Attracting new patients to your practice is a hard slog. It takes a huge investment of time, energy and money. If you are investing any of these things into acquiring new patients you really need to look at the results you are seeing to make sure you are not throwing your time and money away.
Acquiring new patients is a process that needs to be followed through from start to finish.
More often than not we focus our energy and money into driving visitors to our website or calling our practice but often we overlook the important part of actually converting the patient after they get in touch.
What systems do you have in place to facilitate this conversion? Do you track enquiries and monitor conversion? Is your team trained to handle enquiries, overcome objections and build and nurture the patient relationship? What happens when the enquiry doesn't immediately convert, do you have a system in place to follow up and nurture the lead into conversion? Often I find that these systems are just not in place and I cannot tell you just how much potential business you are missing out on!
To address these questions, over the years I have developed and perfected a robust, structured system that has been designed to track and manage the entire new patient process leading to maximum conversion and a phenomenal patient experience that will not only land you that new patient but will help build your practices reputation and attract even patients to your door.
What we need to understand is that some people are just not ready to buy, for whatever reason they just don't have the desire to actually come in and speak to you (don't take it personally).
How many times have you had a website enquiry come through (usually at some odd hour), someone telling you their story and asking you for a solution. You dutifully respond with a helpful reply and offer of a telephone conversation or even a free consult to gently find out more, days go by and you never hear from them again! I find this is particularly common with dental implant enquiries and I know just how frustrating this can be.
It is my belief that these people are simply not ready to commit, they had a brave moment but this quickly passed and now they just want to continue their fact finding and are just not ready to do any more than shop around or information gather. You might assume they are just not interested, maybe they went elsewhere or they might just be complete time-wasters, you might be right but on the other hand maybe they are your dream patient and just need a bit of gentle encouragement? You need to have a system in place to follow up these enquiries and try to build and nurture the relationship with these potential patients.
More often than not conversion is a process that happens over time, it's rarely instant and like anything worth having it takes time and effort.
If you'd like help designing and implementing systems and training for handling & nurturing enquiries get in touch to find out how I could help you.
We all send out recalls, traditionally by letter but hopefully now most practices have embraced modern methods of communication such as SMS and email, but what happens next?
Do you send out your recalls, sit back and hope for the best or are you proactively working to convert those reminders into appointments?
The first step in an effective recall system is encourage the patient to book an appointment before they leave the building, however I hear 2 main objections to this, these are as follows:
· The patient does not have their diary, its too far ahead for them to plan for it
· They book but then we get loads of late cancellations and FTA’s causing lost time in our appointment book
I believe the answer to the above objections lies within the communication skills of your team. If your team can effectively communicate and answer these objections with an effective response usually its problem solved! Role play and scripting is a great way to get your front of house team to communicate effectively with your patients. They will learn what to say, how to say it and to feel comfortable handling any objections.
You will however always get those patients who do not want to book their next appointment too far in advance and will always prefer to be sent ‘a reminder’ closer to the time. So how do you make sure that each and everyone of those people books an appointment when that time comes?
The second step in an effective recall system is the wording of your communication, whether by letter, SMS or email, the message should be the same. Keep it short and to the point with a direct call to action. For email reminders I recommend giving the patient the option to request an appointment by reply, this saves them the time and effort of calling you directly. It is very effective and very simple to do. All too often I see recall letters/emails that are so long winded and give the patient a full lecture about the importance of regular dental care- this is not necessary, the patient is unlikely to read it and it distracts them from the call to action ‘BOOK AN APPOINTMENT’.
Recalls are a great marketing tool, whether you attach a flyer, a link to a webpage or social media site you can very simply get a marketing message out to your most captive audience and best of all its usually FREE!
So you’ve sent out recalls, some people have booked their appointment but others still haven’t been in touch, what now?
The final stage in an effective recall procedure is Follow Up. I recommend leaving a period of 2 weeks between the first and second reminders, you don’t want to seem pushy but equally you want the reminders to arrive a short interval apart thus keeping you in the patients mind. The second reminder should be very informal, reminding them that they are due to see you and telling them the ways in which they can book an appointment.
If after a further 4 weeks the patient has not been in touch we make a courtesy phone call. Now here the communication skills really are the key to success. We don’t want the patient to feel like we are harassing them into booking an appointment and that is not your aim. Your aim is to make the patient feel like we are offering a wonderful service, we’re worried that we’d not heard from them and we wanted to make sure everything is alright. Often patients ignore recall reminders for the following reasons:
· They can’t afford treatment right now
· They have not had previously recommended treatment and are worried about the consequences
· They are scared
· They (or a loved one) is in ill-health
· They have more important things going on- marriage, divorce, travel, change in career etc
· They have been dissatisfied with previous treatment or service but have not told you
Whatever their reason this call is all about learning what is stopping them from making an appointment and offering up solutions to overcome whatever it is that is holding them back. This is a great way to build relationships with your patients and to really make them feel like you are going the extra mile and often because you have taken the time to call them and listen to their objections and offer up practical solutions you can end the call with an appointment in the book.
