These are the top 5 reasons you’re losing patients
It’s important for dentists and their team members to build a loyal base of patients who accept treatment and refer. This is key to moving a practice forward, which is why it’s so frustrating when patients don’t come back—and you have no idea why. When a practice is struggling with patient retention, it hurts productivity and team morale. It’s downright maddening, and leaves dental teams wondering what they’re doing wrong. The good news is, making a few changes will help boost your patient retention numbers and your bottom line. Here are five of the main reasons patients opt to switch dental practices, and what you can do to help keep them loyal to yours.
- Your customer service is lacking. When patients visit your office, you want them to have the best experience possible. If your practice doesn’t meet expectations or patients have a negative experience, chances are they won’t be back. OK, you’re probably wondering how you can improve customer service. Start by making sure team members are trained to greet every patient with a friendly smile and a helpful attitude. Do whatever it takes to put them at ease, whether that’s helping them fill out paperwork, ensuring nervous patients they’re in good hands or offering them a beverage. It’s also important to create a comfortable atmosphere for patients as they wait. I suggest you give the reception area a homey feel, with couches, plants and soothing colors. Patients will feel more relaxed as they wait to be called back for their appointment. The bottom line is this: Make sure patients know they’re the practice’s No. 1 priority. Patients will actually want to come back, and might even be inclined to refer your practice to family and friends.
- You don’t take the time to develop a rapport with patients. Most patients want to feel a connection to their dental practice. They want to know the dentist and the rest of the team has their best interest at heart. How do you build these all-important connections? Get to know patients during their appointments. Ask them about their families and their jobs, as well as their oral health goals. Let them know how the services you provide can help them meet those goals. Once you focus on developing a rapport, more patients will start calling your practice their dental home.
- You overwhelm them with expensive treatment plans. This is especially true when talking about first-time patients. If you try to sell them on thousands of dollars in dentistry during that initial appointment, they’re going to find it difficult to trust your recommendations. Instead of overwhelming them, talk with new patients about their most immediate needs first. Once you address those, you can move on to other treatment that will improve their smile and help them reach their oral health goals. To create patient loyalty, you have to earn their trust first.
- You keep them waiting. Your patients are busy people and don’t want to spend their afternoon sitting in your reception area. This will just give them a reason to call the practice down the street when it’s time for their next appointment. If long waits are a common problem in your practice, I suggest you focus on streamlining your schedule. You might find it’s time to hire a Scheduling Coordinator, or to provide additional training if you already have one. Once you fix your schedule and eliminate long wait times, your patients will be much happier—as will the rest of the team.
- You don’t have any internal marketing. Dentists tend to focus most of their marketing efforts on attracting new patients, which of course is important to growing a practice. But remember it costs a lot more to attract new patients than it does to keep the ones you already have, which is why I suggest you start adding some internal marketing to the mix as well. Current patients should be aware of all the services you provide. You can make them aware by talking with them chairside as well as sending out monthly e-newsletters. Offer Invisalign? Put up posters and educational brochures in the reception area. Patients will not only know more about the services you offer, they might even be prompted to ask questions about those services during their appointment. Low patient retention numbers are not only frustrating, they’re also harmful to a practice. If you don’t have enough patients to treat, it hurts practice productivity and your bottom line. Determine why you’re losing patients and then make the necessary changes to earn their loyalty. Once you do, you’ll find your practice will finally start meeting its full potential.
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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