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Howard Speaks: You’ve Got To Appeal to Patients by Dr. Howard Farran

Howard Speaks: You’ve Got To Appeal to Patients 

by Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, publisher, Dentaltown magazine

Your patients aren’t just the people who are treated in your practice—they’re the people who keep you in business by teaching you the most about your practice. If you want to be successful, you have to listen to them.

The most important thing to remember when you listen to patients is that you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Compliments are great—who doesn’t want to hear those?—but if you ignore or disregard the negative feedback you’re getting from patients, you’re missing an opportunity to improve the way you and your team practice.

First impressions are everything
Today’s patients are more familiar than ever with the advanced technology available in dental practices, and they’re likely to find an office that offers what they’re looking for.

For example, I know a patient who recently decided to not pursue clear aligner treatment at one particular dental practice because they mentioned they’d be taking putty impressions. His large tori had always made effectively seating impression trays uncomfortable and difficult, for one thing, but he also thought the fact the practice hadn’t already invested in intraoral scanners was a clue that his patient experience might probably be outdated in other ways, too.

During the course of his treatment, three friends expressed interest in clear aligners, so he referred them to the practice he did choose. I don’t know if all three of those friends did indeed agree to treatment, but if they had, and that first practice had invested in an intraoral scanner, the fees from those four cases alone would have helped recoup a huge chunk of the cost.

Keeping up with the (Dr.) Joneses
Now, I know some of you might be thinking, “Well, that first practice could’ve given your friend the same—or maybe even better— treatment than the one he chose! Good dental care doesn’t rely just on the latest technology.” This may be true, but the first practice will never get the chance to demonstrate its great care to any of those patients—or the friends they might in turn refer for treatment—because it has fallen behind the curve.

Another example: Most dental practices miss 30% of inbound calls. How often are your potential and existing patients being sent to voicemail? How often are they forced to hang out on hold? You’ve likely experienced the same thing when you called a credit card company or cellphone carrier, and you know how frustrating it is. Why are you insisting that your patients put up with the same treatment? How many potential new patients hang up rather than leaving a message or putting up with an extended hold time?

We hear all the time how dentistry is a competitive market. You may be a great dentist, but you’re not the only great dentist around—in fact, you’re probably not even the only great dentist within a few square miles of your practice! When you rest too comfortably for too long, you’re going to get passed by the pack.

Howard would love to hear your thoughts about this column. Post your questions and comments in the comments field under this column.

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