5 Ways to Boost Patient Retention and Practice Productivity
Developing a loyal base of patients who accept treatment and refer isn’t easy, yet it’s vital to your practice’s success. These are the patients who fuel practice productivity and help you grow your bottom line, but they’re also pretty elusive. All too often, patients come to your office once, maybe twice, never to be heard from again. To make matters worse, you have no idea why they don’t come back or how to turn new patients into patients who want to call your practice their dental home.
If you’re like most dentists, you probably don’t know where your patient retention rate falls. To get a better idea of how your practice is doing, I suggest you take my free Patient Retention Assessment. Many dentists who take the assessment realize patient retention numbers are worse than they thought. If you find that’s the case, don’t panic. With my help, you can turn those numbers around and start enjoying patient retention rates between 85% and 95%. Just imagine what that could do for your bottom line.
Here are a few tips to help get you started:
1. Connect with patients. I know you’re busy, but don’t rush patients in and out of the chair as quickly as possible. Instead, take time to build a rapport. Show an interest in their families and their jobs. Talk with them about their dental concerns and goals, then educate them about the services you provide that can help them get there. Encourage your team members to do the same. This will show patients that you see them as a partner in their dental care and you truly care about their wellbeing, which is a great way to earn trust as well as loyalty.
2. Revamp your recall system. If you have lackluster patient retention, it’s likely that a weak recall system is at least partly to blame. Reactivating recall will help you win back patients who haven’t been to the office in a while, improving production numbers.
To get the most out of your recall system, I suggest you ditch the generic postcards and hire a Patient Coordinator instead. Make this team member responsible for reaching out to a certain number of past due patients each day and getting them on the schedule. Train your Patient Coordinator to use these calls as an opportunity to educate. Patients will appreciate the effort and be much more likely to make another appointment with your practice.
3. Respect your patients’ time. Whether they’re on the phone or in your reception area, patients don’t like to be kept waiting. Remember they’re busy people too, and if you continually put them on hold for long periods of time or expect them to wait 30 minutes or more when they come in to see you, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them again.
How can you fix these issues? Train team members to see new patient calls as a priority rather than a disruption. Make sure they never keep patients on hold so they can finish a different task. If you find yourself constantly falling behind your schedule during the day, have a talk with your Scheduling Coordinator. It could be that procedure times are not being scheduled properly or you’re being double-booked. Determine what the problem is and then provide necessary training to correct it. This will help ensure you have a more streamlined schedule and patients are seen as close to their actual appointment time as possible.
4. Offer your team members guidance. This comes in the form of detailed job descriptions, feedback and performance measurements. When your team members have the direction they crave, they become more effective and confident in their roles. They’re happier and more efficient, which comes through in patient interactions. Customer service improves, you have more time to spend with patients, and patients receive better care – all factors that help keep patients loyal to a practice.
5. Consider implementing hybrid scheduling. If you pre-appoint six months out, your schedule looks fuller than it actually is. Why? All too often, these patients cancel at the last minute or don’t show up at all. It could be because something came up at work or they simply forgot, but the result is the same – you’re left with holes in the schedule that could have been filled by other patients who are ready for treatment. These patients are often told the schedule is full and the doctor can’t see them for three, four, even five weeks. As you might imagine, this makes them feel like you don’t value their business, which is enough to send even the most loyal patients looking for a new practice to call their dental home.
To open up more slots in your schedule, consider implementing hybrid scheduling. Only pre-appoint reliable patients and wait to schedule your flakier patients a few weeks out rather than six months in advance. I guarantee you’ll deal with fewer broken appointments and have more room in the schedule for patients who are ready for treatment.
Many dentists focus on attracting new patients to their practice – which of course is important to practice success, but it doesn’t do much good if those patients never come back. Truly successful practices know what it takes to keep current patients happy and accepting treatment.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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If you are lucky, when a patient has a complaint or concern about the service they received in your practice, the patient will actually inform you – rather than just leaving your practice and telling their friends about the bad experience. Depending on the patient, this negative word-of-mouth could potentially result in significant patient loss from your practice. It’s important to remember that complaints received from patients can be a blessing when it comes to patient retention.
How you choose to handle complaints is very important. People want to feel heard, and they want to see action. Be aware of your patients; try to keep tabs on who knows who, and who referred who.
Social media reviews can also have a profound impact on your practice. If you have great reviews, social media is an amazing tool to add to your marketing. However, if you have negative reviews, social media can easily turn into one of your biggest nightmares.
Your team should be gracious when a patient is kind enough to bring their complaint to your attention. Who in your office hears the majority of complaints when there is a problem in your practice? Most people would be inclined to answer “the front office” without a doubt. However, this may not be true – it could be anybody in your practice. Patients are most likely to discuss their concerns with the person they trust the most in your practice, or the person who they perceive will actually care enough to try and resolve the issue.
Many times, it is actually the hygienist who patients trust the most, as this is who they are seeing on a regular basis. It is often convenient to speak with the hygienist privately, as the patient is in the chair and there are few other team members around. Of course, if the complaint is about the hygienist, they will likely speak to someone else.
Make sure your team knows how to handle complaints. This could make all the difference when it comes to keeping, for example, a family of five who referred ten friends who also come to your practice. Patient satisfaction is paramount.
Does your staff have the power to make decisions on the spot to help the patient? If not, who do they go to – and is this for everything? Every practice has an office policy, but does your staff have the autonomy to bend policy when needed, for the greater good of the practice? It is recommended that your staff is trained on how to handle complaints in your office, no matter how few and far between they are. Team members need to know who to go to first, what they can handle on their own, and how far they can go outside the box if they need to.
Of course, we are not able to make everyone happy all of the time – we are human and mistakes will be made. But the way mistakes are handled by you and your team will make all the difference in the world when it comes to how patients decide to continue treatment, or where they choose to have their treatment done.
We all want a perfect office that runs smoothly 100% of the time. The more prepared your staff is and the more training they have, the fewer complaints you will receive in the first place. When staff are not trained on how to handle certain circumstances, patients end up leaving your office upset, or they hang up the phone and never call back. Make sure team members are properly trained on customer service, office policies, clinical services, materials, and practice systems. As a result, they will be more prepared to have conversations with patients that will help with patient satisfaction and treatment acceptance in the future.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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