Do you know how many of your patients are truly satisfied with the service they receive at your dental practice? Do they come to your office because you take great care of their teeth, and they feel valued during every step of the process? Or do they come because they know dental care is important and aren’t concerned enough about the lack of good service to change practices – yet?
If the goal of any marketing plan is to grow a dental practice, then patient service must surely play a role in that strategy. Give your patients the best possible experience at your office and make them leave thinking, “Wow that was a great visit!” Work with your dental office team to proactively manage the entire patient experience. Here are some tips you can use to ramp up the WOW factor in your office:
You might think it is inconsequential, but poor service on the telephone can lead directly to unhappy patients and disinterested prospective patients. Take an honest look at how your practice handles telephone calls and think about whether you would like being treated that way. Do you only have limited hours when patients can call, do they get a busy signal, or have to wait forever for somebody on your staff to answer? Are they ever put on hold listening to annoying music for long stretches of time? You may think this is unavoidable and they will put up with up, but they be thinking it’s time to start looking for a new dentist. Study these systems and make them as efficient as possible. Designate one staff member who is responsible for talking to prospective patients. That person should engage in a brief conversation, share a little about the practice, find out how they heard about you, and make it easy to set an appointment.
You work so hard to get somebody in the door, and then there is nobody at the front desk. Or there is, but they are engaged in a personal conversation with another employee. When the employee finally deigns to talk to the patient, it is only to request the insurance and contact information, and to hand over a sheaf of forms to be completed. This is the first touch point with your practice, so it must be great. Make sure the desk is covered at all times, and stress that there are to be no personal conversations out there. When making an appointment with a current patient or welcoming a prospective one, ask if there is an email address you can use for non-confidential matters. Then ask if you can send copies of any necessary form to that address so the patients can complete them ahead of time and bring them to the appointment.
The First Impression:
Once patients are ushered into the operatory, what is the first impression they receive? Is it a dry, sterile room with foreboding instruments and an even sterner practice representative? Or do you create a warm, comforting atmosphere which welcomes patients and puts them at ease? How does your staff greet patients? Do they smile and chat for a short time, or do they go straight to work? How do you appear when you come into the room for the check-up? Do you take the time to educate and answer questions, or is it simply a cursory glance before you move on to the next patient?
Take some time to develop rough answers to questions the employees in your office receive on a regular basis. Then hold an office meeting where you discuss how you would like these questions to be answered. Employees don’t have to read the scripts verbatim, but they should be comfortable enough with their content to ensure that patients receive the same answer no matter who answers their question.
Have you ever asked your patients about the experience they have had at your office, or would you really prefer not to know? It can’t be fixed and won’t get better until you know what the problems are. Ask patients to complete a confidential print survey at the office after an appointment, or ask if you can send it to an email address. Then be sure to read the responses, and take action on areas that are in need of improvement.
This can be the touchiest part of the patient relationship, so make sure your primary contact person is a patient service standout. You want somebody who knows how to present the cost structure, cover the benefits, and explain the payment options. If money is due, you also want that person to be skilled in working with patients to get payment and continue the relationship. Also take a look at the letters your practice sends to patients with overdue bills to see what kind of message you are sending.
Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster. First make sure there is no bad news to spread, and then capitalize on the goodwill you have by asking patients to tell others about your practice. Ask for written testimonials and obtain permission to post the best ones on your website without violating patient confidentiality. Direct your most satisfied patients to online sites like Yelp, Google+, Yellow Pages, and ChooseYourDentist.com to provide an honest rating of their dental experience.
Referrals and word-of-mouth are the best marketing strategies your practice can have. Put systems in place to make it easy to become a referral source. Team members should be asking for referrals at every visit, and they should be able to offer some type of incentive for providing the name of somebody who sets an appointment. Whenever you sit down to map out your marketing strategy for the year, take some time to consider your patient experience. Make it the best for patients and you’ll both come out ahead.