I would be lying if I told you I haven’t heard about the challenges dentistry has been having as a result of ‘today’s economy’. While I do see things improving and my clients’ hygiene departments are growing, some are growing faster than others.
What I know for sure is that when times get tough, it reveals our sore spots. When business is good and patients are knocking your doors down, it’s easy to let things slide with regard to systems, protocols and operating procedures.
Ideally, you would analyze your hygiene department quarterly, looking for trends and changes and then make slight adjustments to stay on track. Reality is that most doctors look at numbers at the end of the year or when they meet with their financial planner. Sometimes once you realize you’ve taken a hit, it takes just as much time to recover.
When challenging times come, it presents a good opportunity for you to look at all your systems and discover where you can improve and uplevel your practice.
I’ve been asked by some of you how to ‘stop the bleeding’ in your hygiene department. While I’ve yet to discover an immediate solution to get every one of your existing patients calling for a hygiene visit or to convert every new patient into high level dentistry, there are a few tips that I’d like to pass along that I’ve seen work in my client offices.
You’ve heard all the reasons in the book for why your patients aren’t scheduling their hygiene care so I’ll spare you that trauma. What you may be looking for are solutions to close the gaps.
So here you go:
1-Don’t stop marketing – While many are pulling back on their marketing dollars when numbers drop, halting all (or most) forms of marketing will only guarantee more of the same. My friends at Productive Dentist Academy teach that 8% of your collections should go toward your marketing budget.
2-Focus on your existing patients – It is just as, if not more, important to take amazing care of your existing patients as it is to attract new ones. When you intentionally work on building relationships with your patients, they will tell their friends about you and say ‘yes’ to more dentistry.
One of my clients has every team member write one personal note to one patient they saw that day. The doctors also make it a point to tell patients how much they appreciate their business and how they’d love to take care of any friends or family that need a dentist. Not pushy, just friendly. They’ve received tons of comments from their patients about how much they appreciate the simple gesture of saying ‘Thank you’. And they’re telling their friends.
3-Stay ‘Top of Mind’ – If your patients only hear from you the day before their hygiene appointment, they’re more likely to cancel and less likely to call you to schedule treatment. Stay in touch with them through newsletters, gifting campaigns, greeting cards and thank you notes.
You can do the same with trusted physicians and specialists that you already have a relationship with. When you are ‘top of mind’ on a regular basis, they’ll be much more likely to refer patients to you and then you can return the favor.
4-Get creative-Start a grassroots internal marketing campaign by doing nice, unexpected things for your patients. I have a friend who sends pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving to her interior design clients. She delivers them to their workplace and just says ‘Thanks for your business, I really appreciate you’.
5-Work your recall list – I know, this is your favorite one, isn’t it? Before you sit down with your recall list, center your mind that you’re calling out of concern for this patient…NOT dialing for dollars. You don’t want to appear desperate, but you do want to appear caring.
Ask the patient what has kept them away. Offer alternatives that might help them get started with their treatment. If they can’t complete the entire quad of care that you’ve recommended, maybe they can get started with 1 or 2 teeth. If they can’t afford the perio maintenance right now, get them in for a prophy and see how they’re doing. Is it ideal? No. But it’s also not ideal to let the patient hang out in the black hole of hygiene recare while their perio disease is making a comeback.
6-Tighten up your systems – I have one client that’s just come on board and open time is a big challenge for them. They have a perio percentage of 5%. Just tightening up their perio diagnosis and treatment protocols will eliminate 40-50% of their open time.
Make sure that the patients you ARE seeing are getting the very best care possible.
This is a time to take a close look at what areas you can improve. Plug the leaks. There’s never been a better time!