It’s a popular saying that it’s cheaper to keep existing customers than attract new ones. For businesses in general, many studies have attempted to quantify the difference. Harvard Business Review concluded that, depending on the industry, “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one”.
And, the same goes for dentistry: it is more cost-effective to keep existing patients than to attract new ones. This doesn’t mean to forget acquisition efforts completely. Just do not overlook retention as existing clients are also the best referral source you can ask for (see more here).
Here we share 5 essential strategies that will help you retain current patients and increase repeat visitors:
- Listen to feedback
- Nurture patient loyalty
- Be a source of oral health advice
- Improve waiting experience
- Provide aftercare recommendations
Listen to feedback
Feedback is the key source of information about the patient experience at your practice. Moreover, it is the only way to base your decisions on facts instead of assumptions which might prove to be far away from reality.
Online reviews are an easy method to collect feedback and build a strong online reputation at the same time. They can help you detect which areas drive patients away and need improvements. Note that even with excellent treatment results, patients might not come back because of other issues such as long waiting times, grumpy staff members, inconvenient working hours, etc.
General star ratings can guide you about the general sentiment but are not very helpful as to the reasons behind the score. Yet, there is no need to create a survey from scratch. Several specialized platforms have perfectly insightful built-in questionnaires to help you in that direction.
Here is an example by Dentacoin Trusted Reviews of how to get an overview of all key touchpoints of patient experience:
Nurture patient loyalty
More regular patients – this is one of the main goals of loyalty programs. Building a loyal patient base is not a one-time initiative and requires targeted efforts. Give patients the reasons to come back, incentivize valuable activities, and provide rewards for staying with your practice.
For solo practitioners and smaller group practices, it may seem time-consuming and costly to launch and manage a loyalty program. Yet, it is not necessarily so.
Rewards do not have to be only monetary incentives. Perks like priority booking of appointments, personalized oral health tips, special events, and other benefits are also valued by patients. Furthermore, there are innovative options such as Dentacoin program with built-in rewards at no cost for you.
Be a source of oral health advice
Social media provides excellent opportunities to share tips, quick facts, short videos, and other content that helps patients to improve their oral health. In a way, this extends the dental care beyond appointment times. By that, you build trust with patients and encourage prevention-oriented behavior, including regular checkups and timely treatment of dental issues.
There is no need to create all content from scratch. You can re-share posts from the social media pages of your national dental association (e.g. ADA for the United States), research organizations (DentaVox), reputable media, and non-profit organizations.
Here is an example of an engaging approach to improve awareness on gum disease and motivate patients to seek whenever they encounter any of the issues:
Improve waiting experience
Long wait times are more than a nuisance. They can be the very reason why patients switch to a new dentist. According to Vitals Wait Time Report, waiting time has a negative effect on patient satisfaction, as measured by the rating score given to doctors (incl. dentists).
If not possible to avoid it completely, you can try to reduce the duration and to improve the experience. Here are some points to consider:
Is there enough room for patients?
Is it convenient to sit for a longer period?
What is the ambiance of the room?
Do you provide good material to keep patients entertained?
Do you inform them about how long the delay is?
And, last but not least:
Do you give them a heads-up when you’re behind schedule? If not, you should probably consider it. Instead of waiting impatiently, patients can use their time efficiently, and thus feel less annoyed.
Provide aftercare recommendations
Personalized advice for at-home care will strengthen the relationship with your patients in several ways. Firstly, by helping patients to improve their oral hygiene habits, they will enjoy more lasting treatment results. In return, it will reflect also on their satisfaction and perception of high-quality services. Secondly, it shows them that you pay personal attention to the specifics of every case. And lastly, it will encourage them to do more regular checkups if you include in the guidance reminder about when to book the next visit.
In terms of better oral hygiene, mobile apps can be very helpful to teach proper brushing and flossing techniques and to foster long-term habits. For instance, with DentaCare app patients embark on a 90-day journey, the period required to make a habit of good practice. For children, game-like apps as Jaws of Battle can support the efforts of parents and educators to promote healthy behaviors.
Patient retention is essential for building and sustaining a successful dental practice. It can help you to reduce marketing costs and be more resilient in times of crisis.
Remember: You are not alone on this journey. Contact us to advise you how to build and maintain a loyal patient base using the most innovative approach in dentistry.