If you want to build a dental practice where patients are beating a path to your door, then there is one person who can help you: your new patient.
Successful practices realise that the new patient experience cannot happen ‘by accident’. It needs to be a planned process. From the conversation with the receptionist when scheduling the appointment, all the way through to the patient exiting the practice after they have completed their first visit. It is up to the practice team to make sure this experience for the patient is a positive one. You get one chance to make a good first impression, and the goal is to have every new patient enjoy the visit and then become loyal, hopefully referring, patients of your practice.
Your new patient can provide the information you need in order to construct this experience. They are the ones whom you are trying to impress. We can guess what they are thinking. But we will often be wrong, so it is good business practice to ASK.
Asking patients for feedback can be done a number of ways, through processes such as surveys and providing a feedback option on your website. However, the information that the patient can provide is so important that I encourage your practice to adopt a new process: call the new patient the day after their first visit and get their opinion.
Make the discussion friendly and engaging, asking the questions within the conversation rather than formally jumping from one question to another. It has been my experience that the more effective team member to conduct this call is the receptionist. (As a general comment, patients tend to be more polite than honest with the dentist. The call also needs to be made with a team member with whom the patient has commenced to develop rapport.)
Hi there Patient, Thanks so much for visiting our practice yesterday. I am calling to ask how your appointment went. Have you got a moment?
Reflecting on your experience from booking the appointment until now,
- What did you like about your experience?
- What didn’t you like?
- Was your experience good enough that you would refer a friend?
Once the patient starts talking, then be quiet and listen. You want them to say as much as possible. Have a notepad to write down all that is said.
Asking the patient directly over the phone has several positives:
- The patient will not be expecting this call and will be impressed that your practice cares so much about their personal experience
- Because they are separated by a phone-line, there is a higher likelihood for honest, rather than polite, feedback
- Your practice will receive vital information on what needs to be modified in order to minimise any negative elements to your ‘new patient experience’
- Your team will discover the areas you get right, and ensure these positives remain a consistent part of your service
- The patient will feel part of the continual process of business improvement, therefore a deeper engagement is developed.
Be mindful that this conversation leverages off the initial trust you have developed with the patient. The more effective you are in this trust-building process, the more honest, thoughtful and useful the patient feedback will be.
Share the feedback from all your new patient follow-up calls with the team at your next meeting. Get everyone’s input on how to modify the practice processes to continuously improve what you offer as your new patient experience.