Want to improve patient retention? Focus on customer service

2016 05 24 14 35 52 802 Mc Kenzie Sally 2016 400

Earning patient loyalty isn't easy. Patients have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a dental home, so if they have a negative experience at your practice or simply don't feel a connection, they won't think twice about making their next appointment at another office.

One of the best ways to foster patient loyalty is to focus on providing exceptional customer service. If patients have a great experience at your office, they'll be much more likely to come back. They might even be inclined to recommend you to family and friends. Making your practice service-focused won't cost you much in terms of time or money, but it will increase patient retention, practice productivity, and your bottom line. Here are five ways to improve customer service in your office.

1. Make your practice inviting

Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

Patients need to be put at ease as soon as they walk into your practice. Otherwise, they'll want to walk right out. If your practice has more of a clinical feel, complete with white walls and plastic chairs in the waiting area, it's likely raising patient anxiety levels rather than helping them relax.

Creating a more calming environment will help even your most nervous patients feel comfortable while they wait. You might decorate your reception area so that it looks more like a living room than a doctor's office. Soothing colors, plants, pleasant aromas, and comfortable furniture will make your patients feel more at ease, which is a huge step toward winning their loyalty.

2. Keep them comfortable

Creating a relaxing environment in the waiting area is great, but what happens when patients are actually in the chair? You need to keep them as comfortable as possible there too. You can do that by offering them a cozy blanket or setting up a television so they can watch a program as you work on their teeth.

Headphones offer another nice distraction, allowing patients to get lost in music during the appointment. It might not seem like much, but patients really appreciate these small gestures and remember them when it's time to make their next appointment.

3. Keep your practice clean

If your parking lot and reception area aren't tidy, patients might be leery of entrusting you with their dental care. To give them a good first impression, make sure your signage, parking lot, and the outside of your building are all in the best shape possible. Also, keep the inside clutter-free and your bathrooms shining and stocked with the essentials.

4. Show them you care

You want patients to know they're more than just a number to you. If it seems like all you care about is selling them expensive dentistry, there's a good chance they won't come back. At the very least they'll opt to get a second opinion, and, if they find a practice that offers a better experience in the process, it will likely become their new dental home.

“If patients have a great experience at your office, they'll be much more likely to come back.”

Patients will want to stay loyal to your practice if they feel like both you and your team care about their well-being. Train your team members to greet patients with a smile as soon as they walk through the door and do everything they can to create an exceptional experience while they're in the reception area.

This might mean helping them with their paperwork, offering them a beverage as they wait, or answering any questions they have about the practice. Team members also should assure patients they're in good hands and that the doctor will take excellent care of them.

Once you have patients in the chair, you and your clinical team should focus on building a rapport. Ask them about their families, their work, and their oral health goals. Listen closely before telling them about the services the practice offers that can help them meet their goals. It's also important to provide education and ensure that patients understand why it's so important to maintain their oral health.

Calling patients after a procedure to see how they're feeling and sending new patients handwritten notes after their first visit also are nice touches that will help your practice stand out. These gestures don't take much time, but they make patients feel special. And when you make patients feel special, they're much more likely to stay loyal to your practice.

5. Prepare your team for questions

Patients often have a lot of questions, and they typically save them for your team members. If they're not comfortable answering these questions, it will show and it will make patients uncomfortable as well.

To keep messaging consistent and to ensure team members can confidently answer the questions your patients throw at them, I recommend tracking the most commonly asked questions and training team members how to properly respond. They'll seem much more knowledgeable and professional, which patients will appreciate.

Becoming a service-oriented practice will enable you to grow your patient base, as well as practice productivity and your bottom line. Following these tips will help you get there.

Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at [email protected].

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

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