It’s no surprise that consumers expect efficiency and immediacy while interacting with businesses today. Whether booking a dentist appointment or restaurant reservation, people want to conduct their business on their time and through their preferred method of communication, which often times takes place via a mobile device.
Industries from finance to travel have readily embraced the transition to mobile, but there has been slower adoption in the dental industry. While larger national dental service organizations have online booking capabilities, many private dental practices still rely on traditional booking, requiring customers to call reception or request an appointment through a website contact form.
According to proprietary research from Dentistry.com, one of the top challenges faced by dentists today is managing patient expectations. As patients demand one-click booking, scheduling flexibility, and a more seamless end-to-end process, it is becoming difficult for dentists to attract and retain patients who prioritize convenience over loyalty and long-term relationships.
Out with the Old
Sticking with an outdated method of appointment booking hurts a dental office’s bottom line. Customers wanting immediate action will get frustrated calling multiple offices in search of a same-day appointment and won’t want to wait to get a response from a contact form. Instead, they will turn to offices that show open availability online or via mobile and offer immediate booking. So why do many offices delay in shifting to online and mobile bookings?
The reluctance may stem from the need to revamp an office’s operations to identify a booking system that integrates well with the existing practice management system. Dentists might also be concerned with ensuring consumers have good intent with instant bookings. With limited slots available each day for appointments, every no-show directly impacts operations and revenue. Just one no-show a day can cost a practice up to $70,000 per year.
Ensuring Patient Verification
To combat these concerns, it’s important for offices to work with an online booking system that does everything possible to verify users, which may include two-factor authentication and confirming legitimate contact information for follow-up. Dental offices should always follow up with a patient as soon as possible after a booking to give the consumer confirmation that the appointment was received and accepted and to provide the option to use the same tools to immediately reschedule or cancel via phone to limit no-shows.
Benefits of Online Booking
While research and setup of a new booking feature is required, the result will yield significant benefits for dental practitioners. First, dentists will acquire more new patients by adopting this new method. With 37% of dentists concerned with obtaining new patients, it’s essential to optimize the booking process for consumers’ expectations.
When searching for a new dentist, customers will prioritize offices that offer convenient, instant booking. Patients no longer will waste time calling nearby offices to see if they are accepting new patients. In addition, dentists will have an easier time retaining existing patients, maintaining patient satisfaction by offering them the convenience to book regular cleanings and emergency appointments on their phones.
At the end of the day, dental offices want to prioritize their consumer experience to ensure the best possible interactions with prospective, new, and existing customers. Dentists can not only maximize positive experiences with their offices, but can also reach new patients by making it as easy as possible for them to instantly find and book an appointment.
Mr. Sklizovic is head of product at Dentistry.com. Previously, he was vice president of product and operations at TekTrak Mobile Security, and director of operations at Imoblia. He has a BA in finance from Emory University and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.