Enter the mystery patient
by Joy Gendusa
Your practice is up and running, the staff is in place, and you've established a website to direct patients to make an appointment, Now you're ready to promote your practice ... but do you really know what potential patients experience when they call in or visit your office?
If even one patient has an unpleasant experience, they are probably telling others. Before you begin promoting your practice, there's one way to find out if your “prospective patient experience” is up to par: blind shop your own practice!
Doing this will give you tons of insight on how patients perceive your practice, how your employees perform and will determine where your staff needs to improve.
How do you blind shop? It's really simple ... appoint a "mystery patient" to schedule an appointment and don’t tell your staff. This individual will go through the usual process your patients go through when visiting your practice.
Here are a few key points to make your blind shopping a success!
1. Importance of a Good Receptionist
The first impression of your practice comes from the front desk staff, but so many dentists overlook this. When your "mystery patient" calls in, have him or her write down: how many times the phone rang before it was answered. Did the person answering the phone have an upbeat, friendly tone? Was he or she helpful in providing the information needed? Were you asked how you heard about thepractice? Did he or she ask for contact information?
Do you ever send calls from prospective patients to voice mail? How does it make you feel when you call a business for the first time and can't speak to an actual person? For most of us, it's very frustrating. The way you answer initial phone calls is your opportunity to convince potential patients to continue with their interest in your practice. A recorded message won't help you here!
2. Is your website helping your practice or harming it?
When people visit your website, what is the first thing they see? Is it professional? Are you proud of it? What is your goal for your site visitors? Do you want them to provide more information, call and set up an appointment, ask for more information? Is it clear what services your practice focuses on or at least how to obtain more information about what you do?
It's important you tell visitors where to go. For example, have a button that says, "Schedule An Appointment" where the prospective patient can give you contact information in a fill-in form and allow space for questions. It's easy and allows you to provide and capture detailed information.
Other points to consider ...
- Are colours used in your website design appealing?
- Is the main page easy to read or is it cluttered?
- Do the images complement your message or detract from it?
Ensure that your blind shopper “finds you” the way real patients find you. Make sure they critique every step.
3. Do You Have a Follow-Up Plan?
What if your mystery patient doesn't come in for treatment for two weeks? Do you have a fail-safe system in place to stay in front of those you already reached once, but who didn't schedule appointments? It's an important part of the process and could make or break your client base. An easy and affordable way to stay in touch is through email marketing or by sending a weekly or monthly newsletter. Constant communication hekos develop a trusted relationship and reminds patients you're still here and ready to help them with all their dental needs.
Once your mystery patient tallies the results (the ratings and comments of each part of the process), analyze areas of weakness and make any necessary changes. Remember, the first step to dominating your competition is to find out if what you're currently doing is optimum!
Ideally, you would also hire this blind shopper to do the same thing with your competition so that you are completely in the know.
At PostcardMania, we use what we call our "Competition Checklist" to investigate what our competition is doing and determine how we can improve based on the results. You can download this free checklist here.