I’ve been wearing the same brand of shoes and clothing for ten years because I haven’t found another line that fits me quite as well or maintains its original quality as long. I drive 30 miles to have a man named David cut my hair every three weeks because he’s never done a bad job. I only fly with a specific Airlines because I appreciate their flawless customer service and the ease of traveling with them. I love being loyal to brands and companies who have gone above and beyond to earn that loyalty.
Here’s what you need to know from a non-dentist: there are a lot of dentists out there and patient loyalty isn’t what it used to be twenty years ago. It’s too easy for patients to pack up and find a new dental home down the street. Even small, seemingly insignificant events are enough to make a patient walk away from your practice.
What makes a patient stay loyal to his or her dentist for the long haul? It’s a topic I could discuss at length, but here are five easy-to-implement action items to start with.
Greet the patient with a warm smile and say their name.
This goes for you and your entire team. From the moment a patient walks in and is greeted by your front desk to when they are seated by the assistant or hygienist to meeting you and finally returning to the front desk, a genuine smile and “hello” should be there to greet them. Think about your last trip to an urgent care clinic or any other type of medical office. Most of the time, the interactions and greetings with staff are cold and impersonal. Every time I leave a doctor’s office of any kind, I swear I’m never going to suffer another ailment just so I never have to return. Here’s the great news: dentists can (and often do) break this mold. It’s a simple step in creating a patient base that wants to return time and time again.
Seat patients on time.
And if you can’t, apologize sincerely. Again, think back to your last visit to any healthcare provider. Were you called from the waiting room on time? I honestly can’t remember the last time I was, and I’m one of those people who takes the first appointment of the morning. Being on time is polite and respectful. Dentists who chronically run behind and leave their patients in the waiting room are at risk of losing patients. If you’re running behind and have no open operatories for your waiting patient, have a team member check in with the patient every few minutes to see if they need anything. Offer them water or coffee, and if you’re running more than ten minutes behind, a gift card will go a long way to smooth things over. Most of the time, people simply appreciate the acknowledgement that their time is valuable.
Make your patient the star of the appointment.
People like to talk about themselves, so don’t take your focus off of the patient during their appointment. Ask open ended and insightful questions about their lives, hobbies, vacations, house projects, kids’ college visits, and so on. Don’t talk about the weather (unless my grandmother is your patient, and in that case, you’ll need to talk about the weather). Take genuine interest in the patient to make them feel like a million bucks.
Make their comfort your highest priority.
Dental procedures don’t have a reputation for being comfortable or pleasant. Necessary and important, but not pleasant. Why not take little steps to make your patient more at ease? Offer a pillow when a patient suffers from neck or back pain. Ask often how they’re doing throughout the procedure. A little bit goes a long way with this one.
Thank patients for coming to see you.
Whether they’ve come in for their six-month cleaning or for an hours-long restorative appointment, thank your patient for coming in today. They could have chosen another dentist, or they could have chosen to blow off their appointment without warning. Show appreciation for their time, every time.
Patient loyalty is what keeps your schedule full and your hands busy doing dentistry. Loyal patients tend to sing your praises to their friends, creating even more loyal patients.
As always, to your great success,