How to win patient loyalty and grow the practice’s bottom line
By Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management
If patients don’t have an exceptional experience at your practice, chances are they won’t be back. They know there are other options, and they’ll keep trying new offices until they find one that meets their expectations.
That’s why it’s so important for dentists and their teams to focus on delivering the best experience possible. When patients have a positive experience, they feel more connected to the practice—and that goes a long way in winning their loyalty, improving case acceptance and growing the practice’s bottom line.
How can dental teams provide the type of experience that keeps patients wanting to come back? Here are a few tips:
Focus on customer service. Many patients are anxious when they walk into a dental practice, and would rather be just about anywhere else. Making them feel welcome as soon as they arrive will help put them at ease. Both front office and clinical team members should greet them with a smile and be as helpful as possible, whether that means answering their questions or offering them a beverage.
Create an inviting atmosphere. I suggest decorating your practice in warm colors and making your reception area feel more like a living room than a dental office. Invest in comfortable chairs and couches and consider adding floral arrangements and live plants. This type of atmosphere will help patients relax as they wait to be called back for their appointment.
Follow up. Don’t be afraid to ask patients about their experience. I recommend sending out surveys to get their feedback. Doing so will show them you value their opinion and really do want to provide them with the best experience possible. Another benefit? You’ll learn about areas you need to improve, and will be able to take the necessary steps to make those improvements.
Take complaints seriously. I know patient complaints can be annoying, but ignoring them can be pretty costly. When patients take the time to complain, they’re bringing up issues that need addressed. Keep in mind these patients probably aren’t the only ones having a problem; they’re just the ones who took the time to tell you about it.
How should you handle patient complaints? Thank patients for letting you know about the issue and then assure them you’ll start working on a solution—and then do just that. I suggest team members write down every complaint they receive, and then bring them up during meetings. That way, everyone is aware of problems patients have pointed out and can work together to address them.
Answer the phone. When patients call your practice to schedule an appointment or ask a question, they want to talk to a real, live person. If they get a recording every time, it might prompt them to try another practice. Make sure someone is always around during business hours to answer patient calls—even during lunch. Many patients will call your practice on their lunch break, and a team member should be there to take those calls. I suggest you stagger lunch breaks to make that possible.
Build a rapport. This can be difficult for some dentists and even their team members, but it’s vital to fostering loyalty. Patients want to feel a connection to the practice. If they don’t, they might decide not to come back.
One of the best ways to develop that connection is for everyone on the team to focus on building a rapport with patients. Ask them about their family and friends, as well as their oral health goals. Let them know the team cares about their well-being and wants to help them reach optimal health. Educate them about their condition, the services you provide, and the possible consequences of not going forward with treatment. This will help develop that all-important connection, and will make patients more likely to stay loyal and to accept the treatment you recommend.
Show them you care. There are a variety of ways to do this. Call patients when they’re late for an appointment to make sure they’re OK. Reach out after they’ve had a large procedure to see how they’re feeling. Send them a card or flowers on their birthday. These small touches will go a long way in earning loyalty and growing your patient base.
When team members are trained to create an exceptional experience, patients will want to call your practice their dental home. You’ll win their loyalty, and they might even be inclined to recommend your practice to family and friends, further growing your bottom line.
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 email@example.com.
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