Much of dental practice marketing today is designed towards attracting new patients to offices with schedules to fill and chair times to utilize. In our Local Fresh blog, we’ve recently covered emerging trends in dental practice marketing, how SEO practices can benefit our dental clients, and even how to improve front office productivity so that staff has more free time to meet your patient’s needs. However, what frequently gets lost in the conversation on new patient acquisition is that the only thing harder to get than a new dental patient is keeping a new dental patient.
While getting a patient through the front door was once the greatest obstacle a practice had to overcome in order to build a solid patient base, that’s simply no longer the case today. Many dental practices have found it increasingly challenging to retain patients in an age of changing insurance plans, fierce competition, and internet marketing.
If your dental practice expends vital resources to attract new patients it’s vital that you do everything possible to ensure you maintain those relationships. This means dental practice owners need to implement effective strategies designed to improve patient retention rates so they enjoy the benefits of a healthy base, combined with an influx in new patients.
While maintaining your patient base may be tricky, it can be done. It requires that you remain proactive in patient engagement, never assuming patients will remember to make a new appointment, tell you about services they desire, or even understand all of the outstanding services your practice can provide. When developing your in-house strategy for keeping new patients, keep these tips in mind.
Keep Your Patients on Schedule
While perhaps not as existential as “does a tree that falls in the woods make a sound if no one’s around to hear it”, asking yourself if a patient that doesn’t have an appointment really exist isn’t an unfair question. Every patient that leaves your office without a future appointment may never come back.
Sure, patients may have good intentions and plan on making a future appointment for a cleaning or follow-up, but when the time comes to actually schedule they may either forget or, even worse, elect to go with the competition. That’s why it’s important to try and have 98 percent of patients scheduled at all times.
How, you may ask? This is where your front office needs to step in and improve their ability to convince patients to schedule their next appointment before leaving your office. You also need to have an excellent follow-up system in place for patients that leave without an appointment, and a system in place designed to contact patients overdue for their next visit.
Once you get a patient on the calendar, it’s far easier to schedule reminders that keep them on track for coming back then it is secure an appointment to begin with.
Make a Commitment to Exhibiting Excellence in Customer Service
Too often in business today, consumers look to find the best possible deal rather than establish a lasting relationship with a brand. However, dentistry, much like other medical professions, operates on a slightly different axis.
When it comes to their health, consumers prefer familiarity and the idea that those they seek care from have some level of investment in the treatments they provide. This enables dental practices to develop relationships with patients that can become a key factor in your ability to keep them coming back year after year.
Of course, to successfully connect with your patients, you must provide outstanding customer service. Greeting patients with genuine enthusiasm, keeping appointments on time, informing patients on their current health, asking for regular feedback, and always exhibiting compassion and concern for their wellbeing are all hallmarks of outstanding customer service.
To keep customer service at the forefront of everything your dental practice seeks to achieve, always be asking the question – what else can we do to improve our patient experience? The more creative and comprehensively you answer that question, the better your individual relationships with patients will become.
Stay in Contact, Stay Around
If the only time patients hear from your dental practice is when asking them to schedule or reminding them of an appointment, it’s easy to be viewed as just another business looking to take their money. Showing up twice a year asking someone to give you money can leave a bad taste in your patient’s mouth, even if you do it with a smile. (Just ask any parent with a kid in college.)
You can still have an impact on maintaining relationships with your patients even when they’re not in the office. Contact them through Facebook, email them information from your blog on the latest oral health news, or give them a call to see how they’re doing. While many consumers today remain in the market for the best deal, establishing consistent contact will let them know that the relationship you’ve formed is more than just financial.
Remember to Say Thank You
Remembering your manners and saying thank you to a patient upon receiving a referral, for their patience when running late, or their repeated loyalty can go a long way towards keeping them coming back year after year.
Implementing a rewards or referral bonus program can also go a long way towards letting patients know that you care about their commitment and respect the time and trust they’ve placed in your practice.
Too often service-based businesses feel as if they deserve the thanks after providing care. But remember, without a patient putting their trust and faith into your abilities to care for their oral health, you wouldn’t have anyone to provide with treatment.
Your Brand Matters
Attracting new patients is only half the battle. Once a new patient come through the door, you need to work twice as hard to ensure they keep coming back. This is where ensuring your brand stands for something more than fluoride and toothpaste really matters.
By establishing your brand on the foundation of keeping patients consistently scheduled, providing outstanding customer service, remembering to say thank you when it counts, and staying in contact throughout the year, you can separate yourself from the competition and establish the kind of lasting relationships a practice needs to maintain a consistent patient base.