquired about in the hiring process.
8. Use an I9 form separate from the employment application to determine citizenship. Avoid asking about citizenship on a job application, as is outlined by the Immigration Reform and Control Act.
9. Avoid questions regarding arrests (an arrest does not mean the person was guilty) and convictions (separate from the Background Check) on a job application. If you do, it is important to ask questions that are job related only; but this is not recommended. For example, if there are drugs stored in the office or prescription blanks that can be accessed, it would be relevant to ask if the applicant has ever been convicted of drug possession or drug dealing. Use caution in this area and consult an attorney to be safe. A dentist is responsible for the health and safety of the other employees and the patients too.
The hiring process will come up from time to time, and being prepared is important. Look at your current job application form. If you have used the same one for years, it’s probably time for an update to make sure you are not violating any employment laws.
Need help with hiring? Contact McKenzie Management today for consulting services and professional business training courses to help you to create solid systems.
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