Not long ago, I received a marketing piece that listed 7 things every new patient deserves. I would like to expand on this with my own list.
We all spend money on branding our practices and trying to attract new patients. With varying results, I hear doctors complain about this strategy or that. They get less than a 1% response from direct mail and they are upset. 1% or less is normal. Our potential patients are fast becoming desensitized to any type of marketing, so it’s not surprising to see that the “tried and true” marketing strategies are beginning to wain. That is why every new patient is precious. We must treat them like the potential gold mine they are. Look at them with the idea of what they would spend in a lifetime in your practice. We have to really exceed their expectations and give them more than they expected. These 7 steps will do just that. If you are looking at your return on investment for your marketing don’t look at the number of patients who schedule. Look at the number of patients that call. It is not the fault of the marketing or marketer if you drive people to call, and because the person who answers the phone doesn’t come off as caring, compassionate, and competent, they don’t schedule or schedule and never intend to keep the appointment. Most offices have a front desk person who creates reasons and hassles for the patient not to schedule. Doctor, you didn’t even have the opportunity to mess up the relationship by running late, over charging, bullying or confusing the patient.
- Before the first visit…I am assuming you have come off caring, compassionate and competent by being open consumer hours, with an easy to get to location with a product the new patient wants to buy and systems to handle the intake of a new patient. The patient has made the appointment, you have their name and how they can be contacted (which may not be a cell or work number), and a mailing address. Be sure to confirm the appointment with a welcome letter and a new patient package. We generally will do this by mail and/or by email. The package contains: a letter from me, the doctor, a brochure, appointment card with map, newsletter, and health history form. The health history form can be completed on line prior to their visit. This form goes automatically into the new patients file, where if done on a written form creates more work for the front desk by needing to copy it into the patient file. Obviously we encourage the patient to do this on line. The idea being that if filled out prior to the first visit, the patient will not have to spend as much time in the office leading up to bringing them back. We have the “new patient” package already made up by a part time student who does small jobs after school. We make sure the new patient receives the packet prior to their appointment. It is much easier to do in digital format. In addition to the paper work, we usually include a small gift of a magnet, etc.
- The pre-op call…We all know how important the post op call is to patient relationships. I’ve taken it a step farther. I had 2 younger partners, with the emphasis on younger. While I still did the lion’s share of production, I realized they were creeping up on me. I may be old but I still have my pride. I was looking for a way to make sure I could still out produce my partners. This is what I came up with. I would look at the next days schedule for hygiene and would write down the name and phone number of all the new patients. Right after work I would call they with a “pre-op” call. I would just say: Hi. This is Dr. Abernathy, and I was just calling to see if there was any question or any thing I could do to make their appointment tomorrow more comfortable. Basically just a “welcome to the practice, see you tomorrow” call. The patient shows up the next day, the light goes on to check the hygiene patient and the 2 younger doctor’s race in there to claim the new patient. The patient response was always: “Would it be alright if Dr. Abernathy checks me?” It took those doctors almost 2 years to figure out what was going on. The neat thing about this is the patients seemed to be less resistant to my recommendations and never seemed to cancel. Remember, the Doctor must do this.
- After the first visit…I always call the referral source. In my practice 80% of the patients were referred by a trusted friend. I wanted to encourage that action to happen again, and again. Reward what you want repeated. Mail a “Thank You” letter or card with a gift certificate valued at $50.00 toward any dental treatment they would like and a copy of our “Care to Share” program. (Follow links in the Quick Links section of the newsletter to view samples). A second letter goes to the new patient. It is hand written on my logo designed stationary. It just says how glad I was to meet them and thanked them in advance for referring their friends and neighbors. I never used pre-printed cards.
- After the Case Presentation appointment…This usually occurred during the first visit. We always made sure the patient walked out with: a copy of the financial policy, the treatment plan, brochures covering the treatment recommended, photos of the areas of concern, fees, and an appointment card (Again, we always recorded how they would like to be confirmed. We never assumed it was their cell, work, or home number. We wanted to know how to reach them the day before the appointment. We also used “Smile Reminders,” an internet based messaging system that automatically notified the patient.)
- When treatment is completed…Following the final treatment I always sent a thank you letter with a post op photo for cosmetic cases and another copy of our “Care to Share” program with 2 business cards. You have to continue to encourage referrals.
- Keeping the patient happy, informed and loyal…We send all of our patients a newsletter 4 times a year to constantly keep in touch with them. Each letter or newsletter has the phrase “Address Correction Requested” printed beneath where the postage goes. This allows returned mail to give us the patient’s current address. We also send birthday cards and special occasion letters to our patients.
- Enter the new patient into the recall system…The real benefit of marketing is not just the patient that comes in for a “deal”. It is taking that patient and turning them into a referring machine. In doing this it becomes even more important to maintain an active recall system of loyal patients. Please feel free to give us a call and let us describe our “recall magic” system of perpetual patients. The “Whitening for Life” program is a great way to encourage your patients to never miss a recall appointment. We guarantee all of our work. This offer hinges on the patient not missing a normal 6 month recall. Give your patients a reason to stay in your practice.