Loyal patients, isn’t that what we want? Loyal patients’ that return year after year; accept your treatment recommendations, and refer their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers? They are loyal to your dental practice because they like and trust you. Sounds lovely, right?
How do you cultivate loyal dental patients? It certainly isn’t enough to just bring new patients into the practice. You earn this privilege to serve them not just for a moment but for life.
Is it really a privilege to serve them? Absolutely! Any office that struggles with getting and keeping new patients, struggles with getting patients to accept their treatment recommendations, struggles with the hygiene department’s continuing care reports and Swiss cheese-like appointment schedules, struggles to keep up with all the record transfer requests from patients and their new dental office, will learn (hopefully quickly) that having loyal patients in your practice is an earned privilege. The aforementioned struggles are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.
How do you earn this privilege? Consistently exceed your patients’ expectations.
Here are 12 ways you can do this (in no particular order)…
(1) Pre-Op Calls – Doctors and Hygienists start building your relationship with a new patient before they step foot in the practice. Call and give a warm welcome, let them know you are looking forward to meeting them at their appointment.It’s unexpected, takes only a few minutes and will really make your new patient feel special.
(2) Post-Op Calls – Call your patients in the evening to see how well they are doing.
(3) Acknowledge and Reward Referrals – For every patient you must have a referral source, how else will you be able to track what marketing works and what doesn’t? Especially if you want more referrals from your current patients, then reward the behavior that you want to see more of. Acknowledge and Reward your referrals. If you don’t already have a protocol in place, make a plan as soon as possible. Please do me a favor, and avoid sending the same exact thank- you to the same patient every time they refer someone… no “groundhog-day thank you’s”. Change it up!
(4) Sending Cards – Keep Sympathy, Anniversary, Welcome, Congratulations, Thinking of you and Get Well cards on hand to send to your patients. As a team, remain alert to opportunities to surprise your patients with a card.
(5) Answering the Phone – This one is KEY to your success. All of your marketing efforts lead people to the phone first. Don’t waste your money by losing the potential patient or aggravating current patients due to poor telephone skills and habits. Your entire team should be trained on how to properly answer the phone and handle the call.Answering the phone is a privilege and a great opportunity! SEE How to Effectively Answer the Dental Office Telephone
(6) Stay on Time – If you’re often running behind schedule, investigate as to the reason(s) why. If you know why, change whatever is causing you to stray from the schedule. Running behind schedule sends a message to your patients and your team that you don’t respect their time. Arriving at the office with plenty of time before the first scheduled patient, expecting your patients to arrive on time, never wait on hygiene exams, calculating the actual amount of time it takes to do procedures, controlling the schedules, these things will help you stay on time. Avoid working through lunch hours… everyone needs that time to recharge their batteries.
(7) Treat your employees the way you want them to treat your best patient – Communicate your goals, expectations, and vision with your team. Ask for their thoughts and ideas during your team meetings (speaking of meetings, be sure you’re having a daily morning huddle). Reward the behaviors you want to see more of. Be friendly, grateful and respectful even on the days when you don’t want to be. Do not share in or tolerate any negative gossip about team members or patients! Have FUN at work and on occasion, outside of work with employee appreciation events. Remember this, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”– Simon Sinek
Hire (and keep) only the best employees. “Remember there is no way that the quality of customer service can exceed the quality of the people who provide it.” Liz Tahir
Invest in your team with continuing education courses (ex: TBSE), and training for your computer software, telephone skills, social media sites, dental terminology, protocols, procedures, and technology.
(8) Stay in Touch – Find/Create ways to stay in touch with your patients via telephone calls, continuing care postcards/letters and on your social media sites. Keep your name in front of them. SEE: Ten Ways to Stay in Touch with your Dental Patients
This includes incomplete treatment & continuing care reminders. Be sure to diligently follow-up on any patients that are due, past-due or have treatment planned but not scheduled. Don’t allow patients to fall through the cracks due to poor systems for follow-up.
(9) Deliver exceptional dental care – Give your patients the best care…always!Really, LISTEN to your patients. Don’t just see and treat “teeth”. Get to know your patients as individuals. Take an interest in them. What are their oral healthcare values & priorities? What’s in it for them, not you or the office.
Be sure to keep current with dental technology, procedures, and products.
(10) Maintain a safe and clean office – Outside & Inside your office, you want to send a positive message about your care by keeping your office very clean, well maintained and welcoming. SEE Spring Clean Your Dental Office Using Your 5 Senses
(11) Be My Guest – Treat your patients as a guest in your home. From your first patient of the day to your last patient for the day, make them feel welcome.
(12) Honesty – #1– Be honest with your patients regarding your fees and treatment. The quickest way to lose a patient is by them perceiving they’re being taken advantage of. Clearly, explain the cost to do the treatment and the cost of doing nothing. Estimate as closely as possible the patient’s financial portion for treatment. Some will tell you that you should never quote fees over the phone…I strongly disagree. Why? You’ll lose many of your shopper callers by refusing to answer their request for a quote on a fee. They’re calling because they need/want a particular service. They’re ready! Make it easy for them to choose your office by honestly answering their question. Because you cannot make an actual diagnosis over the phone, it’s impossible to know exactly what their cost will be, give a range of fees and offer for them to come in for a complimentary consultation.
#2 -When you mess up, admit it. No excuses or passing blame. Say you’re sorry and make it right. Consider keeping gift cards on hand to give to your patients when something doesn’t go as planned. (ex: lab case error, scheduling error, etc) Oh, if you find yourself apologizing a lot… see what you can do proactively to minimize future mistakes.
There are no short cuts, if your goal is to grow your practice with patients that are not merely satisfied but are delighted with your service and remain loyal to your practice, you must remain loyal to your goals, your mission, and your promise.
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Yours for Greater Success!