Growing your practice entails having a winning patient acquisition strategy and if you’ve managed to establish this, you’re halfway there. What’s the other half you ask? Well, consider the fact that a reduction in existing patients can quickly cancel out new patient acquisition and you’ve got your answer. Poor patient retention can thwart your efforts for growth if you’re not incorporating a retention strategy into your office management and overall marketing efforts.
A typical dental practice will lose up to 15% of its patients per year and the cost of acquiring new patients can be up to 25 times more than retention. For most dental practices, problems with retention have only been made worse with patient concerns over COVID-19 leading to a decline in dental care. In a recent survey from the American Dental Association (ADA), practices on average continue to report 80% of previous patient volumes. These issues create a critical need for an effective retention strategy and warrant careful review and refinement.
So, what are some ways that you can improve your patient retention? Here is a list of 10 tips that you can employ to keep the odds in your favor:
1. HAVE A GREAT WEBSITE
Your website is your online calling card but it should also be a place where existing patients can go to easily access important information. It should be updated, ideally every 2 to 5 years, well-designed to adhere to your branding, streamlined so information is easy to find and mobile friendly. Features such as online payment and schedulers that interface with your office system can be a great convenience for patients. Forms, addresses, insurance information and phone numbers should be easily accessible.
2. ENGAGE WITH YOUR BASE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
If you don’t have social media accounts for your practice (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), then you’re missing out on a direct way to stay connected to your patient base. Roughly 80% of people use some form of social media so it’s important to establish these accounts to further your reach and strengthen those relationships. If you already have social media accounts for your practice, you’ll want to do a once over to ensure that you have the most accurate information available and that you’ve taken the time to set them up properly. Plan out monthly social media content that is well rounded and engaging.
3. CREATE THE BEST PATIENT EXPERIENCE
One of the biggest factors that will keep your patients coming back to you is a good experience. People tend to stay where they feel valued, listened to, relaxed, accommodated and have an enjoyable time. Although going to the dentist isn’t always the most fun thing to do on the calendar, there are a myriad of ways to make it more comfortable and even fun. Before you can implement impactful changes to improve the patient experience, it’s a good idea to survey your existing base or have a friend or colleague go through the process so you can gain some insight. Here are a few gold standards that you may want to measure your practice against:
· Ample and accessible parking
· A clean, modern and inviting waiting room
· Short patient wait-times so they can trust that an hour appointment is only an hour
· Friendly front desk
· Refrigerated waters (especially in the hot months)
· Sunglasses to protect from dental lights
· Dentist and hygienists that listen and take the time to get to know the patients
· Simple and painless check out process
· Fun goodie bag that can include dental health products as well as branded products and fun gifts.
4. PATIENT REMINDERS
Want to cut down on the number of no-show appointments? Send patient reminders to people that have upcoming appointments. These reminders work best when sent out a day or two before the appointment and can be sent out via text, email or by phone. It’s a good idea to have a few different communication methods based on patient preference.
5. ALWAYS HAVE A HUMAN ANSWER THE PHONE
I cannot stress this enough! In my old company, I had a rule that a human always had to answer and field phone calls. It was one of the promises that we made to our customers and it was one of the reasons that we ranked so high in customer service. If someone needs to step away from the front desk, then designate someone else to fill the gap temporarily. No one likes being dumped into an automated call system and the patient may feel as if your practice is not easily accessible or approachable and will likely reach out instead to someone that is.
6. EXTEND YOUR HOURS
What are your business hours? It’s important to consider that not every one works 9 to 5. Extending your hours into the evening for just a few times a week can open up a lot of opportunities for your patients to book appointments that wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. If you have multiple dentists in your practice, you can have a rotating schedule to cover the extension.
7. PRACTICE SOCIAL MONITORING
If you don’t already participate in social monitoring for your practice, it’s time to start. Put simply, this is the act of monitoring any conversations, comments, reviews and ratings that are occurring through social media or websites and forums, job boards, etc. that are directly related to your practice. Monitoring is two-fold. It allows you to see what people are saying about your practice so you have unfiltered feedback and can implement necessary changes or address concerns and it also gives you the opportunity to engage in the conversation. Engaging is a great way to strengthen your reputation. Be proactive with negative comments and thank those that are posting positive comments. Google Alerts is a free tool that you can use for monitoring online content. Through Google Alerts, you can create alerts for your practice name, dentists, phrases and really anything you want to track, so when something with that name is published online, you receive an email and link to view the content.
8. MAKE YOUR PATIENTS FEEL LIKE THEY’RE PART OF THE FAMILY
Practice simple acts such as remembering and acknowledging birthdays, memorizing facts about your patients, holding them up as examples of great transformations, dental health or overcoming dental health issues. Reminders like these indicate to your patients that they matter and that you value them as part of your practice.
9. CELEBRATE PATIENT ANNIVERSARIES
A great way to foster long-term patients is to celebrate patient anniversaries. Set these at intervals such as 5, 10, 15 years or whatever you are comfortable with. The idea is to reward your patient for their years of loyalty and highlight them to your existing patients. You can do this through a mention in the newsletter, mailing out a small gift with a thank you card, posting their patient anniversary on social media, the ideas are endless. The goal is to remind them that you appreciate them and they’ll be reminded why your practice is a standout among others!
10. FOLLOW UP
Life gets busy and sometimes patients forget that it’s time for a cleaning or that they need to follow up on their treatment plans. In order to keep them on track and coming back, try implementing a follow up system. Calling in advance of critical milestones or sending reminders to schedule appointments can greatly ease these issues. If patients have recently undergone dental treatments, plan on follow up calls to check in, answer questions and address issues.
A NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
In addition to these tips, you should consider making information related to COVID-19 readily available through your website, social media, newsletters and any other touch-points that you have with your patients. FAQs and practice procedures for infection mitigation should be visible. You can also link to scientific reports or offer quick, digestible infographics on the low infections rates of dental practices and how good oral hygiene can minimize risks for COVID complications.
Need help refining or creating a patient retention strategy? Storihale can help.
Schedule a consultation today!