If the patient still doesn’t want to go ahead and book their appointment, the best thing you can do is tell them you will amend your records and contact them again in a few months time or a time you agree with the patient. This way you are not repeatedly contacting someone who does not wish to book, keeping them happy and allowing you to concentrate your time and energy on something more productive.
All too often the importance of a recall system is overlooked, practices spend all their time concentrating on converting new patients and promoting cosmetic procedures as a way to increase productivity and ultimately profit however it is important to remember that a robust recall system helps to nurture ongoing patient relationships and help keep the flow of existing patients moving through the practice, generating treatment and income as they pass through. Routine appointments form the ‘bread and butter’ of most practices income and its easy to overlook the value that these appointment bring to your business. According to SOE during their webinar last week the average recall retention rate is 46%, with this system my practice continually achieves a recall retention rate of between 83% - 92% so its definitely worth investing some time and energy getting it right.
If you would like to learn more about improving, creating or implementing a recall system for your practice or help with team training and scripting techniques to improve the effectiveness of your existing system please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07703627873.
Today I have spent the day reviewing our practices performance for this year so far, comparing it to the previous year and looking at key information that can help us identify areas for improvement. This is something I do on a monthly basis but the purpose of today was to start the process of budgeting and forecasting for the next financial year.
With the end of the current financial year looming its a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.
If you want to increase revenue and more importantly profits, this process is essential for success.
The budgeting process allows you to focus on what you want to achieve in the year to come. This could include the personal income you want to achieve, planning for projects requiring capital spend, introducing new revenue streams for example a new product or service or even the addition of another staff member, these are all things that need to be planned for both operationally and financially.
Does your practice plan for the future?
Do you have a written budget and financial forecast for the whole financial year?
Does your team know what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it?
Have you got a formulated marketing plan that ties into your financial forecast?
If you answered no to any of the above, start planning now!
Someone once told me 'what you monitor tends to improve' and this is so true in the case of budgeting. If you have a written plan to work to for the year and you review it on a regular basis with your team you all become more focussed on the achievement of this plan and you'll be amazed at the results of this increased focus.
In the difficult economic climate that we are currently in, this planning process has never been more important. I firmly believe that for a practice to succeed or even survive in today's economy you need to be switched on and on the ball with your numbers!
You may be asking yourself 'where do I start?', well we can show you and support you through the whole process email us at email@example.com to find out how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.
Running a successful, profitable dental practice is enormously dependent upon not good but superior book management.
How do you manage your appointment book? Do you give it the attention it deserves or do you just open it up and hope for the best?
If you want to improve productivity and maximise the clinical time available in your practice then read on.....
The first step in superior book management is to operate a booking system which meets the needs of your individual practice.
Depending upon your practices main focus you need to create and implement a system that caters to it. For example if you're a well established general practice with a high number of loyal patients it would be wise to schedule specific slots for routine examinations to ensure there is a daily limit on the number of exams scheduled, leaving enough time in the day for more valuable treatments thus maintaining a good hourly/daily rate.
Before deciding how you want to structure your appointment book you must give some thought to several factors:
· What is your main focus?
· What would your ideal day look like?
· How much do you want to earn per day?
· Does your book tie up with anyone else, for example the hygienist?
The main aim of any book management system is to not only ensure there is room in your book for a full range of treatment but more importantly that your day is varied and productivity is maximised. There is nothing worse than a day filled with short, low value appointments, days like this leave you and your team feeling over worked and under valued, a full day of hard work ends up yielding little financial return.
Regardless of how you structure your system, you should make sure it incorporates some way to allow the following:
· Time for New Patients
· Time for Emergencies
· Time for Routine Examinations & Low Value Treatments
· Time for Advanced or High Value Treatments
It is important to involve your team in the design stage of a book management system, they can provide you with invaluable input that will really help the system succeed. They are also more likely to be supportive of the system as they will have a good understanding of what its all about and having been involved in the design they will really take ownership of it!
Once your system is in place you should stick to it, obviously some level of flexibility will be needed but on the whole it is important for everyone to understand that the system is the system and it should be followed.
The next stage in superior book management is to manage your system. You've trained your team and they all understand how it works and they are all working to it but having a system does not fill the space!
Book management should be PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE. All too often practice teams REACT to gaps in the appointment, they are actively following up recalls, not handling cancellations effectively and are not pro-actively working to fill un-booked space ahead of time.
A good follow up system can transform book management and I believe all practices should adopt robust systems to track patients through the key elements of the patient journey, click here to read my previous post on follow up systems.
