The Importance of Patient Communicaiton

The Importance of Patient Communication

According to a 2014 study performed by the ADA, around 52% of Americans said they visited the dentist once every six months. In that same study, 15% said they visited the dentist once per year, 11% said once every two or three years, and over one-fifth said they hadn’t visited their dentist in the last few years.

Life can be chaotic. If you planned on doing something only twice a year (like 52% of the United States) or once a year or less (like the remaining 48%), you may occasionally get lost in the chaos and forget that thing entirely; especially if it’s something you don’t particularly enjoy.

Therefore, a strong line of communication between doctor and patient that transcends the walls of the office is paramount to any practice.

Recall System

In marketing, there’s an old adage called “the rule of seven,” which states that a new customer won’t take action until he or she sees or hears a message seven times. The same applies to recurring customers. If you want your patients to follow through with their appointments, you need to take up residence in their heads. An efficient recall system will accomplish this for you by reaching out to them in many different ways (phone calls, texts, emails, postcards, etc.) at several different intervals. It’ll keep them thinking about your practice, keep them in the operating chairs, and awaken the potential revenue sitting dormant in your database.

On average, people need to see/hear a message seven times before they will take action.

Reactivation System

So, you haven’t seen a patient in over a year, and the recall system doesn’t seem to be getting through to them. This is where the reactivation system comes into play. Functioning as a last resort to the recall system, the reactivation system informs patients how long they’ve been without an appointment while incentivizing them to resume regular visits. Remember: 11% of Americans said they visit their dentist once every two or three years. Just because a patient hasn’t seen you in a year or so doesn’t mean they have stopped seeing you altogether. With a strong reactivation system, you’ll inform the patient (who perhaps has been busy, forgetful, or struggling financially) that you value their business. This will inspire loyalty—ensuring that when a patient resumes regular visits, they’ll do so with you.

Referral Program

When it comes to attracting new clients, there’s perhaps no better method than a referral program. Both low-cost and effective, referral programs waste virtually no time and energy on disinterested parties. They essentially employ your patients to conduct one-on-one sales calls with potential new customers who are, presumably, their friends or family. Additionally, because of their preexisting relationship with your current patients, there’s a better chance that new patients brought in from a referral program will stay with your practice longer. After all, friends and family tend to be like-minded. If your current patients are pleased with your practice, the people they refer should feel the same way.

Reviews

It’s Saturday night, and you and a friend want to go to a new restaurant. What’s the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you Google restaurants in the area—restaurants which all have star ratings, customer photos, and, most importantly, reviews. Well, reviews aren’t limited to the food industry. There are now online reviews for practically all available goods and services.

In fact, according to a BrightLocal study conducted in 2016, about 90% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase.

That same study found that customers read, on average, 10 reviews before they felt like they could trust a local business. That means, if your reviews are poor or scarce, nine out of ten interested parties are going to take their business elsewhere. Another thing to consider is the ratio of your reviews. Let’s say, for instance, that you have three google reviews, and all of them have five stars. At a glance, you seem to be in pretty good shape. However, you’re actually in a precarious situation. Since you only have three reviews, one bad review could drop your star rating by multiple stars. This is why it’s important to get as many reviews as possible. It’ll make your practice look more established while preventing the occasional negative review from destroying your star rating. While it’s important to get as many great reviews as you can, it’s inevitable that you’ll get a bad review every once in a while. In actuality, a negative review isn’t necessarily bad for you. It shows that you’re human. The important thing when receiving a poor review is to respond to it quickly. By responding in a timely fashion, you’re showing anyone reading your reviews that you’re engaged with your customer base. It also demonstrates sincerity, a willingness to listen to criticism, and a drive to be better.

Social Media

Similar to reviews, social media pages have become an initial contact between businesses and potential new customers. First impressions are critical, especially when it comes to local businesses. If your online presence is lackluster, customers will pass you up for businesses that pop. In addition to making your brand look more appealing and approachable, a strong social media presence will attract new customers by improving your search ranking. The more active you are, the higher up you’ll show on Google. It’ll also—through interactive posts, contests, and offers—keep your current and potential patients intrigued, engaged, and updated. Remember: you need to take up residence in their heads if they’re to become and remain your patients. There’s perhaps a no better way to do this than to have your name and logo show up on their newsfeed every week.

Listings

Listings are your first form of online contact—even before reviews and social media. Too often do businesses have multiple listings, worded differently, of which they are unaware. This can hurt your practice in a major way. Varied listings make your business appear sloppy and disorganized. Also, you could have a good amount of reviews for one listing and very few for another. If a customer stumbles upon the listing with little or poor reviews, they’ll think your practice lacks experience and skill—despite all of your hard work.

Direct Mail

Do you know someone who says that they see the practicality in a reading tablet, but they just like the feeling of a book in their hands? Chances are, they have a similar stance on emails and texts. Direct mail is important because it puts something in your current and potential patients’ hands, rather than into their spam folder. Also, by sending out a letter or card, you’re showing that you care about their business. Anyone can send a quick email, but a card is more personalized. It takes time to prepare and impresses sincerity. Also, it has the benefit of reaching the customer base that isn’t keen on technology.

Community Outreach

Staying engaged in your community is beneficial for two reasons. The obvious reason is that you’re getting your name out there to the people most likely to become clients. The other reason is that, by showing you care about the people in your area, you’re creating a positive perception of your practice. By staying engaged in the community—like involving your practice in local parades, fairs, 5Ks, and sporting events—you’re simultaneously building, improving, and advertising your brand.

Community Newspaper

Advertising in the community newspaper generates similar results as community outreach. You’re simultaneously advertising while showing potential customers that you’re a part of the community, rather than a corporate entity. Also, like direct mail, you’re reaching a different audience. People who read the community newspaper will most likely be in a different demographic than the younger generation that will be responding to texts, emails, and social media. Advertising in the community newspaper will also allow you the opportunity to provide valuable information to current and potential clients, gaining their trust and presenting yourself as an expert.

Are you missing out on any opportunities for more patients? Visit this page for a complete practice analysis. We will uncover exactly where your practice could use a boost and how we can help!

Author: Kathy Jiamboi

Owner of Creativedge Marketing, where growth-oriented dentists find dental practice marketing strategies and advice to take their practice to a new and higher level.

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