Is Obtaining New Dental Patients More Important Than Retaining Established Patients?

Is Obtaining New Dental Patients More Important Than Retaining Established Patients?

Hello Friends,

So which is more important to your practice growth – obtaining new patients or retaining established patients?

The short answer, both are very important to successfully grow your dental practice.

Yes, new patients are very important, in fact, we should have a monthly new patient goal that we are working toward each month. Offices love new patients. I hear doctors and teams all the time saying “we need more new patients!” They believe that is the answer to all of their scheduling, production, and collection woes. But is that good enough to grow your practice, just ensuring that you’re getting fresh new patients each month?

Well, if you want to spend lots of money and ultimately work harder instead of smarter, then yes. But, I think it’s safe to say, that isn’t your intention or end goal.

And yet, that is exactly what I am seeing many doctors doing in their practice. They are investing time and money to bring in new patients but are not giving the same attention to retaining those new patients. Like they are just spinning their wheels and will eventually just burn out.

Oftentimes, I will see healthy new patient numbers each month, and yet, the office isn’t growing at all and their production is weak. Why is that? When I examine the data, I learn that far too many of their new patients are one-timers. They left the office without scheduling a future appointment. Why is this a bummer situation? Calling, emailing, texting, and snail mailing our patients to get them to reappoint can be a drag. It’s tough to reach patients once they leave. It’s possible of course, but it takes money, time, and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Unfortunately, we don’t even see those attempts being made to reach out to those unscheduled new patients. No one really knows what happens to the patient after their first visit. Or they make minimal attempts to reach out to the patients before giving up after a couple of months.

What does your new patient experience look like from the initial call, and first visit, to how you stay in touch with them after they leave?

Do you know what your new patient retention numbers look like?

So if the most expensive patients to acquire are your new patients, the easiest and best patients to fill your schedules are those who have come to you before.  BUT, you may be thinking… that takes time and money to reappoint established patients too. That’s true but you have a huge advantage when reaching out to established patients of record; It’s the power of pre-existing relationships.  (Oh, by the way, on average, it can cost up to six times more to gain a new patient than it does to retain an existing patient.)

What does retaining, reactivating, and reappointing established patients mean for you and the patient?

  • We are creatures of habit.  It’s easier to do something we are already doing than to do something different.
  • Established relationship. (They already know, like, and trust you. You just need to focus on strengthening that relationship)
  • No marketing costs – you’ve already paid the initial investment in getting the patient.

What are you doing to keep track of your established patients? What are you doing to ensure your established patients don’t slip through the cracks? Here are some ideas and tips for reactivating and reappointing your patients: https://bettyhaydenconsulting.com/2019/12/31/dental-patient-reactivation-and-reappointment-tips-and-ideas/

Friends, Do you know how many of your active patients have a future appointment and how many do not? Do you know how many new patients you are welcoming into the practice AND how many patients you’re losing each month?  To help you get that data quickly, like within minutes – if your PMS is either Dentrix, Eaglesoft, or Open Dental you can request a complimentary, no-obligation practice data snapshot here: Game-Changing Awareness from Dental Intelligence  – Within minutes we’ll identify your practice’s strengths and uncover hidden opportunities.  I am happy to assist you with this at no charge and with absolutely no obligation to do anything further with me. 

What are you doing to keep your new and established patients loyal to your practice?

Loyal patients, isn’t that what we want? Patients that return year after year, accept your treatment recommendations and refer their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. They are loyal to your dental practice because they like and trust you. You’ve earned the privilege to serve them not just for a moment but for life.

Is it really a privilege to serve them? Absolutely! Any office that struggles with getting and keeping new patients, struggles with getting patients to accept their treatment recommendations, struggles with the hygiene department’s continuing care reports and Swiss cheese-like appointment schedules, struggles to keep up with all the record transfer requests from patients for their new dental office, will learn (hopefully quickly) that having loyal patients in your practice is an earned privilege. The best part with loyal patients is the aforementioned struggles are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.

Of course, this takes some work – implementing and following closely, effective office systems/protocols are critical to you successfully retaining your patients and reaching/exceeding your practice goals.

Doctors, if you would like to grow and improve your dental practice and have wondered what it might be like to work with me and what coaching is all about… please feel free to reach out to me to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation coaching call at bhaydenconsulting@gmail.com.

Do you enjoy the dental leadership, management, and marketing tips and ideas that I share each month?   I would love and truly appreciate for you to please leave a review/recommendation for me here on GOOGLE and/or FACEBOOK

Have you signed up to receive my complimentary dental marketing and practice management ideas that are sent right to your email inbox each month? If not, take a second and sign up. Or send me your email address (bhaydenconsulting@gmail.com) and I will send you an invite to follow. This way, you won’t miss a single idea

Yours for Greater Success,

~Betty (Dental Coach)

P.S. Please stop by and say hello to me on  FacebookTwitterInstagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest

Scripting for when your dental patient calls to cancel their cleaning appointment…

Scripting for when your dental patient calls to cancel their cleaning appointment…

Hello Friends,

I OFTEN get asked the question, what should we say when a patient calls to cancel their hygiene appointment?

