Earn patient loyalty and grow practice profits with these tips
When patient retention numbers drop, it can be pretty frustrating. The dentist and the rest of the team are left wondering why patients are opting to go elsewhere for their dental care, and often start to worry about the future of the practice. Team morale suffers and so does the bottom line.
Loyal patients are vital to any practice’s success, yet they can be difficult to come by. The problem is, patients decide not to return for many reasons. Maybe they thought they had to wait too long to see the dentist, or they didn’t think the team was friendly enough. If you can identify and address a few of the most common reasons patients never return, you’ll see your patient base start to grow.
Not sure where to start? That’s where I come in. Here are a few tips to help you earn patient loyalty and increase profits in your practice.
Put a focus on customer service. Patients expect certain things to happen when they visit your office. They want to be greeted by friendly team members who are happy to help them in any way they can. Remember, many patients are nervous about dental appointments, so making them feel comfortable from the moment they walk in will not only put them at ease, it will help them start to feel a connection to the practice.
So how can you offer better customer service? Train team members to offer patients a beverage as they wait, and to ask if they need help filling out paperwork. Team members also should answer any questions they have and assure patients they’re in great hands. These touches may seem small, but they go a long way in earning loyalty.
Make them feel at home. I hate to say it, but most patients would rather be just about anywhere other than a dental office, and it certainly doesn’t help if they’re forced to sit in a sterile waiting area where they can hear the sounds of the dental instruments they’ve come to fear.
It’s important to make patients feel as at home as possible while they wait. That’s why I suggest setting up your reception area more like a living room than a dentist’s office. Trade in those stiff plastic chairs for comfortable couches and paint over white walls with more soothing colors. Add in a few plants and pleasant smells and patients will be much happier when they arrive for their appointment.
Another tip? Keep the outside of your office looking neat and tidy as well. If patients see an old tattered sign or a parking lot that clearly needs some work, their first impression of the practice won’t be a positive one—and that sets the tone for the entire visit.
Fix your schedule. If your schedule is a mess, it’s not only wreaking havoc on your day, it’s irritating your patients. No one wants to spend their afternoon waiting to be called back for an appointment. Your patients are busy people with long lists of tasks they must complete each day. If you keep them from those tasks, chances are they’ll opt to call another dentist when it’s time for their next appointment.
If your schedule seems a bit out of control these days, it’s probably time to talk with your Scheduling Coordinator. Make sure she is trained to schedule producers to meet production goals, and that she isn’t double booking anyone. Be sure to communicate appointment times to your Scheduling Coordinator as well. You’ll have a more streamlined schedule and happier patients.
Build connections. When patients feel connected to a practice, they’re more likely to stay loyal. You can create these connections in various ways, including asking them about their families and their work, taking the time to address concerns they have about treatment recommendations and educating them about the importance of maintaining their oral health. Spend time getting to know your patients and making sure they understand why routine dental care is vital, and they’ll reward you with their loyalty.
Add new services. Patients don’t want to go to multiple dentists for treatment, so the more you can offer in-house the better. Adding services also will help you stay passionate about what you do.
Of course offering more services won’t do you much good if patients don’t know about them. Keep patients informed with monthly practice newsletters. It’s also a good idea to put educational brochures in your waiting area and to hang posters that advertise new services, whether it’s whitening, clear aligner therapy or implants.
For your practice to be successful, you need loyal patients who refer you to family and friends. Follow these tips and you’ll grow your patient base and your bottom line.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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