7 ways to get your reluctant patients back

By Don Khouri and Fred Joyal, DrBicuspid.com contributing writers

June 17, 2020 -- As dental practices reopen across the U.S., one of the biggest challenges they face is the wide variation in comfort level their patients have about coming back in for treatment. On average, we're finding that up to 50% of patients are reluctant to return, primarily out of fear for their health and safety.

Here are the most effective steps you can take to increase their comfort level and bring them back in.

1. Capitalize on your returning patients

Don Khouri
Don Khouri.

The patients who have come in for treatment are your new ambassadors. They know the lengths you've gone to in order to make your practice safer. Ask these patients to do video testimonials or written ones. Distributing their messages will be highly effective in bringing your reluctant patients back.

We recommend putting these testimonial videos on your website and in your Google and Yelp profiles, as well as on your social media pages. Also, ask them to write reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. This is critical to do now more than ever.

2. Shoot a video tour of your office

Nothing is more powerful than video imagery that demonstrates the steps you are taking to make patients safe. It will also minimize their reaction when they do come in and see you covered up in personal protective equipment (PPE) and that there are no chairs to sit on in reception.

Be sure to include the team members, and don't be afraid to be a little playful in the video. If you seem relaxed, patients will adapt that attitude.

3. Spell out your infection control mastery

Remind patients that you have had procedures in place to protect them since the AIDS epidemic, and that you always kept surfaces and instruments clean and sterile. Be clear on what autoclaving does and the fact that you're screening patients ahead of time to minimize the possibility of the office being exposed to the virus.

Fred Joyal
Fred Joyal.

We recommend reminding them that a dental practice is a surgical suite, and that it has always been treated that way.

4. Emphasize the immune system

The big advantage, if you can call it that, of this pandemic is that a great deal of people are much more attuned to how important it is to have a healthy immune system.

We have been trying for a decade or more to get people to understand the (rather obvious) connection between their oral health and their overall health. The opportunity is here. Remind your patients that there is no medication and no vaccine for this virus yet, so what will most protect them is a strong immune system. And integral to that is a healthy mouth, so regular dental care is more important than ever.

5. Use your patient communication software

Built into all of these systems -- whether it's RevenueWell, Demandforce, Solutionreach, or others -- is the ability to send email messages to your patient base. Use this to send a detailed message to all your patients, listing all the changes you've made and what they can expect when they come to the office.

Be sure to include the message in the point above on the importance of dentistry in keeping the patient's immune system strong. You can also use this software to send some of the written testimonials and videos of patients who have come back and felt completely comfortable and safe.

6. Use teledentistry

Hopefully, you have started to incorporate this into your practice during the shutdown. There are a variety of systems, from very basic teleconferencing to ones that do e-prescriptions, collect payments, and push the information directly into your practice management software.

With your reluctant patients, offer to do a free 10-minute teleconsultation with the dentist just to check in on them. Seeing your comforting face will make a difference in relaxing them and remind them how they've always trusted you as their dentist.

We've all noticed the radical difference between a video call and a phone call during this shutdown period. This will be true with your patients as well. Calling them with video will show you care in a very personal way.

7. Scripting for handling objections

With each of these steps, when speaking or writing to reluctant patients, it's important to use the right words to let them know you empathize with their trepidation.

Asking "What are your concerns, and what would it take to make you feel comfortable?" gives you the opportunity to learn their issues before you try to address them. Saying "This is not new to us; we've added a few more steps" lets them know that this isn't your first epidemic rodeo. Saying "If your body is fighting infection in your mouth, your immune system is impaired" drives home that vital connection between oral health and overall health. You can even say, "Our practice is going to be one of the safest places you go all year," because it's true.

If you're struggling with the right verbiage or how to properly address these issues, don't try to wing it. You're finally open and have plenty of adjustments to make to get yourself back to profitability. There are coaches like Fortune Management who are helping hundreds of practices deal with these new challenges every day. Seek help from people who have solved this, and you'll come back faster and stronger than ever.

Don Khouri is an executive coach who helps dentists gain clarity about their vision and inspires the whole team to be responsible for it. With more than 20 years of technology experience in the financial services sector, Khouri has a track record of guiding highly complex, corporate-wide technology programs from inception to completion.

Fred Joyal is a renowned speaker, author, and consultant on dental marketing. He is the co-founder of 1-800-DENTIST and author of two best-selling books, Everything is Marketing and Becoming Remarkable.

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.

Copyright © 2020 DrBicuspid.com

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