Set your team some targets specific to the appointment book, this could be based on utilisation of hours available, income yielded per day, x number of a specific type of appointment, set targets that are specific to what you want to improve and monitor the progress rewarding team members for success.
In summary, it is possible to unleash the potential of your appointment book but you must have good book management processes in place to maximise productivity. Your team must understand and support your book management systems and be proactive in filling gaps and handling cancellations.
At Practice Perfection we can help you improve your book management procedures, train your team and ultimately increase productivity! Get in touch to find out more email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07703627873
In order to maximise your appointment book and develop amazing relationships with your patients your team need to master the art of follow up.
Follow up is something I cannot impress enough upon my team and my clients. I strongly believe that there should always be a next step and you should be the one in control. Success does not just happen it is something that takes hard work and dedication.
Every patient whether new or existing should be part of a system and everyone in the practice should know where they are in this system. A traditional recall system is not sufficient to maximise patient retention and it does not demonstrate first class level service to your patients. A robust follow up system is necessary to capture every step of your patient journey and ensure no-body falls through the cracks.
A multi-level follow up system captures patients from the moment they get in touch until the moment they leave your practice for good (which is hopefully never!).
A follow up system is a fundamental part of good practice management and will ultimately lead to higher performance and productivity as well as amazing client relationships.
With an effective follow up system patients feel important, cared for and that you really do have their best interest at heart.
I recommended you identify the key follow up points in your patient journey for example enquiries that have not yielded bookings should always be followed up, as should patients who have cancelled and not re-booked an appointment.
Having a good system is only the first step the most important part of making a follow up system work is ensuring everyone in the practice knows HOW it works. Follow up communications are worthless when the message is wrong, in fact they can be worse than worthless they can be harmful, patients can feel hounded and harassed and this impression will not help patient retention. Your team need to know how to communicate effectively to ensure patients understand the nature of the follow up communication and that it is intended as a tool for improved customer service and efficiency rather than to ‘fill the book’. It is vitally important to know and respect the patients contact preference, many patients don’t like phone calls they may prefer to communicate by email where possible and it is so important to offer a method of communication that the patient is comfortable with.
Scripting is an effective way to ensure your message is being received, identify with your team the need for a follow up system, examine your patient journey to determine appropriate points for follow up and agree a system. You can then work together to create procedures, scripts and even email or letter templates to assist in the process. Make sure your team is on board with the new system and practice with each other (yes the dreaded role play that we all love so much, but it really does work!) after all practice makes perfect.
If you’d like to find out more about evaluating and improving your administrative systems and increase productivity please email@example.com or visit www.practice-perfection.co.uk
We all make some conscious effort to attract new patients to our door but what happens after they make contact with you?
As well as running Practice Perfection I also run a dental practice and in my experience this is one of the biggest challenges facing a practice.
Have you assessed how well you are handling enquiries, how quickly do you respond? What impression is that potential patient being given from the word go? Are your front of house team effectively communicating the value of your service to convert these enquiries into new patients?
This is such an important exercise and one that will ultimately win you patients! You need to know that every enquiry is being dealt with effectively and efficiently and that every single person that contacts your practice is given an amazing impression of what you have to offer!
If you’d like to find out more about evaluating and improving your patient experience please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visitwww.practice-perfection.co.uk
The way a patient perceives your service could make or break the success of your business.
The patient experience is one of the most (if not THE most) important aspect of what your practice has to offer.
The patient experience covers every angle of a patients journey through your practice, from the moment they find out about you, how their initial enquiry is handled, their first and subsequent visits and every piece of communication that they receive from you.
We are in a 'service' industry, people are paying for a service and they will expect a good one.
So how do you measure and evaluate the service that your patients are receiving? Are your marketing strategies making you visible to potential patients and putting you ahead of the competition? Are your team handling new patient enquiries effectively? Are you communicating effectively with your customers? The most important question is are you providing a truly EXCEPTIONAL service?
There is no doubt that we are facing difficult times ahead in this struggling economy, with less disposable income patients are prioritising their spending and investing their money in a trusted, consistent service. It will be survival of the fittest and those practices that are custom focused and constantly striving to provide an exceptional service will prosper and grow.
What would you say if I told you it was possible to evaluate your Patient Experience through the eyes of a patient?
Practice Perfections 'Patient Experience Evaluation' allows you to see your service through the patients eyes. We will send a 'mystery patient' to assess your service and will provide you with a detailed report to highlight your strengths and weaknesses in specific areas. Our Patient Experience Evaluations are conducted by experienced dental professionals, people who know how it should be done. Our report comes complete with recommendations packed full of proven strategies for success.
In conjunction with our Patient Experience Evaluations we offer the added option of bespoke team and individual training to help you implement and train your team on our recommendations.
