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.
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