We are people that are being told a million things each day. When was the last time you kept this in mind when reaching out to your patients?
To provide meaningful communication and break through the noise, you need to be able to zero in on one specific message that acts as a call to action. This applies even when you’re connecting for a cavity follow-up for one patient, or need to send notice about your practice’s updated operating hours to every patient. When you’ve carefully calibrated this system, and recognize the channels you’re using, you’ll start to develop engagement with your patients.
The difference between engagement and communication is simple: Communication is when your front office attempts to book a patient for a cleaning or new x-rays. Engagement is when a patient reaches out to you, or books their own appointment, directly impacting the business of your dental practice.
While it would be a dream for dentists everywhere for patients to flock to them, scheduling their own treatments, practices of all shapes and sizes need to rely on a strategy that incorporates communications and engagement.
For generations, dentists have communicated with two tools – a phone and a Rolodex. It isn’t surprising that most dental practices and offices continue to rely heavily on dialing up their patients. The direct access, being able to grab their full attention, and 30 consecutive seconds of back and forth being more productive for your staff, feels like a persuasive focal point for the job of filling a schedule week-to-week. The reality of the situation is that this behavior is rapidly changing, and the phone call is becoming a less efficient way to connect.
It’s no secret that younger patients are less likely to answer when someone gives them a ring. While there may be a generational gap at play, or that their caller is actually a robot, there’s also the fact that calls are simply disruptive compared to private and quiet texts. Thankfully, dialing in is no longer the only avenue to get a hold of your patients.
Communication Options for Your Practice
- Text (SMS) – Got their phone number? You’ve got a second way to reach them immediately! While being stuck on ‘Read’ without a response is a risk, this tool is great for nudges and reminders about care or scheduling a recall.
- Email – Most everyone is already deeply familiar with email. Considering the majority of people will check it 3 or more times each day, email is the perfect avenue for appointment confirmations, invoices, and receipts.
- Direct Messaging – For practitioners and practices that want to stay directly engaged across multiple channels, apps like Messenger and WhatsApp provide multiple avenues to reach out, and can be done with either a phone number or email address.
- Social Media – Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn can establish a more direct relationship between you and your patients without individual contact. You still have an option for private messages, but these sites are perfect for getting the word out to everyone.
Regardless of how you choose to send out your requests, alerts, and reminders, keep in mind that the stepping stones to engagement are not built on task completion. Moving a guilt trip from the telephone to the touchscreen will bring down costs with the right software, but it might not increase attendance right away. For that, you need to start a conversation.
Even in exchanges as small as a text, there’s plenty of opportunities to build on the relationship you’ve established with your patients.
People are more engaged when they feel like they’ve got skin in the game. Moving away from “It’s been X months, you’re due for an appointment”, and towards the patient’s own health creates an emotional connection between you, them, and the care you provide. Approaching each communication as an opportunity to converse directly with them, you’ll find patients more likely to book their recalls, less likely to cancel their appointments, and more likely to rate you highly as a dentist and care provider (but more on that later).
As practice management software evolves to utilize these beneficial communication channels, setting up a system that is responsive to your patients needs only becomes easier. Adding cloud availability, you and your staff have the option to make a meaningful connection, even when you’re away from the office.