The number of patients on your database is a key bit of information and something that should be tightly monitored and managed.
Patient retention is one of the most difficult challenges facing general dental practices at this time and your success if going to greatly depend upon your ability to win your patients loyalty and keep them attending regularly.
I have just completed an exercise involving a database of patients whereby 77% of patients had not attended for 18months or more! I should mention that this practice is doing well in terms of financial success, new patient numbers and profit growth so this figure was somewhat surprising to say the least but one not to be ignored!
So we started a lengthy analysis of the patient database, looking at those patients who had failed to respond to recalls and had subsequently fallen through the gaps.
Once we had identified those patients that we felt there was a possibility we could reactivate we considered ways in which we could attract them back.
We did a trial of a half price exam offer, sent out to 150 of the 'inactive' patients and the result has been amazing. In just 3 weeks we have seen a 11% response and a resulting income of £500 plus an additional £2000 of planned work of which approximately 50% is already in the book!
You could argue that offering a half price exam is loosing you money and in the short term you may be right although I would argue these appointments have taken slots of your appointment book that otherwise would have been left empty! You need to look at the bigger picture, you have earned additional income, you have achieved a great initial return on investment and you have generated additional income that you have yet to earn. The most important point to remember is you have reactivated dormant patients and you now have the opportunity to re-develop relationships and convert them into loyal, regular attending, friend and family referring customers!
After an initial sceptical response to this initiative the practice involved is now amazed by the response and will certainly be taking the time and effort to extend the offer to the rest of their dormant patients.
If you would like help planning and implementing initiatives such as this please get in touch on 07703627873 or email email@example.com
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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.practice-perfection.co.uk
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