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Maximize Communication Tools to Keep Your Patients Coming Back

Carrie Webber, Chief Communications Officer and Co-Owner, Jameson Management, Inc.

article by Carrie Webber, Chief Communications Officer and Co-Owner, Jameson Management, Inc.

chairside@glidewelldental.com

Throughout the business world, successful CEOs, consultants, authors and entrepreneurs alike will tell you that it is much easier to grow a business with customers you already have than to constantly seek out new ones. This philosophy especially holds true in dentistry.

At Jameson, we have found that the diagnosed dentistry pending in your existing patient files is more than your practice could handle this year — or even in the next few years. Further, studies show that your existing patients will generate increasing profit every year they remain loyal to your practice.1 With this in mind, if you want to grow your practice, increase your productivity or perform a certain procedure or approach more often, the best place to start is probably by examining how the resources your practice already has at its disposal can increase patient retention and address the needs of your existing caseload.

In fact, one of the most effective ways to do that is to improve your communication with your patients. There are two resources you probably have in your practice right now that can be your points of focus. According to West Corporation, consumers prefer phone — voice or text — and email assistance to other forms of communication with businesses.2 These communication avenues are crucial to your patients’ engagement and satisfaction with you and your practice, as well as your ability to convert inquiries into new patients. Let’s look at a few simple ways your practice’s communication tools can use a boost.

Optimizing your practice’s phone communications is a simple way to both bring in new patients and retain existing patients.

Telephone

Even if you are investing in other marketing channels, current and potential patients will determine whether or not to schedule an appointment with you based on how they are treated on the phone. As a cornerstone of excellent customer service, how you answer and communicate on the phone, and how people perceive your practice based on this exchange, can determine your success.

If you are investing in external marketing and don’t see the effort reflected in your schedule, your existing and potential patients’ experience over the phone may be lacking in some way and your practice’s telephone communication skills may need to be refined. But how do you even begin improving your telephone interactions?

As your patient communication software is integrated with your practice management software, you can set filters, such as inactive patients and individuals diagnosed for a specific procedure who have yet to proceed with treatment, and send very specific communications to relevant patient groups in your practice.

1. Set the standard. Reflect the standard. Expect the standard.

Now is the time to establish the standard of service you desire from those with primary responsibility on the telephone. Specify the standard of performance you seek from your team, and check in on your team’s telephone technique from time to time to ensure this standard of care is being exceeded. Why “exceeded”? Because the level of customer service that you need to be successful is described by authors Kenneth Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles as “raving fan service.”3 That means doing what is expected plus a bit more.

2. “Inspect what you expect.”

Ken Thoreson of Acumen Management said those wise words to me. Do you know how your practice is doing? In order to get where you want to go, you must be honest about where you are. There are various ways to determine where your practice is currently:

  • Invest in a call-tracking system if you are actively marketing your practice.
  • Record and listen to calls to determine how effectively your practice is communicating with patients.
  • Work as a team on various scenarios you struggle with and produce sample scripts of those situations.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

3. Cross-train.

Everyone on your team needs to be clearly trained and comfortable with answering the telephone in your practice. If your business administrator is on another call or interacting with a patient, that precious phone call coming in at the same time should not be ignored! The third ring of an incoming call should be the cue for the nearest available team member to grab that phone and greet the caller in a professional and friendly manner.

If you and your teammates are uncomfortable or nervous about answering the telephone, use this as an opportunity to work through what specifically provides this discomfort. Then, practice together and become better as a team at this integral system in your practice.

Make your telephone system a priority in your practice. Make growing and improving in the execution of this system a total team effort so you can rest assured that the patient’s first impression meets and exceeds their expectations.

Keep your schedule on track by using a communication software that confirms appointments for you, reducing the number of no-shows as well as saving hours spent by your staff making those calls.

Patient Communication Software

When it comes to consistently reaching your patients, an underutilized tool is patient communication software. Most of these programs include terrific email templates for a variety of topics and purposes. Furthermore, this software enables you to create customized content for your patients that allows them to see the value of the care you provide. There are many effective options for patient communication software. At Jameson, we often recommend Solutionreach (solutionreach.com; 866-605-6867) or RevenueWell (revenuewell.com; 855-415-9355).

From sending educational emails and reaching out to patients who have been diagnosed but have not completed treatment, to asking patients for referrals and reviews, these platforms allow you to regularly contact your most valuable group: your existing patients.

Many of these programs also incorporate text messaging for patient communication. From sending patients requests via text for reviews of your practice, to communicating with patients whose call you missed, communication software can allow you to connect with your patients on a new level.

There is a wide range of goals and opportunities your practice likely has that this type of tool can assist with:

  • Internal and external marketing
  • Increasing patient referrals and reviews
  • Reactivating patients
  • Supporting treatment consultations and recommendations
  • Communicating with patients more effectively

Communication software such as RevenueWell can help minimize missed appointments by using personalized text message and email appointment reminders. This software can also monitor your practice for unscheduled treatment plans and automatically send a detailed notice urging the patient to arrange for the recommended care.

Patient communication software programs can track who is engaging with your communications as well as what results are coming from the efforts. You can track which texts have been sent to patients and received responses, as well as the number of patients who have opened and read your emails. You can even see how much dentistry has been scheduled through the efforts tracked in your software.

Conclusion

Remember, just as you have systems and processes that make your clinical care exceptional, you need systems and processes that make your practice communication exceptional as well. Ensure you are making a great impression via the telephone as well as utilizing the communication tools that you have within your reach. This combination results in stronger patient relationships while growing your caseload from the inside out.

For more information on the practice-management consultation services offered by Jameson Management, Inc., contact Carrie at cwebber@jamesonmanagement.com or visit jamesonmanagement.com.

References

  1. Reichheld F. Prescription for cutting costs. Bain & Company, Inc. [internet]. 2001 Oct. 25 [cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from: https://www.bain.com/insights/prescription-for-cutting-costs-bain-brief/.
  2. West Corporation - We connect. We deliver. We are West. [internet]. Omaha (NE): West Corporation; c2019. 29 stats that show what consumers expect from brand communication [updated 23 Oct 2018; cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from: https://www.west.com/blog/interactive-services/consumers-expect-brand-communication/.
  3. Blanchard K, Bowles S. Raving fans: a revolutionary approach to customer service. New York: William Morrow and Company; 1993.
Chairside Magazine: Volume 14, Issue 2

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