5 strategies dentists should use to retain patients

Unless you're the only dentist in town, you'll have plenty of competition. How do you keep your patients coming back to your dental practice?

Dec 4th, 2014
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2014 12 How To Retain Patients In Dental Practice

With the number of dentists in practice today, it may seem like there aren’t enough paying patients to go around. It’s hard to get new patients in the door. Unless you practice in a one-horse town, you’re going to have competition. This means that in addition to offering high quality services, carving out a niche market, and having competitive prices, you’ll have to invest in marketing that will attract new patients to your practice. If you can’t retain those hard-earned patients, all those marketing dollars were wasted, and you can’t afford to waste money.

Here are some strategies to help you make sure your patients keep coming back.

1. Make a good first impression
First of all, you need to train your staff to make a great first impression. It’s hard to erase a negative first impression from patient memory, and a good first impression will give you some slack in case there are any future stumbles in your dentist-patient relationship.

You cannot tolerate anything but the best service from your front desk staff. They need to roll out the metaphorical red carpet for everyone. Be nice and welcoming. Install a cozy little waiting area with some comfortable furniture rather than the scoliosis-inducing benches found in some offices. These additions to your practice may seem frivolous, but they can make all the difference when it comes to patient retention.

2. Engage with your patients
No one expects you to look like Ryan Gosling or have the charisma of Kevin Spacey. But if you’re shy or abrasive, you’ll have to get over that quickly if you want to succeed in business. Somewhere between that Gosling/Spacey hybrid and Napoleon Dynamite will work. Learn how to make small talk. Ask about patients’ kids and family. Remember the details of your conversations.

Here’s a quick tip – keep a memo pad handy to record the highlights of these conversations while they’re fresh in your memory, right after patients leave. When patients come in again, check your notes before they walk through the door so you can ask, for example, how a sick relative is doing. Your patients are sure to be impressed and flattered that you remember their own personal minutia.

3. Set up a balanced follow-up procedure
One of the obvious methods for retaining patients is contacting them directly to remind them to come in for a check-up. You don’t want to be too aggressive. People don’t like to be bullied into things, and they will resent it if you nag them with constant phone calls and postcards.

A rule of thumb – you typically don’t remind a patient more than once about an upcoming appointment or recommended check-up date. Anything more than two reminders is likely to drive people away.

4. Know where you stand
You need to collect accurate data of your current retention rates. How else will you know if you have a problem? If you’re retaining the majority of your patients, great, keep doing what you’re doing. However, if more than half of your patients are one-and-done, you’ve got a problem. Something is making your office less attractive than other practices. The challenge is figuring out what you can do to improve your retention rates.

One way is to simply ask. After appointments, have patients complete a survey to see how they really feel about your customer relations. The information provided is invaluable. There is no opinion worth more than a patient’s, and by gathering their thoughts you can find out what’s working and what needs improvement.

5. Establish a social media presence
Even if it goes against your true nature (like the small talk mentioned in No. 3), you need to establish an online presence. You may think that things like Facebook and Twitter are an enormous waste of time, but you need to suck it up. Social media allows you to engage with your patients in ways that weren’t possible a few years ago. Establishing the personal connection that social media can provide will work wonders for your patient retention rates.

So what are you doing to keep loyal patients in your practice and keep turnover low? Do you have any other strategies that you’ve implemented that have made a noticeable impact on your bottom line? If so, feel free to share them with us in the comments below, or by contacting me at Titan Web Agency.

ALSO BY TYSON DOWNS:Does your website do this? Tips for making your website attract new dental patients

Tyson Downs it the owner of a Salt Lake-Based Online Marketing Company, Titan Web Agency. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and father of five. He specializes in working with health-care professionals to set up their websites and get them to the top of the search engines, using the latest and most effective SEO strategies.

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