As we approach the last two months of the year, schedules become full as holiday time eats into available office hours and patients rush to utilize their year-end benefits. So how can you keep patients who may be less ‘patient’ happy while managing a limited schedule?
Know what patients find frustrating
It is frustrating to patients when an appointment experience is not what was expected. Having to make decisions they were not prepared for, experiencing problems they didn’t expect, or not leaving with an outcome they assumed increases patient stress and reduces their perception of your endodontic practice. And not being able to offer attractive appointment options because of a full schedule only increases their dissatisfaction.
Reduce their frustration and help them prepare
- Prepare your patients for their potential costs ahead of time. Even without a formal treatment plan, it’s possible to give patients a sense of what costs they may be facing in many cases. You can do this by quoting your patients a range of costs, or quote them a consultative cost plus a high side feel for what similar treatments have cost others if the treatment can be completed the same day.
- If your schedule allows for same day treatment, ask them if they want it instead of assuming it. Some patients may have anxiety and not wish same day treatment. Others may want same day treatment but want to know beforehand in order to psychologically prepare.
- If your schedule doesn’t allow for same day treatment, tell them beforehand.
- For those patients wanting treatment as fast as possible, emphasize that completing new patient paperwork before appointment time is crucial for prompt appointments and increases the chance of same-day treatment.
- Ask your referring practices to include the patient’s insurance policy information in the notes section of the referral form upon submission. Patients often struggle to obtain and relay their insurance information and most general dentist offices already have this information. Emphasize to your referring practices that your priority is to treat their patient as soon as possible and providing as much patient information as possible helps you do that.
Clarity and preparation make the difference with patients
Nobody likes surprises. The more your patients clearly understand what to expect from their appointment and prepare for it the better chance they have of having a good experience. Start by utilizing these simple tips and survive the holiday rush successfully!
We all know the drill (pun intended).
Every quarter it’s time to treat our referring offices to a care package to thank them for referring patients.
But before falling prey to the same old marketing habits, perhaps we should ask ourselves how much impact giving donuts or cookies with a quick ‘thank you’ really makes to our referrers:
•Is it of meaningful, memorable value to them?
•Does it help you stand out?
•Does it increase their confidence in your skills or patient care?
•Does it help them feel heard, that you are always looking to improve the service you provide them and that they matter?
A thank you is always good, but if it doesn’t accompany anything of meaningful substance or value, is it really making an impact on them and influencing their referring decision?
We performed a brief survey to find out how referring general dentist offices feel about quarterly care packages. The results may surprise you.
We asked both general dentists and their administrative staff what they find most influential in their referring decision to an endodontic practice and endodontist. Care packages? CE courses? Personal visits from a specialist? Biannual parties?
General Dentists emphasized prompt referral follow-up reporting as having the most direct influence on their referral decision. They also indicated that specialists who provided thought leadership and educational opportunities through CE courses strongly stood out to them.
Administrative staff noted ease and efficiency in the referral process — having an easy, secure way to get information to specialists, being kept informed of progress of specialist care, and receiving prompt, proactive follow-up reporting — strongly influenced which specialist they prefer working with. They also indicated meeting a specialist office’s team in-person helped them build close, trusting, and long-term relationships between offices.
Your referrers are the source of your patients, the source of your business. Instead of mindlessly following the latest marketing lore, consider doing things that can bring them meaningful value and help your office really stand out.
- When visiting your referrers ask questions. “How can we make your referral process easier?” “How can we improve the care we provide your patients?” “How can we make it easier and more efficient for you?” Listen carefully to their responses, take note, then extend a personal email or phone number and take action to follow-up on their requests.When we asked general dentist offices what most specialists did when visiting, every participant answered “They gave us a care package, said thank you for referring patients, and left” and nothing else. Asking questions can help you gain valuable insights into how you can better serve your referrers, tells them powerfully that they matter to you, and can help your office dramatically stand out.
- You, the doctor, visit personally, and bring key members of your team along if you can. An appearance by the doctor strongly tells the referrer they matter. And even if the visit ends up being short, seeing you and your team in person helps the general dentist staff associate smiling faces and warmth with your office and establish stronger ties.
- Consider hosting a CE course by inviting a dental market professional to speak. Introduce your office and staff in the first part of the presentation, educating them on the latest technology and techniques you offer patients.
These simple ideas can make your marketing investments more impactful and increase your return. It’s not the ‘donuts’ that deliver the impact. It’s the substance that you provide when making the delivery.