Today, I’ll share with you some scripting examples for handling calls from patients that want to cancel same-day hygiene appointments.

what do I say when patient calls to cancel their dental hygiene appointment

Please note: this isn’t scripting for perio appointment cancellations. You would use different scripting for those types of appointments.

Scenario #1:

Patient: I’m calling to cancel my appointment for today at 10:00, it’s just for a cleaning.

Admin: NOOOOO!

What do you do? It’s 9:00, how are you supposed to fill that time slot?

Scenario #2:

Patient: I’m calling to cancel my appointment for today at 4:00, it’s just for a cleaning.

Admin: YESSSSS!

What do you do? Celebrate, of course! Now you can get out early.

I’m kidding! We hate cancellations (even the “just a cleaning” ones) at any time of day because they all kill profitability.

So what do you say to the patient when they try to cancel? How do you save the appointment?

You can’t save them all, there are unavoidable, legitimate reasons that some patients are canceling their appointment. For help filling the schedule with those inevitable last-minute cancellations, please see: Ideas to Fill Holes in the Dental Hygiene Schedule

For all others, try this:

Patient: I’m calling to cancel my appointment for today at 10:00, it’s just for a cleaning.

Admin: (with genuine concern) “Oh no! I hope everything is alright. Jenny was really looking forward to seeing you today for your appointment. Is there any way you can make your reservation?” or

“Oh no, Jenny will be so disappointed, she reserved this time just for you, is there any way you can keep your reservation?” or

“Oh no! Thank you for calling, I know Jenny will be concerned, is there anything we can do so that you can be here today?”

or, if you have a broken appointment policy…

Admin: “Oh no! I’d hate for you to have to pay the broken appointment fee, is there any way you can make your reservation with Jenny?”

Now, if the patient is sorry and truly can’t make the appointment and this is the first time they’ve canceled an appointment, say this:

Admin: “I know that Jenny was looking forward to seeing you, I’m sorry that you weren’t able to provide us with 48 hrs notice due to (whatever their reason was) – we’ll go ahead and waive the broken appointment fee this time. Let’s get you rescheduled…”

For patients calling to cancel due to work, try the following…

Patient: I can’t take time off of work, or I have to work…

Admin: “My job is important to me too. We really hate for you to not be able to make your appointment. Is there any way you could have someone cover for you for that time or would it help if we wrote a note to your supervisor?”

STILL NO:

Admin: “We obviously made an appointment for you that isn’t convenient. Since your appointments are important I want to make sure we never do that again. Is there a time we can schedule that you know you will be convenient?”

Document your conversation and that you waived the fee for this time and that the patient is aware next time they’ll be charged.

If the patient refuses to reschedule their appointment…

Admin: “That’s fine, but if I don’t hear back from you, I will call you on ______, how does that sound?” (Follow through on that promise.)

For patients that habitually cancel, I urge you to charge them your broken appointment fee and do not reschedule their appointment.

Admin:  “Mr/Ms (use their name), I can see that you have a really busy schedule and that makes it difficult for you to commit to an appointment time. I thought I was a busy person!
What I recommend is that we place you on our “same day” call list. If we have an unexpected change in our schedule we’ll give you a call. How does that sound?”

Document your conversation! Follow-up accordingly.

Work together as a team to come up with scripting that works for your office. Think of all the different scenarios and reasons patients call to cancel (cost, illness, no babysitter, schedule conflicts, etc.) and role-play the best responses. Your goal should be, if appropriate, respectfully help the patient find a way to keep the appointment as scheduled without threatening or embarrassing them.

If you have created this cancellation monster, it will take some time to re-train your team and your patients. How do we train our patients that it’s ok to cancel last-minute?

  • Not creating true value for the appointment through patient education.
  • Constantly rescheduling patients appointments because of some change to the provider’s schedule.
  • Not respecting the patients time by running behind and not giving the very best experience from start to finish.
  • Telling the patient, no problem or that it’s OK when they call to cancel.
  • Poor and inconsistent appointment reminder systems and protocols.
  • Not acknowledging no-shows with a telephone call 5 minutes after their scheduled appointment time and with a follow-up letter/text/email.

Sadly, I have heard many offices tell the patients, no problem when they call to cancel. They don’t even attempt to reschedule. They just say OK and hang up. I’m not joking. This really happens.

Ultimately, preventing cancellations starts with creating value for the appointment before it’s even scheduled… it’s never “just a cleaning” that they are trying to cancel.

Create a strong hygiene continuing care protocol for your team and consistently follow it.

If your office needs help in creating a protocol for how to track hygiene continuing care reports/numbers, appointment scripting, patient correspondence, etc. please contact me today for a complimentary consultation at bhaydenconsulting@gmail.com

If you enjoy the complimentary ideas that I share each month, I would love and truly appreciate for you to please leave a review on GOOGLE and/or FACEBOOK

Are you receiving my free dental marketing and practice management ideas every month to your inbox? If not, PLEASE take a second and follow today or send me your email address and I will send you an invitation to follow. This way, you won’t miss a single idea. Feel free to share my blog with your dental friends. ~ Thank you!

Yours for Greater Success!

~Betty

P.S. Please stop by and say hello to me on  FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn and Pinterest