After delaying one or more cleanings and other dental procedures last year, many people couldn’t wait to get back in the chair to freshen up their smiles and finally complete needed repairs.
Other people, however, still don’t feel comfortable after months of wearing facemasks to open wide and say “ahh” in public. These reluctant patients need more than a reminder that they’re overdue for treatment.
According to JDR Clinical & Translational Research, nearly half of those surveyed in the United States reported delaying going to the dentist due to COVID-19. Specifically, 74.7% reported delaying a checkup, and 12.4% said they delayed treatment for a dental problem that was bothering them. Of those people who had put off a dental visit, 57.7% planned on going within three months.
Now that vaccinations are widely available and most places are at least close to fully reopened and free of restrictions, it feels like the appropriate time to really press anyone who is overdue for treatment to make an appointment. After all, visiting the dentist is in the best interest of their overall health.
So, what options does a dental office have if reminders to make an appointment via text, phone, email, and postcard mailers have not worked?
Recruit the Help of Family
Most families share a common dentist. If one family member hasn’t returned for visits, but others have, try to find out why that might be. Maybe together it will be possible to come up with a solution to alleviate any lingering reluctancies. It could be as simple as offering to give that person the first appointment of the day or an extended-hours appointment so the office is clean and empty.
Don’t just tell patients that the office is clean and still following safety protocols. Ask other patients if they would be willing to share anecdotes about their experiences with office visits during the pandemic.
Sharing other people’s stories with patients who have not felt comfortable returning could give them something to relate to and be that extra push that makes them feel like, “Okay. I can do this. A person like me has been to the dentist and did not have an issues, and I can do the same.”
Connect on Social Media
Create a contest that turns your patient’s social media networks into referral tools. Offer patients the chance to win a free treatment or gift card if they post on social media showing off their smile and tag the practice in the post.
If your posts are usually just images and graphics, considering adding in some video. Give people a chance to see inside your practice and check out the latest technology and equipment you’re using and other cool behind-the-scenes footage of staff and the facilities. Make sure that any videos created are polished and well-lit and that the camera is properly positioned.
Video typically has higher engagement rates than photos or graphics, so this could be a valuable investment of time and resources. You may even consider hiring a local teen as a summer social media intern to help out.
Send Handwritten Notes
Most people’s mailboxes are stuffed full of local grocery store newspaper circulars and postcards advertising everything including local solar installers, window cleaners, realtors, restaurants, and more. Most of these mailers go directly from mailbox to bin, without anyone really ever reading them.
The mail that does get sorted out for further perusal is any envelope that looks like a bill and those that are hand addressed and look like they could be a greeting card or invitation. No one wants to be the person who threw out the birthday card from grandma or a high school friend’s wedding save-the-date.
Handwritten envelopes are not reserved just for personal mail, though. Radiance Neal, operations manager and comprehensive care coordinator for the Houston Dentists, said her practice regularly sends handwritten notes to new patients as a means of thanking them for becoming a part of their dental family.
“As our practice has grown, it became difficult to write letters by hand for each new patient. Handwrytten has allowed us the capability to draft custom thank you letters to our patients and still provide that personal, ‘handwritten’ touch,” she said.
It may not be possible for a busy practice to have an employee spend hours writing cards to potential and current patients, so consider hiring a robot to pick up a pen and do the writing instead. Services like Handwrytten make this possible for just a few dollars per note.
By now, most patients have started going to the dentist for examinations and regular care again. Most is not all, though. It will take creativity, effort, and persistence to succeed with patients who have not yet come in for an appointment, whatever their reason may be.
The payoff of winning over these patients could be beneficial in the long run, as they are likely to appreciate the effort made and be loyal as a result. Their referrals and testimonials will have true heart and value, amplifying the return on getting them back into the office.
Mr. Wachs is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Handwrytten, which is bringing back the lost art of letter writing through scalable, robot-based solutions that write your notes in pen. Developed as a platform, Handwrytten lets you send notes from your CRM system, such as Salesforce, the web site, apps, or through custom integration. Used by major meal boxes, e-commerce giants, nonprofits, and professionals, Handwrytten is changing the way brands and people connect.