Retention:The New Recall System

Dentistry is the least affected industry by the economy. This is due to two primary reasons. One, we are under the healthcare umbrella and dentistry is a practical purchase and more importantly we are the only business that has a repeat business mechanism called our hygiene department. Even better, our moms and kind dentists visited our kindergarten classes and educated us that the right thing to do is see your dentist twice per year. Fram filters tried the same approach by saying you need to change your oil filter every 3000 miles. Cars have oil filters? I have never changed one.

This being said the average practice retains only 41% of its patients within 18 months.

Looking deeper, if your marketing is attracting fewer new patients due to consumers’ overall trust for institutions and businesses being at an all time low (80% of Americans), it is no wonder dentists find themselves frustrated, underproductive and not knowing where to turn except for waiting out the storm.

Those teams who are putting their attention and strategy on things they can control are finding themselves up 59% as of the first quarter. Now is the time to re-think the age old high cost, low return strategy of hoping that “new blood” is the answer. New patient case acceptance is averaging 14% on treatment that is actually presented, in a good or bad economy.

There are three ways to grow you practice represented by the acronym CARE – Case Acceptance, Retention and the Experience for the new patient. Build your practice from the inside out.

Focus on your existing patients and take massive action to get them coming back at least two times per year. I know it sounds so fundamental and most doctors tell me that their patients already are. Secondly, while they are in the practice generate interest and gain commitment to buy treatment. Once patients have left the office without making a commitment it is virtually impossible to have them buy because the emotion is gone, the education is forgotten, and nothing hurts, so they carry on and get the kids to soccer practice. Instead of fruitless incomplete treatment calls, make calls to get them back into see the hygienist so that the process can start all over.

This is called internal marketing. We define marketing as generating interest. Instead of spending gobs (I love that word) of time and money on creating interest external to your four walls to attract non-trusting people, invest internally on training and incentivizing your team. This will get your team more driven to do the more profitable tasks things that have your patients buy while they are inside.

Instead of telling patients they need to come back (no one likes to be told what to do), explain why making the commitment to the hygiene visit is the source of total health and wellness. Making regular hygiene appointments will make a difference forthem and you have to locate their “why”-- the internal motivation that they already have inside them. It is usually health, function or aesthetics.

When the entire team is coming from the place of purpose that dentistry is the gateway to total health and wellness, it shifts the patients’ perception that hygienists just clean teeth and dentists just fix problems. Going from molar jockeys and gum gardeners to total healthcare providers, you will see a dramatic shift in BA/CA in your hygiene schedule. You will also see your team with a daily “pep in their step” knowing they are making a difference in people’s lives versus “I owe, I owe it’s off to work I go.”

Emotionally touching the personal motivator of the patient (going along with the inside-out theme, touching the patient’s heart on an emotional level) and showing them patient why making and keeping hygiene appointments will make the patients life better.

Your patients will shift thinking “that-is-my-no-miss-health-and-wellness-and-bringing-sexy-back” appointment. My wife never misses her hair color appointment. You can create the same level of tangible urgency with the right people, in the right places, saying the right things. The easiest way to bring tangibility to the patient is to have the patient visually seeing the problem using intra -oral cameras. Now they can see why they should come back without fail. No flat tire, no meeting, no kid’s vomiting, and no “I forgot” will stop them again! Just take them back to the infection and disease growing inside their mouths.

By joining this pioneering health and wellness movement and believing that dentistry is the catalyst for all health and wellness you are opening up a new world for you, your team and the communities you serve. Instantly your patients are buying “looking good,” “feeling good” and “being healthy.” You are no longer selling them. This is much different than fixing problems and your patients dreading being sold something they didn’t think they needed, would cost thousands of dollars, may hurt them and take time out of their day.

Most often, the hygienist is the only health care practitioner that gets two solid hours with a patient. Let’s elevate our hygienists and assistants as practitioners who save and change lives rather than gum gardeners that weed teeth and just assistants who turn rooms and sterilize instruments. Assistants and hygienists are the first and second most trusted positions, so the patient listens to them without judgment. When they say your hair doesn’t bleed when you brush it, nor should your gums when you brush and floss, the patient believes them. When the dentist says it, they think they are paying for your third vacation house on Park Avenue in between Trump and Oprah.

You see, this is a retention system that goes beyond recall systems. Once you have this strategy fully in place, you then need a structure to hold it there and metrics to know if the team is winning and it is working. This is where your practice management software comes in, as well as your team leader.

We recommend getting office mangers outside their office and on the floor to drive the 3Ms of Management. “3M” stands for measure, monitor and make it right. As a leader responsible for sustained change and empowering the team to make new habits stick, the team leader is the lynchpin ensuring follow through.

Once full implementation is made and agreed upon, then look at the scoreboard daily to ensure all team members are driving the practice toward its daily, monthly and annual goals. Office managers should schedule themselves one hour per week to utilize the new Practice Advisor report now available in Dentrix G4 Productivity Pack 7. This report is totally simple and user-friendly and will allow “3M” managers to easily identify the key performance indicators. They can then go directly to the responsible team member to support, re-energize and refocus them.

Now you have the beginning of what I call the future-proof practice. The model and strategy that worked for many years will not produce in today’s new environment. The consumer has changed for generations to come.

Applying the old model is like trying to fly a propeller plane with no gravity. The faster the prop spins the less you move. Eventually the engine burns out. Get off the treadmill of new patient external marketing and look inside yourself, your team and the thousands of patients under your roof right now who want to be healthy, look great and feel well, and help them understand why they will get everything they want from the inside.

Author: Gary Kadi, Founder and CEO of Next Level Practice
Published: 05/04/2010
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