80% of patients want better service

Focused stand-out zebra with black, white, and red stripes looks directly into the camera

This article is here to provide encouragement. 80% of patients want better service. We say, "No problem!" We can help you implement a couple very easy tactics that will make you stand out and your patients happier with the service from your practice.

The fact is that every little bit of movement your dental practice can, and is, making to better-communicate with and educate patients will result in less stress on you, better care for patients, and a more profitable and enjoyable practice.

50% of consumers realize they have options and won't stick around without excellent service. Yikes.

And did you know that, for the average practice, 24% of active patients haven't been back for 9-24 months?

These stats are hard to hear but are important. What do they mean to your dental office?

When I sat down to write this article, maybe with a little pandemic fatigue myself, given these stats about new expectations, I wondered, "What were we writing and sharing before COVID-19"? Heading into 2020, we were all on an upswing, dental offices were thriving, and marketing campaigns were cranking. But then. Wham. COVID hit, and unbelievably, dental offices were shut down across North America. It was totally freaking unbelievable. If you were one of those shutdown, just know we were in it with you; we ONLY work in the dental industry with dentists, so we came to a screeching halt right there with you. And then worked our butts off to help in any way we could. Thank goodness the shutdown didn't last and dentistry has been confirmed essential, so it won't happen again. And today, our clients are doing great compared to industry averages.

So … what were we talking about before COVID hit? I looked.

It was very similar. LOL.

  1. Patient acquisition.
  2. Patient education.
  3. Patient retention.
  4. Patient attrition.
  5. Practice valuation.

Any difference? Yes. Now, the importance of patient education and consistent, quality communications is amplified because if the pandemic did anything, it made consumers reconsider everything, including their choices and priorities. It made dental office owners reconsider their commitment and approach. It created a more competitive and challenging market for dental practice owners to win. Dental offices using our solutions are winning, which is awesome. We’d like to help more!

In the last ADA HPI report, just 32% of dentists (42% of DSOs) were very confident in the recovery of their practice over the next six months. Around 13% were as low on the scale as skeptical. According to the report, the average dental office has yet to achieve pre-COVID activity levels (although our clients have been trending well over pre-COVID production) and reports patient activity is still at 10-20% below pre-COVID levels.

Now that the dust is settling and dental offices can move out of survival mode, customer service and doing just a little bit more to impress your patients has become paramount. But … while 59% admit their expectations are higher than a year ago…

88% of patients are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

In an era of misinformation and misunderstanding, dental offices that take a proactive approach to service standards, to delighting patients, and to personalizing themselves and their services and benefits with a multi-channel marketing mix can stand out and attract and retain more quality patients.

Wait! Don't shut off reading this. Yes, of course I'm writing because we can help, but this article is also written to share the statistics, the industry trends, and what metrics actually matter.

There is even misinformation being produced by other industry vendors which has to make it difficult for dental office managers to make good decisions. Information that can not only be misleading but sometimes completely incorrect. At Patient NEWS®, we cover off everything: retention, acquisition, automated, traditional, and digital marketing communications, and we have Practice ZEBRA® dental software so we have clear data to help our clients succeed.

Hundreds of dental offices are connected to ZEBRA to track marketing campaigns and find improvement and production growth opportunities. Here are the actual metrics from the average client using Practice ZEBRA. These metrics show you the importance of acquisition AND retention to deliver a one-point-six-million-dollar practice.

  • Average active patient annual value: $1,100
  • Average new patient annual value: $1,900
  • Percentage of new patients that return: 65%
  • Average number of active patients: 2,000, scheduled 45%
  • Active patients with no activity 9+ months: 24%
  • Average number new patients/month: 50
  • Average production with these stats: $1,650,000

It is so gratifying that our clients have been able to rebound so strongly. That's not to say they're not struggling with the same issues, finding staff, supply chain, and increased costs, but they've soldiered through with consistent marketing, and the results are paying off. Compare these with your numbers. Are there areas for improvement?

The WHO has stated that dental care was among the most COVID-affected essential health service; the World Dental Federation said it's been a "dental disaster." That's why dental offices are increasing their efforts to educate patients on the importance of oral health. That good old "silent disease" isn't helping push people back to the office either. According to the ADA, the average dental office is only at 80-90% of pre-covid results, and much of the "reported" reason: patient cancellations. Keeping a steady flow of new patients helps bridge that gap, and patient education helps patients understand how essential their recall visits are and helps them visualize (and prioritize) the impact of elective services and how important timely treatment is.

