We share a lot of marketing tips on our blog, but we’re about to share the biggest secret to your marketing plan: patient retention. Patient retention can be defined in the same way as any happy relationship, which is consistent positive interactions. The happier your patients are, the more likely they’ll be to refer friends and family to your practice.
Improving patient retention is an ongoing process, and it begins by reviewing where your practice is right now.
Know Your Starting Point
We won’t know where we need to go if we don’t discover our starting point. Review your patient records, focusing on how long your patients have been active. We recommend using a practice management system to streamline this process. If you find that a majority of your patients are active for three or more years, your patient retention is in a great spot.
If patients begin to drop off after one, two, three, or more visits, it’s time to review their charts. Encourage your team to take detailed notes on treatment recommendations and any reactions from the patient. These reactions can range from preferring a different dental hygienist to turning down treatment because of financial reasons. While you may never know why some patients leave, these insights can help guide your research.
Improving Patient Retention within Your Team
Your team is your #1 tool for patient retention. Your front desk staff sets the tone of the appointment, so make it great. Encourage them to make conversation with them, greet them by name, and have all paperwork ready for a smooth experience.
Once your patient is in the chair, your hygienists have the floor. They spend the greatest amount of time with patients, so encourage them to build relationships with patients. The stronger these relationships are, the better your team can gauge if they’re uncomfortable during a procedure and if they’re overall happy with their experience.
Once you begin the exam, build a rapport with your patients, make notes in their charts about family, hobbies, and if they get nervous during different procedures. Use this information to your advantage to create a patient experience that will keep them coming back.
Encouraging Patient Referrals During a Visit
Encouraging patient referrals is the best way to grow your practice through relationships you’ve already built. We recommend starting a surprise and delight program for patients who refer their friends and family, which can encourage them to sing your praises.
For every new patient referred, a current patient receives a gift. This could be a discount on a service, entry into a monthly drawing with a prize, or a small gift card for coffee or ice cream at their next visit.
Make referrals easy by printing business cards. They need more than just your contact information, though. Use it to share your mission statement or values, and include a space for your patient to write their name. Place these by the checkout counter and in goody bags to make them accessible for patients.
Once a patient has a referral, mark it in their file. If you’ve chosen a drawing or a gift card as an incentive, use a spreadsheet to track them. Once this program is launched, task a team member to take ownership of the progress. The only thing less beneficial than no referral program is a referral program that isn’t followed through on. Patients will take notice, so be sure to maintain it.
We recommend reviewing your patient retention and referral program at least every quarter. This gives you enough data to see a positive or negative trend while discovering and implementing necessary updates.
Begin using patient retention for more than a metric to share at meetings. Focus on building relationships to create a practice rooted in trust and respect, then capitalize on it. This growth will happen on its own, but by encouraging a referral program and rewarding loyalty, you can encourage your patients to share their experience with friends and family, creating a flourishing dental practice that serves your community.
Are you using patient retention for your benefit? We’d love to hear how!