When it comes to growing dental clinics, new patient acquisition is often what comes to mind but improving patient retention rates is just as important and crucial to the success of any dental clinic. Returning patients provide a greater return on investment. It costs 5 times more to obtain a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Happy patients also improve your bottom line as they are your best advocates, bringing you more business by referring family and friends.
On average, dental clinics have an attrition rate of 10-20%. While some factors like people relocating may be out of your control, there are certain patient retention strategies to help ensure they’re happy and continue to come back to your clinic – because at its core, improving patient retention is about keeping them happy.
MAKE IT EASY
Patients these days lead fast-paced lives and are used to ease and speed in everything they do. This means you have to ensure their dental experience is as convenient as possible for them. You can do this by:
1) Extending your office hours
It can be difficult for patients to make appointments during normal working hours. Consider opening your clinic earlier in the mornings or keeping it open later in the evenings to better accommodate their busy schedules.
2) Sending appointment reminders
Appointment reminders are often expected and appreciated by patients. It also helps you reduce late cancellations and no-shows. Many dental software systems allow you to send appointment reminders automatically.
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3) Scheduling enough time
Research shows that longer wait times are negatively correlated with patient satisfaction, perception of the provider, and confidence in the quality of care. Be sure to properly optimize your dental schedule to allow sufficient time for each patient.
BUILD TRUST AND CREATE VALUE
Part of improving patient retention is ensuring that they understand the value of your dental services and to do that, you need to build trust. Trust and value are gained when you take the time to explain everything very thoroughly and clearly, whether it’s the next steps in their treatment, why they need the treatment, or even explaining the procedure itself.
Some patients may think that they don’t need dental services because their teeth feel fine, it’s too expensive, or they’re scared. You can combat this by talking them through the x-rays and explaining why they need certain procedures, the proposed treatment plan, and the dangers if they don’t take action.
Or, if the patient is known to be uneasy about dental procedures, take extra care to reassure them, let them know what to expect, and guide them through the process to help settle their concerns.
Whether patients are feeling weary about the cost, process, or need, they’ll appreciate you addressing their concerns directly.
ENSURE PATIENTS FEEL AT EASE
How patients feel while they’re at your clinic contributes a great deal to improving patient retention. When they feel at ease and comfortable, they’re less likely to go to another dental clinic.
1) Create a welcoming waiting room
While you should try to reduce the time patients spend waiting, you can at least ensure they’re comfortable. Some things to consider having in your waiting room include:
- A TV
- Comfy seating
- Kids play area
2) Be friendly
Patients often don’t jump at the chance to go to the dentist; procedures like root canals or wisdom teeth extractions are not appointments that they look forward to. To cancel out potential negative connotations, make sure every patient feels welcome and that they’re more than just a number to you. Below are some tips to create a friendly environment:
- Greet patients
- Build rapport and make light conversation
- Use the patient’s name in emails, by phone, or in person
- Ask if they need to use the washroom before getting started
- Introduce new team members they haven’t met yet
- Ensure there is privacy if patients need to discuss sensitive or financial items
- Say thanks and tell patients you look forward to seeing them next time
3) Empower them
Help empower patients to take responsibility for their dental health:
- Give patients useful information such as proposed treatment plans and post-procedure instructions
- Discuss the importance of getting regular checkups
- Give patients a goodie bag of a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and other tools so they can continue their oral care at home
STAY IN TOUCH
Of course, you always want to ensure that patients leave feeling happy and tended to but the patient experience doesn’t just end when they leave. Staying in touch and engaging with patients is another patient retention strategy.
1) Follow up
A quick phone call to check how a patient is feeling after a procedure can go a long way in improving patients’ perception of your clinic. This also gives you the chance to turn any bad experiences around, reducing the chance your patients will take their business elsewhere.
2) Monitor reviews
These days, if patients are not happy, there’s a high possibility they’ll write a review online. When you monitor reviews on your clinic, you have the opportunity to address negative comments and make it right. And since the communication is public, it also shows potential patients that you care about providing great service.
3) Send a newsletter
The healthcare industry has an average email open rate of 33%. This means it’s a prime opportunity to send patients useful content such as promos, clinic updates, or educational information about oral health.
4) Send seasonal greetings
Birthdays and holidays provide a chance to stay top of your patients’ mind. Send patients a birthday email or remind them to use their remaining insurance before the end of the year.
5) Patient surveys
Sending patient satisfaction surveys is a great way to gain valuable feedback that can improve your clinic. The results will uncover what’s working and what’s not, which you can then use to take action.
There isn’t one thing that you can do to improve patient retention overnight; it’s a combination of several patient retention strategies that everyone in your clinic can contribute towards