Roger P. Levin, DDS, discusses the challenges and solutions for keeping patients in touch with your practice.
According to the Levin Group Data Center, most people only see their dentists every 6 months for a hygiene check that lasts approximately 5 minutes. And while dentists feel good that their patients are staying on top of their dental hygiene, it’s difficult to truly connect with them when they don’t see them that often. Connecting with patients is critical to maintaining your patient base, so you must be creative when it comes to staying in touch.
Dental practices are businesses, and patients are customers. Customers exhibit the same behaviors whether they are making decisions about a dental practice or buying a house or even an article of clothing. When patients select a dental office, it is not simply due to their belief that it provides the highest clinical quality. They weigh factors such as price, level of customer service, quality, appearance, timing of the purchase, and many others. Many of these factors also play into whether they accept treatment, stay with the practice long term, or refer others.
Dental practices today need a strong marketing communications program to connect with their patients, and, fortunately for us, dentistry is a very personal service that allows for a very personal type of connectivity: the most effective form. We live in a highly connected world, yet at times, it doesn’t seem that way. We have numerous opportunities at our disposal to connect with patients, communicate our message, and provide updates and education, but have we thought about what it is we want to communicate, and is our information getting through?
Strategies for Staying Connected
Consider the following solutions to keeping strong ties to patients:
• Communicate with patients monthly. Create an ongoing communications program that contacts patients each month with important practice updates, dental information, and messaging that communicates the practice’s dedication to its patients. This communication can be delivered using multiple forms of outreach, including email, texts, snail mail, or even handouts and brochures (where you’ll have the valuable opportunity to place material directly into a patient’s hands and explain it face-to-face). It’s also important to disseminate this information to patients during the conversations that you have with them at their hygiene visits.
• Create positive branding. Every dental practice should go through a branding exercise to determine what its brand should be. One practice may focus on very high-end dentistry, while another may focus on lower-fee, high-volume dentistry. Whatever brand you choose for your practice should be included in all practice communications.
• Connect through social media. Once you understand your brand, you can then design a social media campaign that promotes it to patients and others. A recent study has discovered that many people spend up to 5.5 hours per day on some form of digital communication technology. While the merits of this can be debated, it’s still important for dental practices to become part of this landscape. When you publish on social media and promote it to your own patients, they then have the capacity to share it with others in their social networks. Your brand and message have the potential of being disseminated to tens, hundreds, or thousands of people.
• Provide 5-star customer service. If you provide great customer service, patients will love the practice, stay long term, and go out of their way to refer others to it because they are so impressed. At Levin Group, we talk about 5-star customer service. This simply means doing your very best to exceed patient expectations every day.
• Get to know your patients. You should get to know more about your patients than just their names. One of our recommendations is to learn one new thing about every patient every time they walk into your office. Keep a record of this personal information so you can refer back to it, and scan the record prior to each patient appointment. It only takes a few seconds but creates a powerful effect. Turning patients into your friends is one of the smartest customer service strategies for a dental practice. People like and trust their friends, buy from them, and tell other people to use their friends for services. This approach will create one of the strongest connections you can make.
There are many other customer service strategies that you can employ. Text new patients within 10 minutes of them leaving the office to let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them and that you look forward to their next visit. Give small gift cards for a cup of coffee to patients who must wait more than 10 minutes for their appointment to begin. Give out a Google review request card following a visit, after you have asked the patient if he or she enjoyed their visit and if there’s anything else you can do for them. This list of strategies can go on and on. The only limit, as they say, is your imagination, so be creative.
Dental practices that connect with patients consistently will be winners. You can connect with patients in traditional methods of outreach, such as newsletters or brochures, or newer methods on social media. However, the frequency of connectivity is just as important as the vehicle. And don’t forget to represent your brand in all patient interactions. The more you reinforce it, the more recognized you will be for it. Stay in touch with patients, and you’ll build long-lasting relationships that contribute to practice success.
Dr. Levin is the CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm. Founded in 1985, Levin Group has worked with more than 30,000 dental practices. Dr. Levin is one of the most sought-after speakers in dentistry and is a leading authority on dental practice success and sustainable growth. Through extensive research and cutting-edge innovation, Dr. Levin is a recognized expert on propelling practices into the top 10%. He has authored 65 books and more than 4,000 articles on dental practice management and marketing. He can be reached via the website levingroup.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.