85% of patients appreciate and look forward to receiving their dentist’s newsletter.

We must stay positive and optimistic and put a strategic effort forth to implement tactics that are going to positively impact patient retention and drive a consistent train of new patients to your door. Every incremental improvement you can make on both sides of the business will have a positive impact on practice health – and team satisfaction – and doctor happiness!

While some offices thrive on a high-volume patient model, it has become more challenging to maintain since the pandemic, particularly due to the current difficulty in finding and onboarding team members in a business model that requires higher labor inputs. This adds stress to doctor, existing team, and patients, and results in higher patient attrition. That said, singular focus on acquisition isn’t enough for either high-volume or high-value practice model.

On the other hand, only focusing on retention creates major challenges for production growth and profitability. Patients attrite. They lapse. They move. They change jobs. Treatment acceptance stumbles. We see practices come to us now that haven't focused on acquisition at all, and they are in decline. And once that train is rolling downhill, it's really hard to stop it and get it going up again. But it can be done.

When you call our office, ask for a FREE Demo of Practice ZEBRA. You'll be able to see all of your key metrics and see how your office compares to other dental offices. You'll be able to see your market share mapping report and your net gain/loss chart for any time period. Super impactful, and you have to check out the Predictive Analytics module.

This real-time tool pulls together the practice production trend line forecast for 2022 based on the last six months' actuals. Again your actuals, industry averages, and top performer stats, and you can toggle your key performance metrics up or down to reveal what a minor adjustment to one of any number of metrics can do to increase practice production. Imagine seeing what an incremental change could do, and presuming you could do it with your existing overhead and team – every dollar more goes straight to the bottom line … which will lead to improved valuation!

When you consider that every little bit of movement forward can equal less stress on the doctor, less stress on the team, better care for your patients, and a more profitable and enjoyable practice, it's pretty amazing.

So … your marketing mix should indeed be a mix of acquisition and retention tactics. If pre-pandemic consumer expectations and demands were increasing, those expectations have only amplified.

  • 91% of consumers are more likely to stay with brands who recognize, remember and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations
  • Perceived indifference is the number-one reason patients leave
  • 5% boost in retention can increase profit by 25%

In a world where you potentially don't see clients for several months, how do you remain top-of-mind? How do you show you care? Provide value? Make your practice stand out? Heck, a custom printed newsletter comes to mind LOL!

For sure front-desk automation is amazing; there are companies popping up all over the map – everyone offers something, sort of, the same, and we too provide best-in-class patient automation tools. There is nothing better than our review automation or reactivation cadences. While automated communications are tremendous efficiency boosters, they are also expected by patients for the convenience of it all. A dental office isn't going to stand out because of an automated reminder. But when you hit patient doorsteps with a printed, tangible, high-value piece every month, it has major impact.

Impact that is proven by science. All consumers appreciate direct mail. It's like a physical gift and the psychological impacts are proven. It takes less cognitive load in the brain to digest, it’s more memorable, and it makes people feel valued.

Direct mail is also a driver for new patients. It brings awareness of your practice and your services, and sends readers to your website to find out more about you. Awareness doesn’t start at search. According to HubSpot, brand awareness establishes trust. By putting a face to your brand, patients can trust easier. That’s critical for dental offices. They also say that brand awareness doesn’t happen overnight and is a result of numerous efforts over time. And that storytelling can be powerful. This is all true.

Dentists who I know love to share their expertise with their patients and community. They love to explain the benefits of treatment and news of the practice. They love to share their passion. You can do that in a printed newsletter far better than you can do in any other format. And patients respond to mail. In fact, it is the most preferred and trusted format.

80% of consumers expect better service

With the renewed focus on health and wellness, and an increased awareness of the mouth/body connection, there is incredible opportunity to differentiate your dental office by doing something "just a bit more" than anyone else in your market. You can break through digital fatigue. You can make it easy and great for your dental office to be chosen. Data tells us that it will continue to be more and more important to make patient interactions more personal, more connected, and more relevant to build and strengthen your patient relationships.

Our team of dental marketing experts can, and want, to help your dental office grow and prosper.

Book a free consultation, get a free demo of Practice ZEBRA, check out your predictive analytics, and look at all the opportunities available to your practice to grow production, profits, and valuation.