Creating the ultimate new-patient experience

2016 11 22 11 06 25 633 Levin Roger 400

New patients -- you need more of them to grow your practices, but they're harder to get and keep than ever before. That's why it's so critical that your new-patient experience be consistently amazing for every patient every time.

5 steps you can take

To make your new-patient experience the best it can be, follow these five steps:

1. Make a powerful first impression

As soon as a prospective patient becomes aware of a dental practice, the new-patient experience has begun. Unfortunately, if this exposure fails to make the right impression, the experience will end then and there, before contact is made -- and before the practice is even aware of it.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, founder and CEO of practice management consulting firm Levin Group.Roger P. Levin, DDS, founder and CEO of practice management consulting firm Levin Group.

Creating a positive impression at this preliminary stage depends on three factors:

  • Establishing a strong online presence
  • Generating positive word of mouth
  • Building a good reputation in the community

Let's take those points one by one.

Most patients today will check out your website or Facebook page before visiting your practice. If a website doesn't come up in a search, you're out of luck. If prospects do arrive at your website but find it unattractive, hard to navigate, or poorly written, they're going to look elsewhere.

If your Facebook page looks inactive, patients will move on to the next practice. But it doesn't stop there. Reviews and ratings also can have a profound impact on a prospect's impression. Working with your marketing coordinator, you need to ensure that every aspect of your online presence will encourage potential patients to take the next step.

The next point is generating positive word of mouth. Often, a person thinking about seeing a dentist -- or switching to a new practice -- will ask friends or acquaintances for recommendations. If your patients are highly satisfied with both the clinical and customer services they receive, they will recommend your office.

Finally, if you become involved in public service projects, such as providing dental advice in local publications or on social media and making presentations at schools, your practice will be top-of-mind when people in the community search for a new dentist.

2. Turn phone calls into first appointments

When new patients place their first phone call to a practice, the front desk coordinator should be prepared to accomplish many objectives in a few minutes. As the first direct contact in a new-patient experience, the call should end with the patient scheduled for an appointment and impressed with the warmth, energy, and professionalism exhibited by your team.

Scripting makes it possible to meet this considerable challenge. It will also prompt the front desk to acquire the typical patient information and also some interesting personal facts that can be used during the first visit to quickly establish rapport.

3. Roll out the red carpet during the first visit

“The new patient's first day at the practice is the central element in the new-patient experience.”

The new patient's first day at the practice is the central element in the new-patient experience. Just before the scheduled appointment time, the front desk coordinator should quickly review the personal facts about the new patient so the warm welcome can be personalized.

In addition to working with patients to fill out the necessary forms (if not completed beforehand), the coordinator should also highlight the amenities in the reception area and, in a pleasant conversational way, build value in the doctor and staff. When the hygienist, doctor, or assistant comes out to escort the patient back to the treatment area, the front desk coordinator should make introductions.

4. Go comprehensive

At this point, you, the dentist, takes control of the new-patient experience, getting acquainted with the new patient -- building on the personal facts acquired by the front desk and also sharing some facts about your own personal life. After this relationship-building conversation, you will perform a comprehensive exam that will serve as the foundation for planning clinical care.

Using the findings from the exam, you can now draft an inclusive list of clinical services for the new patient to consider. Included would be both needed and elective procedures, simple and more complex treatment, issues that require immediate attention, and others that may arise in the future. Although shared during this first visit, the comprehensive plan should not be presented as a whole for acceptance. The intent is to show the full scope of benefits the practice can provide so that the patient will be able to make informed decisions about treatment. A secondary advantage of showing the patient such a plan is that it will emphasize your thoroughness and professional capabilities -- important points to communicate at the beginning of the new patient-practice relationship.

5. Schedule the next appointment

Whether for treatment that has been accepted or a routine hygiene visit, scheduling the next visit will help affirm and maintain the new patient's connection to the practice. The front desk coordinator should ask permission to use the new patient's email address and/or cellphone number for conveying appointment reminder messages.

The right choice

Practice growth depends on attracting and retaining new patients. Use the five steps in this article to create a powerful new-patient experience -- one that reassures new patients that they made the right choice when they selected your office for their dental care!

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group, the leading dental practice consulting firm in North America. Need help with your new patient experience and other systems? Learn more about Levin Group's management consulting options here.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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