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Patient Loyalty and Retention – How Does Your Garden Grow?

As a dentist, it’s clear that you spend a lot of time and resources trying to bring new patients into your practice, which is important, but don’t let it come at the expense of keeping your current patients. In today’s fast-paced market where trying to keep up with the next big thing will give you whiplash, patient loyalty is worth its weight in gold.

First, it’s cheaper to maintain an existing patient; it costs 6 times more to attract a new patient than retain a current one. Second, it’s easier to keep an existing patient on the books; you’re 14 times more likely to book a repeat appointment than convince a non-patient to book their first appointment. And third, keeping patients longer increases your overall profit per patient.

As your grandmother said, “Grass grows greenest where it’s tended.” So read on for a gardener’s guide to increasing patient loyalty.

1. Create the right environment – Throwing seeds over the bank and hoping for rain isn’t likely to produce plump tomatoes or crisp cucumbers. Abundant crops aren’t the result of happenstance – they require the right environment. The same is true for cultivating loyal patients. As patients increasingly demonstrate consumer choice, it’s important for you and your team to create an inviting atmosphere. Aside from being generally friendly, there are three key factors that make a dental practice sunny from a patient’s point of view – cost, convenience and consistency.

While cost has always been a factor, in today’s era of medical consumerism it’s important to address it head-on. In fact, 91% of patients are more likely to continue seeing a dentist who is honest and upfront about costs and treatment plans. And, to soften the soil a bit more, it helps to provide financing options and expand the number of insurance plans accepted.

People buy blooming plants over seeds for the same reason the Starbucks mobile app is so popular – they hate to wait. Whether it’s for a latte or a dental cleaning, convenience can be a deciding factor. To increase your availability and appeal to busy patients try offering early morning or evening hours, and/or add Saturdays to your schedule. A professional website also ups the convenience quotient by providing information on your patients’ schedule 24 hours a day.

Expanded hours and financing options are great, but don’t forget to let your patients know! Use your website and social media to highlight what your practice offers patients.

Even with the best soil, inconsistent watering can wreak havoc on a garden. Patient relationships are no different. To create patient loyalty, your team needs to deliver consistent service at every touch point. From your web presence to front desk staff and hygienists, patients want to know what to expect. Strengthen your brand by ensuring it spans across your website, social media, patient communications and printed materials.

2. Listen to the experts (your patients). If you want a blooming garden, ask someone who knows what they’re doing (even if that’s Siri). If you want to know how to increase loyalty among patients, ask them. While the conversation may be slightly trickier than asking the greenhouse guy about fertilizer, successful dentists ask for patient feedback and create spaces for conversation to happen. Making it easy for patients to leave feedback on your website (and asking them to do so) is a great way to boost online reviews. And, since 88% of consumers say they consider online reviews with the same weight as a personal recommendation, it’s a way for loyalists to influence prospective patients.

In addition to patient reviews, social listening helps you keep your thumb on the pulse of your patient base. Watch your social media pages for common themes and search Facebook and Twitter for #dentist to identify general patient trends. But, a gardener’s work doesn’t end with selecting plants. Address popular topics in your blog and/or social media posts to show patients that you’re in touch with their needs.

3. Automate, automate, automate. Would you rather till soil with a tractor or a hoe? Sure, it might depend on how large your garden is, but for those who have better things to do, automation is the answer. Essentially, it allows you to cover more ground in less time. Automating patient communication works the same way. By automating patient recall and reminders your office staff is freed up to focus on more important things – like the patients in your waiting room. Not only does automating the manual task reduce no-shows and increase appointments, it allows you to stay in front of patients year round, which increases loyalty.

Just like a garden, several elements go into growing patient loyalty. For more suggestions, download our free whitepaper, How to Increase Retention and Lifetime Value of Dental Patients. You may not have been born with a green thumb, but don’t let that stop you from building a successful dental practice. Reach out to a ProSites’ Internet Marketing Advisor today at 888-932-3644 to discuss how our solutions can help you increase patient loyalty and achieve measurable practice growth.

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