You know that your patients are important to your practice, but do you know how important? While having patients to fill the schedule is clearly a vital component, your patients can also be valuable marketing resources. In fact, patient referrals account for the majority of overall referrals and are a low-cost, high-return marketing tool.
Every time a patient calls to schedule an appointment or ask a question, comes in for an appointment or has any interaction with you and your team, there is an opportunity to market yourself. And this isn’t difficult to accomplish. There are several simple, yet very effective ways to increase the likelihood of your patients sharing their great experiences with family and friends.
This is typically the first point of contact with patients and prospective patients, and how your team handles incoming phone calls could make the difference between a scheduled appointment and an empty chair. Answer promptly, answer with enthusiasm, be clear and be friendly.
While this may seem basic to you — patient shows up, checks in, gets the exam, pays and leaves — to them, it may not appear so simple. Patients who have never been to your office may not know how to get there, where to park, which door to use, or even something as easy as where the restroom is. The things you take for granted are critically important for patients to know and can make them feel at ease and welcome.
When someone walks into your office, what’s the first thing that they notice? Is it full of clutter? Does it have that ‘dental office’ smell? Or is it clean, comfortable and welcoming with no overwhelming odor? Again, paying attention to the details can make a huge difference. Women notice every little detail, so have a female friend or patient walk through your office and point out what they notice.
Do your front desk team members ever come out from behind the desk? They should. When a new patient is on the schedule, your front office staff should be on high alert. When someone they don’t recognize enters the door they should be on their feet and ready to greet, because it’s most likely your new patient!
After a friendly welcome, it’s a good idea to take new patients on a quick office tour. Have a team member show them around and explain your amenities. When finished, offer the patient a beverage or snack (if you offer them) and escort them to the reception room.
This is a crucial step. While we know it’s easy to fall behind in the schedule, it’s important not to leave patients waiting. Alone. For long periods of time. If you are running behind, have a team member explain that this is rare, sincerely apologize and ask if there is anything she can get for them. Nobody likes sitting and waiting. But sitting and waiting without anyone acknowledging the fact is even worse.
After your patient is seated in a treatment room, don’t wait for them to ask you to turn on the TV, or if they could have some headphones and a neck pillow. If you offer patient comforts, tell them what you have or offer a comfort menu.
Patients want to feel as if their dentist knows them. The real them, not what their bicuspids say about them. Ask about their interests; their families, their jobs or hobbies and write it down in the chart. At the next appointment, you’ll earn brownie points when you ask Mary how Little Johnny’s soccer season was.
You need to listen and pay attention to your patients. If they’re busy telling you about their new hobby while waiting for the anesthetic to kick in and you’re checking your phone or chatting with an assistant, they can get a bad taste in their mouth – and it’s not the Novocain. Be attentive and active in the conversation.
When discussing treatment options with a patient, remember that they didn’t attend dental school. It’s important to talk to patients in easy to understand language. Be approachable. Don’t dictate their treatment; instead discuss it and encourage questions. Patients will feel more at ease if they are involved in the decision-making process.
Patient referrals are necessary and must be utilized to remain competitive. Your patients hold the power to send, or not send, referrals. It’s important that you provide them with the best experience in order to encourage them to recommend you to their friends, family, co-workers and anyone they know. Make a pledge to follow these basic tips with each and every patient and your efforts will be rewarded.