I can’t think of a practice with patients lined up outside the door with cash in their wallets, waiting to be next in the chair. Unfortunately it is not this way in dentistry. If you want to improve patient volume and retention, start by adding more value to visits and improving patient education. Work on building stronger relationships with your patients. Everyone on the team should know that the patients are the most important part of the practice. Nothing is more important than the patients. Communicate on a regular basis, be interested in them, take time to educate them and take the dollar signs out of your eyes. If you don’t do these things, the current new patients will be falling through the cracks real soon.
Most practices are not doing enough to keep patients coming back. I recommend a yearly reactivation project. The lack of this type of system creates open time, low production and low morale. Patient reactivation and retention is especially important during slow economic times. The practices that have these systems in place continue to grow despite the economy.
Implement a recall system and put in writing so that it can be followed exactly, month after month. Employees come and go; you need to have the system established where it can be easily duplicated by the next person. Every patient should leave the practice with a future recall date or a future appointment. Find a recall card that is professional looking and represents your office well. Mail it to patients when they are due to come in. They will get it from their mail box and be able to see it on the table, on the refrigerator etc.
All patients that prescheduled their hygiene appointments should receive a card three weeks in advance stating the appointment date and time. The card should also say that if they need to change the appointment, you would like an advance notice, since you have saved the time for them. You will have better success with prescheduled patients if you and your team continue to add value to the visits.
You and your staff should send hand written notes to patients that haven’t been in. Let them know you miss seeing them and you hope they are doing well. This is extremely beneficial. Purchase note cards with the practice name on the front and have each person in the practice send at least 5 cards a week to patients. Consider writing sample notes to help them get started and provide guidelines for them to follow. Have everyone keep up with who they are sending the cards to and how many. Make a game out of it. Build better relationships through communication, acknowledging referrals, patient education.
Get your staff trained on telephone etiquette and calling patients to schedule. Nothing will ever replace good human relations and human contact. Do you remember AT&T’s tag line, “Reach Out and Touch Someone”? Have your staff reach out and touch patients that you haven’t seen in awhile.