With the obligation to compliance in mind, we have designed our evaluations and reports to act as evidence towards CQC Outcome 1- 'Respecting & Involving people who uses the service'.
We offer a range of options from a simple telephone evaluation to a full patient experience evaluation. Prices start from as little as £49.99 and packages can be tailored to suit your needs.
Visit www.practice-perfection.co.uk or email email@example.com for more information.
As Dentistry is becomes increasing commercial we are seeing an ever increasing amount of advertising and publicity relating to dental services. Equally, as competition increases and as patients are doing more ‘shopping around’ it is becoming necessary for practices to increase awareness of their brand.
As an industry bound by ethics there are several factors that should influence the nature and content of any advertisements, promotions or provision of information.
With effect from 1st March 2012 the General Dental Council have introduced some new rules for dental business’ to follow ‘Principles of Ethical Advertising’.
This blog post will introduce you to the requirements of this document and will help you make a start to make sure you are playing by the rules.
This guidance doesn't just apply to dentists, it covers all GDC registrants so if you are on the GDC register or producing information on behalf of a registrant read on...
As a registrant you have an over-riding responsibility to ensure that any advertisements, promotional items and information sources containing your name are correct, including your GDC registration number.
All advertising and sources of information should use accurate information that is updated regularly, using clear and simple language avoiding dental terminology that the general public may not understand.
Avoid making unsubstantiated claims, many practices out there make claims like ‘pain free dentistry’ how do you substantiate this statement? What evidence do you have to back up this claim? A simple survey of a patient’s perception of pain during treatment could give you this evidence but it must be collected regularly and consistently. Using statements like ‘we’ll give you the perfect smile’ without qualification, could be misleading and considered ambiguous. Achieving the perfect smile is possible in many different ways depending upon individual needs and for some people it may not be possible and imperfect compromises have to be made.
Avoid claims or statements intended or likely to create unjustified expectations. If your marketing promotes a fantastic patient experience, this must be delivered to each and every patient. If you offer services that promise a quick result for example ‘Straight Teeth in Weeks’, it is important within your advertising to mention that these treatments are not suitable for everyone and in some cases limited results will be seen. If the patient isn’t told this from the get go you have given them an unrealistic expectation.
Be clear about the nature of your service- is it NHS or Private or a mixture of both, be clear about your offering and make sure patients are not being mislead about what type of treatment they can expect to receive and the fees that might apply.
Many clinicians are now offering services that do not fall under the remit of traditional dentistry such as facial aesthetics or hygienists and therapists offering tooth whitening. When promoting these services and performing treatments that did not form part of your primary training you must be able to demonstrate that you have undertaken the necessary training in this area to achieve competence.
The guidance also lays out some rules for Dental websites. It is written in line with the Code of Ethics for Dentists in the EU for Electronic Commerce which covers the content of dental websites.
To view the guidance document click here.
In order to follow the new guideline rules on websites it is likely going to be necessary for you to modify your current website to include these additional requirements. You will also need to be able to make regular updates to reflect any changes in personnel, it is specified in the Ethics for Dentists in the EU document that a registrant who leaves the practice should be removed within 1 month.
Your website, as with any other promotional material, must not provide a comparison between the skills and qualifications of yourself and any other dental professional and should not suggest your skills and qualifications are superior to anyone else.
The term ‘specialist’ has been a real bone of contention for the GDC in recent years due numerous registrants referring to themselves ‘a specialist in...’ or a practice calling itself a ‘specialist practice’ when in fact they are not specialists. In order to refer to yourself as a ‘specialist’ you must be on one of the GDC’s 13 specialist registers. If you are not, it is not acceptable to refer to yourself as a specialist. Instead you can say ‘special interest in’ or ‘experienced in’ or ‘practice limited to’, the bottom line is that by incorrectly using the term specialist you are misleading the public into thinking you are something that you are not.
The above does not only apply to dentists, there are currently no specialist lists for DCP’s and on this basis the term must be avoided for example ‘specialist denture technician’ or ‘specialist implant nurse’. Regardless of what level of further qualification you have gained, unless you are a registered specialist you simply cannot refer to yourself as one, to do so would be viewed as misleading.
Gaining an honorary degree or professional fellowships and memberships are often prestigious achievements however listing letters after your name in recognition of these achievements for marketing purposes can be very misleading for patients. Patients do not always understand the meaning of these letters and they may view them as a reflection of additional skills and academic qualifications which may not be the case. Keeping things simple and restricting the use of letters after your name to those that are meaningful to the general public will ensure you are working in line with these rules.
In summary, with any advertising or promotional information you produce for patients you must keep ethics in mind at all times. You must produce information that is truthful, honest, easy to understand and promotes the best interests of the patient.
Welcome to the Blog!
I want to help you build the practice of your dreams, I hope you find insight and inspiration in my blog.