Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Key to a successful dental practice

Two critical requirements for any business to survive and thrive:
1. Acquiring new customers.
2. Keeping them.

The same yardstick applies to a dental practice too!
Gone are the days when patients would be loyal to a particular dentist/practice. As the number of practices has increased so has the choice for the patient. Checking out a few dental practices is the norm for any patient now. In today's world one has a lot of choice in anything one chooses to do or buy. Not that it is always a good thing, but that's how it is and the sooner we accept it the better. Therefore it goes without saying that getting a new patient is not easy.
Having acquired a new patient it becomes equally important to retain them. How does that happen? There are a lot of factors which play a role in this but for now we will focus on one of them: BRAND RECALL.

Brand recall is the emotion/feeling that a customer experiences when s/he thinks about a product. Therefore how a patient feels about our practice is going to decide whether they will return and also if they will promote it and refer others to us. Hence we need to know what goes into creating a positive emotion in the patient's mind regarding our practice. I believe it boils down to the experience that the patient has in a practice, and it does not always mean the quality of dentistry delivered to the patient. In fact this one factor may be the least important from the patient's perspective as delivering good quality of care is a given in any practice. What sets a practice apart are the other things like the soft skills of the dentist and her team, the time spent with the patient, the after-the-appointment experience of  the patient (follow up) etc. If I were to mention only ONE point here I would like to emphasize on listening skills. Many times the patient comes away feeling neglected even if they  got a reasonably good standard of care. Therefore its important to spend time with the patient and LISTEN carefully. Sometimes its not the chief complaint alone that matters. In my experience many times patients want additional information on healthcare or a referral to another specialist which if provided promptly can lead to a long lasting impression. Follow-up is another tool rarely employed by practices. We ought to find out whether the treatment provided helped or not. More often than not we presume that no news is good news when in reality the patient may be elsewhere in some other practice. Once the patient has left our premises its important to make as many points of interaction with the patient as possible.
I strongly believe all of us can do a lot better if we work harder on BRAND RECALL in our practices.

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