Do Your Dental Patients Think You Care?

There was a survey not so long ago that said NOPE – they really don’t. While 75% of dentists felt the public held them in high regard, less than 10% of patients agreed. And maybe that’s because of perceived indifference. This really needs to become a focus for part of your dental marketing plan.

I’ve been seeing the same medical practitioner for over 25 years. I found her in my mid-twenties and we clicked so I just kept going back. She was there for the birth of my daughter and for many other health milestones. I like her so much that even though I moved away from her practice location (to PNP HQ town in 1992) I still make a 6-hour turnaround drive to see her. You probably have patients like this – they’ve been with you forever, they’ve brought along their family members, and they’ve referred patients to you – and maybe as their lives change they’re driving a little further to stay with you … but beware.

One visit that’s out of sorts could cost you.

I saw my doctor last week and it was all very friendly. Smiles and greetings and updates, but then something terrible happened … I left feeling dissatisfied. She just didn’t seem to give any credence to my inquiries about my health and the related information I had researched. I perceived that she just brushed what I was sharing under the carpet. I know, I know, you probably can’t stand patients that come in armed with Internet knowledge … but heck, my doctor knows who I am and where I work and that we research health information all the time – I know how to sift through to the facts! Now, I respect my doctor and logically I know she cares. We have history together and shared many laughs during that time. Perhaps she was having an off day and I was the fifth person to come in with more information from Dr. Google. Whatever it was, I left with a perception of indifference. After all these years, this one visit has quite likely pushed me to find another provider. One that’s closer to home and more convenient.

So this is my advice this week. Regardless of what crazy information your patients put in front of you – your reaction matters. Take them seriously. Ask more questions. Don’t disregard them because you have all the answers. The number one reason that patients will leave your dental practice is perceived indifference. So that means showing you care when they’re in your chair … and remembering them when they’re not.

Close to 90% of people will switch brands after a poor customer experience, and it’s estimated that a poor customer experience is costing us roughly 20% in revenue each year. So what can you do to improve your odds for retention?

Mail a patient newsletter every other month. My dermatologist sends me a quarterly newsletter and when the latest edition just arrived, I thought to myself, “This frequency isn’t enough to make a difference.” I want information and I need it more regularly to keep his name top of mind when I have a need. Now my life is busy elsewhere and I don’t have time for him. I might have a month ago.

Work on your chairside manner. For consumers, this is just as important as your expertise. Look people in the eye as you chat and speak to them directly. Don’t judge … pay attention their reactions, listen, watch for cues, and respond appropriately. You want to be seen as warm, friendly, and caring … and respectful.

Check your recall stats. If you don’t have 90% of your hygiene patients booked for their next appointment, they’re going to lapse, fall dormant, or perhaps choose another provider. If you have a segment of patients not booked, launch a reactivation campaign to show you care about their oral health and that you want their business.

Treat your patients well while they’re in your dental practice and also when they’re at home, and you will mitigate attrition and strengthen patient loyalty. You can’t be everything to everyone, but be aware of the focus and energy you bring to each and every patient when they visit you, and you will improve your odds of retaining more patients than you lose.

Just like in most things in life, everyone is thinking of themselves. Your patient isn’t thinking about the emergency you just dealt with, the personal issues you’re facing, or the angry client that just blew up at your office staff. They only want a positive experience for themselves. Be present for each patient and you’ll be the STAND OUT dental practitioner they’ll stick with … even if they move out of town.

If you’d like more information on sending a bi-monthly patient newsletter, please contact your Account Manager for details. We’ll make the entire program painless and easy to execute … and right now you can start with an awesome holiday greeting newsletter – a great way to make a positive impact on your patient base.

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