Why Patients Stay at a Dental Practice
You can guess why some patients leave your office. But what are the big factors that will keep them coming back time and again?
Dental practice consultant Lisa Mergens, who founded Ascendant Dental Development, and Debbie Bush from Patient Prism have pinpointed a few of the attributes of really great practices that attract loyal patients.
The best dental offices:
Offer concierge service
“I truly believe that we need to make sure that every aspect of our patients’ needs are addressed, from the moment then call on the phone to the moment we dismiss them at the end of an appointment,” said Mergens. “And we need to delight them. And we need to surprise them.
“And we need to far exceed any expectations they may have had.”
Identify what makes them unique
“One of the first things we have to do … is figure not only your why, but your USP (unique selling proposition),” said Mergens, using a term from the marketing world. “Who are you uniquely. And that comes about very much so by defining the who practice owner is.”
What kind of practice do you want to be? Dentists need to honestly look at the values they’d like to communicate to patients, then look at your staff.
“Do we have the right staff members in place?” Mergens asked. “Or do we have the the right staff members in (the office) yet they’re in the wrong place in the practice? So I’m a firm believer in repurposing those people.”
Speak the same message
So you’ve identified who you are and who your staff members are. Now get everybody on the same message.
“They have to drink the Kool Aid,” she said. “And they have to buy into who you are as a practice owner. And why you're going to do it the way you do it.”
She recommends going off-site to have a big staff pow-wow where everyone brings their ideas to the table. The conversation will help with buy in.
At the end of the process, everyone should come away knowing the practice’s core values.
Keep the patient's best interests at heart
People first, profits later, Mergens said.
“I truly believe, if we always keep our patients’ best interests at heart and in mind, then one follows the other, but we have to have the entire office staff onboard with it, and if somebody. can’t or won’t buy into that then we need to assess whether that person belongs in the practice,” she said.
Make them want to come back for more.
When you provide a great experience, they’ll want to return. And great experiences usually start on the phone.
“Every staff member needs to know how to address a new patient call, not just the front desk or anybody working in the front office,” Mergens said.
Make scheduling easier for patients
Mergens said the best practices use block scheduling so a dental emergency never waits. And when there’s no emergency, they fill the time by calling patients on a special quick-fill list.
“But what do we do for that patient for coming in last minute?” Mergens asked. “Well maybe we offer them a percentage off the treatment that they’re coming in for that day. Maybe they have a crown prep coming up, and because they’re going to fill in this last-minute hole at the end of our day, because they can be called last-minute, we’re going to give them a benefit for coming in.
“And they’re going to refer their friends and family for that.”
Get many happy referrals
Referrals are the second easiest and cheapest way to get new patients behind retaining your current patients.
Consider incentivizing the referral process, as one practice Bush said she knows does.
“For every referral, that patient is given $15 of value towards treatment,” she said. “And they keep a correct record of that at all times. So every referral is adding up.”
Now incentives like membership programs and other incentives may vary legally from state to state, but membership is allowable in most states.
“Especially if we’re trying to lose some of the insurance-driven practice, we want to maintain that patient, so we want to make it economically feasible for them to stay with us,” Mergens said.
Worry over the details
“It’s the little things, it’s the fresh flowers,” Mergens said.
There should be no spot in your office untouched. Everything should be thought through from a patient’s point of view, she said.
She said she knows of one office that was very modern and checked all the boxes when it came to patient-centric details. Even the complimentary beverages.
“I think every cup of coffee they made for their patient probably cost $8,” she said.
You don’t have to go that far, said Bush.
“But you can be exceptional and stand out.”