By Christine Alfano, senior director of marketing, Vyne.
Most practices are looking for ways to keep their chairs full by attracting new as well as continuing treatment with existing patients. Keep in mind that all of the things we’re going to discuss in this article, also apply to your existing patients. After all, with so much competition in the market today, you can never assume that just because you have seen a patient in the past they will return to your office.
Make a great first impression.
What’s the first encounter or first impression that most prospective new patients have with your dental practice? At a recent conference, dental professionals gave a multitude of answers like phone calls, the front desk person, the building/office, but most of them missed the mark.If you said, visiting your website or searching online, you get an A+! Nowadays, the way people find a new dentist is by searching online and visiting your website, so, if you’re not actively working on those two things in your practice, and want to grow your patient base, you’d better get started!
If you have a website, make sure it’s relevant and up-to-date. A site that looks 10 years old and has out of date information or events, gives the impression that you don’t care and that’s not a good first impression.
If SEO and responsive websites are terms that make you scratch your head, it’s okay. You don’t have to be the online marketing expert. There are a lot of great resources online for creating an online presence and there are a lot of partners and services available as well. Just be sure to invest your marketing dollars wisely, measure the results, and you will see the ROI.
- Hire friendly people and greet your patients.
This may sound really simple, but hear me out. Once a prospective patient has visited your website and decided to make an appointment, your people are up to bat. Your team members and their attitudes are the thing that will leave the longest lasting impression on a patient. Make sure that you’ve properly trained everyone on office etiquette, greetings and expectations.There is nothing worse than getting to a practice, walking in and not being greeted immediately.
Here’s a real-life example that happened to me recently. I walked into my dentist’s office for a 1 p.m. appointment, there were about four ladies at the front desk: one was on the phone, and no one else was in the waiting room. I’ve always had a great customer service experience at this practice and I love my doctor, but to my surprise, when I arrived, no one said a word to me. I went ahead and scribbled my name on the sign-in list and sat down while they all discussed what to order for lunch. They never acknowledged me, but a couple of minutes later, the hygienist came to the door and called me back for my cleaning. The appointment itself went great (as usual) but that initial experience left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and go back, of course, but I wonder if I’d been a new patient with no other good experiences to recount, would I be so forgiving? Think about it …
Solicit feedback from your patients
The best way to know how you’re doing is to ask. Whether you ask them on their way out as they setup their next appointment, send them a follow-up email survey or text message, or call them a day or two post-appointment, ask your patients if everything went okay with their appointment, if there’s anything your team could improve upon and if they have any suggestions for ways that you could better serve their needs. People like to be heard and while, not everyone may be as willing to complete a survey, you’ll never know unless you ask.
If you have a referral program, let your patients know about it when you ask how the appointment went so that it’s more of a conversation than just a satisfaction survey. You may even want to try incentivizing them to participate. For example, if they are happy with the services provided, ask if they’d like to provide an online review or give them a card to share with a friend. Once the review is posted or the referral card returned by a new patient, you can reward them with a gift card as a token of thanks.
Use patient feedback to shape your practice
Asking for feedback and not taking it to heart is a waste of everyone’s time. Share it with your doctors and your team members on a regular basis. If, as in the example above of my recent encounter, you hear that your staff were not as welcoming as they perhaps should have been, bring it up at your next huddle and encourage them to be mindful of patients and of their conversations in public areas such as the front desk/reception area. If the feedback you get is stellar – awesome!
Reward your rock stars with an office lunch or gift cards for stand-out individuals – do something to recognize and encourage that type of performance because your people are what will keep patients coming back.