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Legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn once famously said that he’d take 50 percent efficiency to gain 100 percent loyalty.

While I highly doubt he was talking about dental practices, the sentiment applies to our industry in a big way. Patient loyalty is essential to dental practice success.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “My patients are loyal to me.” But the truth is, while the majority of your patients may be satisfied with you as their dentist, that doesn’t mean they’re loyal.

There’s an important difference between a satisfied and a loyal patient. A satisfied patient will leave you as soon as you stop taking their insurance or they move to a nearby town. A loyal patient, on the other hand, will do whatever they can to stay with your practice for as long as possible, regardless of whether its convenient for them or not. Here’s the definition of a patient who is truly loyal:

1. They are consistent on recall and receptive to treatment.
2. They would never see another dentist.
3. They refer others to your office.

So how do you make this happen? There’s actually a simple rule of thumb to follow: You’re never going to inspire loyalty by doing what every other dentist is doing. You need to provide the unexpected.

Provide the sort of experiences that your patients can’t get from any other dental practice. Call your new patients before their first appointment to welcome them to the practice. Call them after a major treatment to see how they’re doing. If someone refers a new patient to you, send them a handwritten thank you note. Perhaps most importantly, have fun with them while they’re in the office. Obviously, you want to stay professional, but don’t be afraid to joke a bit with them to lighten the mood. If you’re having a conversation with an assistant or an associate while you’re working on a patient – involve the patient! Give him or her a chance to join in the discussion. Yes, it may mean that patient spends a little longer in your chair, but if you want to build loyalty, that’s okay. If you work to create a comfortable, enjoyable atmosphere while building a relationship with your patients, they’ll stop feeling like customers visiting a business and begin to feel like they’re visiting family.

In short, if you want to know how to ensure your patients will remain loyal to your practice, just think about your most loyal friends. What created that loyalty in your relationship? It’s almost always because you’ve shared memorable, remarkable experiences together and you can’t imagine sharing those kinds of experiences with anyone else. That’s exactly what you want from your patients.

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Comment by Fred Joyal on January 20, 2010 at 11:23am
Absolutely. Building patient loyalty is a long-term investment. It may mean spending a little more time with them and not packing your schedule as much as you could, but over time it will pay off in trust, treatment acceptance and referrals. And as you pointed out, Dr. Cruz, that extra satisfaction you feel in knowing your patients truly appreciate you is icing on the cake.
Comment by Tony Cruz DMD on January 20, 2010 at 8:44am
Patients sense when they are being rushed and it does give off the impression that we don't care. It's the best way NOT to build patient loyalty.
Comment by Mary Jane RDH BS on January 20, 2010 at 6:03am
I imagine your patients feel that towards you, Doctor.
Comment by Tony Cruz DMD on January 19, 2010 at 8:52pm
Fred I agree with you. There was an old saying that I learned in Dental school and it was that "patients judge you by your feelings not your fillings" and it is so true. Building patient loyalty can not only reap huge financial benefits but it can also increase dentist satisfaction by working on patients that truly appreciate what you do for them.
Comment by Mary Jane RDH BS on January 16, 2010 at 12:59pm
A relationship is exactly that. It is about caring..what is best for your people in the long run. That often takes time to explain and make clear. Having a good, clear graphic is one way or a model. A crown and it's cost doesn't sound so bad if the patient does truly understand that a weight bearing, root canalled molar tooth's resin restoration might need replacement often or even split the tooth and the investment of the RCT goes down the toilet;next cost will be the replacement for that space, etc. Time is not just a gift..it is well spent and an investment in your professional future.

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