Set Your Practice Apart
Fresh ideas for meeting patient needs and achieving practice growth
Think for a moment of the perfect dental patient. What characteristics come to mind? Perhaps it is a patient with a high value for dentistry, or one with both the desire and the means to complete comprehensive treatment. On a smaller scale, maybe the ideal patient is just one who keeps regular appointments and shows up on time.
The reality is that there is no one ideal patient. Dentists can only do so much to educate and be present for their patients so that when a patient is ready to accept treatment, he or she knows to whom to turn. So how can dentists inspire patients to improve their oral health and move them closer to being "ideal?"
It comes down to understanding where patients are coming from and what patients are looking for from their dentist. Keeping an open mind helps dentists when coming up with solutions to meet patients' needs and expectations. To motivate patients to seek the care they want and need, perhaps it's time for some new ideas and to stop going about business as usual.
The Need for Innovation
Success is often built upon improving something that already exists. Take a look at the iPhone. Every September, Apple rolls out a new version of its popular smartphone, and every September, eager consumers wait in long lines to get the latest phone. Is the new model dramatically different? Not usually, but the newer iPhone is always a somewhat improved version of the previous model.
Similarly, the FedEx success story is based on a goal to improve upon the existing shipping services of the day. In 1971, FedEx set out to deliver packages faster than the U.S. Postal Service. Two years later, FedEx was the first company to offer overnight shipping, and through further innovations, it became the first shipping service to offer tracking capabilities and later, the first to provide consumers with a way of tracking their packages online.
Through out-of-the-box thinking as well as a focus on their customer needs, Apple and FedEx have enjoyed long-term success by giving their customers what they want–a lesson that can also be applied to the business of dentistry.
Providing Benefits and Exceeding Expectations
Shipping packages is not a fun chore for most businesses or consumers. Quality customer service, a reliable company, and convenient locations are appealing, however. Similarly, dental patients may not typically look forward to their appointments; they may even experience anxiety and even fear prior to coming into the practice. While they may not be excited to be in the dental chair, patients do value the quality of care their dentist provides.
How can dentists give patients a compelling reason to keep coming back to the practice? By providing innovative solutions that make it easy for patients to keep regular appointments and accept treatment.
Some out-of-the-box differentiators may include the following:
Patients today are busier than ever. It's sometimes tough for people to make it into the practice between 8 am and 5 pm during the week, and last-minute cancellations and no-shows wreak havoc on the practice schedule.
Dentists who innovate recognize that patients often have hectic demands between work, family, and other commitments and therefore offer options for appointments outside the norm. They may open the practice early, stay late 1 day a week, or offer weekend hours to accommodate the professional set. A small yet significant change, like altering the practice hours, makes it easier for patients to make and keep regular appointments.
Electronic communication–ie, e-communication–is a modern way for dentists to stay in touch with patients. Features such as online appointment requests and text message appointment reminders make it easy for patients to stay on top of their upcoming appointments from the convenience of their laptop or smartphone. These modern tactics also benefit the dental staff by automating otherwise time-consuming processes.
Additionally, implementing a practice e-newsletter and connecting with patients through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter helps keep the conversation going between appointments. Continual communication helps to strengthen the dentist-patient relationship in digital ways that make it convenient for patients to stay connected.
Patient Financing & Dental Savings Plans
The number one reason for delayed dental care in America is cost. Dentists can give patients a way to afford the dental care they need by offering patient financing through trusted companies like CareCredit (www.carecredit.com) and Comprehensive Finance (www.comprehensivefinance.com).
Another innovation is offering an in-house dental savings plan such as Quality Dental Plan (www.qdpdentist.com), which gives patients the opportunity to pay for a year's worth of preventive care for one clear annual cost that is both determined by and collected by the individual dental practice–without third-party interference.
Patients appreciate simple conveniences in their hectic daily lives. Business strategies that have worked well for Apple, FedEx, and others can be adapted for dental practices. Implementing new processes and systems in the practice that are designed to meet patients' needs while providing them with affordable, quality dental care will go a long way towards instilling patient loyalty and setting the dental practice on a course for long-term prosperity.
About the Authors
Naomi Cooper is president and founder of Minoa Marketing and chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute. She is a respected dental marketing strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. Naomi teaches Pride's groundbreaking marketing courses and works with individual dentists to craft and implement customized modern marketing plans. She also consults for leading companies across the dental industry, developing a cohesive marketing approach and creating momentum for their marketing efforts aimed at the dental profession and the dental consumer. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she blogs regularly at www.minoamarketing.com. For regular updates from Naomi, including dental marketing/social media tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or "like" Naomi Cooper – Minoa Marketing on Facebook at www.fb.com/minoamarketing. Dan Marut, DMD, is the president and founder of Quality Dental Plan (QDP), a patient loyalty program that offers marketing and administration tools to independent dental providers.