In a perfect world every time you acquired a new patient, that patient would become a regular and permanent member of your patient schedule. And you’d take all the new patients you could until you were at maximum patient capacity.
Then you’d sit back, relax and take care of your current patient base, no longer worried about getting new people to come in.
But, this isn’t a perfect world. Instead, patients come in for one appointment and never come back, leaving you in a constant cycle of trying to make up for these lost patients.
It’s frustrating yet inevitable. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lessen the chance that a new patient becomes lost.
- Send new patients a welcome letter
Even before they walk through your door, you should make patients feel like part of your practice family. Establishing early that you’re genuinely excited to serve that patient forms a positive association with you in their minds and increases the likelihood that they’ll form an attachment to your office. A welcome letter is a great way to do this. Make sure the letter has a friendly, personal tone—almost like you’re having a one-sided conversation with them. Once you’re satisfied with the letter, print out a stack and sign them, so they’re ready to be sent out to every new patient who sets up an appointment.
- Greet them with respect and enthusiasm
Every person working in the front office should know of all new patients arriving on a given day, the time they’re expected and their names. This way whoever sees the patient first will be able to welcome with over-the-top patient service. Start out with a greeting like “Welcome to Dr. Smith’s office, you must be Jane,” and then follow it up with an invitation to sit down while you bring out any paperwork they need to complete. Offer a beverage if you have them. Make them feel like they are the top priority to your day. Then once you see they are comfortably settled, give them their space for the (short!) wait.
- Start building the relationship before the dental work starts
No one likes being asked questions while their mouth is hanging open. Once you start the appointment, try keeping conversation to a minimum. Instead, once you and the patient are in the exam room, take the first few minutes to get to know them. Ask them questions about their job, family, hobbies, etc. Ask them how their day has been or if they have any concerns about their dental health. You’ll further establish a relationship and avoid making them uncomfortable as they try to speak mid-cleaning.
- Explain what you are going to do
Even if it’s a routine cleaning, take a minute or two to walk the patient through their appointment. Then they can ask questions if they have them, making them feel more comfortable during the actual appointment. This is especially important for patients who are anxious at the dentist, as a lot of their fear may come from simply not understanding what is being done to them.
- End the appointment with the offer to schedule the next one
Sometimes, the patient never come back to your office simply because they forget to make an appointment early enough. Then when they call in and you’re full at the time they’d like, they simply go somewhere else that can fit them in. Avoid this by asking them before they leave to schedule their next visit. This allows you to be flexible and set up something that works with their schedule, making them much more likely to come back.
- Call to follow-up and see if your care exceeded expectations
Seal the deal after a new patient’s first visit by calling to follow up a few days after their appointment. This should be friendly check-in to make sure they were happy with their appointment, and if not, to see how you can make things right. It’s the perfect complement to your welcome letter to complete the cycle of patient care and cement the idea in the patient’s mind that you are a dental provider worth coming back to.