Collecting genuine and meaningful feedback from your dental patients not only builds your online reputation, but is also useful to other people looking for dental care. However, it can be a quite challenging and time-consuming task. Especially when it comes to obtaining it from seniors who usually lack the necessary digital skills. Of course, there are impressive exceptions (the so-called “silver surfers”) who can amaze you with their Instagram, Facebook or even Tik Tok profiles and for which surfing the web is like a walk in the park.
In any case, you have to be well prepared to adapt to the personal specifics and digital capabilities of this rather heterogeneous age group. Having the proper approach and speaking their language will help you encourage honest talk and eventually feedback. The majority of seniors are often feeling lonely and long for personal attention. Knowing their opinion matters to you will raise their self-esteem and make them happy to cooperate.
So, how to encourage elderly patients to submit feedback? Let’s look into the key points to consider:
The Elderly – The New Influencers
Even though chronological age is not a reliable measure of the ageing process (due to the differences in genetics, lifestyle, and overall health), a person aged 65 years or more is usually referred to as “elderly”. People aged 65-74 years are also called “the new or young elderly” and tend to be relatively healthy and active. Patients in this subgroup are most likely to have some sort of digital autonomy which could enable them to write, for example, an online review about your dental services. The other two subgroups – 75-84 (“the old or mid-old”) and 85+ (“the oldest-old”) will most probably need extensive guidance or “fast-track” direct assistance to provide their patient feedback using modern technologies.
Of course, we should not underestimate the power of “word of mouth” marketing which seniors are inclined to make among peer groups and close relatives rather intuitively. But when it comes to dentist reputation in our interconnected online society, digitizing the elderly’s insights should not be left behind simply because it’s more complex.
Given the global blast of 65+ population in the last decade, they have a great potential of becoming the influencers of the near future. Hence, going the extra mile to hear them out and validate their experiences in your dental office is undoubtedly worth the efforts.
Key Factors and Useful Tips
The effectiveness of obtaining patient feedback (regardless of age) depends on three main factors:
1) the size of your dental practice
2) the availability of a customer care or marketing professional
3) your dental marketing strategy.
Let’s focus on particular soft skills and flexible approaches that will enable both independent dental practitioners and bigger dental practices to get elderly patients’ feedback easier – and wiser.
General Tips for All Practices
How to start
After their dental appointment is over, politely ask your elderly patient how they feel – showing genuine interest, and whether they would like to share their overall experience. Usually, patients who are satisfied with the dental services they have just received would gladly answer a few questions. Even if they are obviously disappointed, distressed or in pain, getting the chance to “take it out” right on site will enable them to ventilate the negative feelings and feel heard. Thus, their discontent will remain “safe” in your feedback archives and – if addressed appropriately, won’t result in bad online reviews or unfavourable referrals.
Do not count on your patients’ goodwill only. People love to get rewarded for their efforts. Offer them discounts on future treatments; referral bonuses in some form – dental products, free prophylactic care, teeth cleanings, etc. If you are open to new technologies and means of payments, you could also tell “silver surfers” more about the global dental currency Dentacoin (DCN) and show them how to get their first DCN amounts by rating your dental services. (More on the subject further below.)
Your senior patient might not be able to use any digital device, or have poor eyesight, or just not feel like answering your questions right after a lengthy and painful dental procedure. So, your flexibility and responsiveness are essential. It’s always a good idea to have your patient feedback form in different formats (online and hard copy). Use easy-read font size and simple, concise questions that would not take more than 5-10 minutes to answer. If the patient needs help, assist them tolerantly and be open to their questions as well. Having an online feedback form that can be sent by email, will open up another possibility: more digitally adept seniors can easily complete it at a later time and the rest could simply ask younger family members to lend a hand.
Don’t be surprised if some of your elderly patients would prefer taking a printout of your feedback form and filling it out at home. They could either send it back to you using standard mail or bring it to their next appointment. It’s not that unusual even today. Main thing is that their responses are then transferred into the respective patient’s profile. Even small dental practices tend to have well organized patient management systems. So, if you don’t have one yet, it’s worth the investment!
Alternatives to feedback forms
If you still haven’t had the time to create your own patient feedback form, you could create a Google My Business page for your dental practice. Most elderly patients have smartphones which require a personal Google profile. Provided that they have averagely good digital skills, or – if necessary, using some assistance, they will be able to write a short review about their dental experience and add a dentist star rating. Your Google profile will probably be the first thing people will see when searching for your name online. So, it’s a real must-have.
As already mentioned, you could freely use Dentacoin’s platform for dentist reviews and verified ratings – Trusted Reviews. You only need to create a profile for your dental practice (if you don’t already have one), then help your senior patient to create one for themselves, and finally – send them an email to request a verified review. The best part is you are both going to get rewarded for this in the form of DCN tokens – the first digital money for dentistry! No financing from your side.
These were some of the most fundamental milestones dental offices of all sizes have to bear in mind when collecting feedback from patients aged 65+. In Part 2 of this blog post we are going to dig deeper and give you some extra tips depending on the size of your dental practice.
Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions in the Comments section below! We would be curious to read about your experience with elderly patients!