Lots of optimistic economic news in the media this week, even Mervyn King looked cheerful! At Breathe this week we’ve just completed another round of Breathe Business Club Meetings, during which we catch up with around 30 practice owners and their management teams. We’re delighted that some of our practices are having their best months ever this year. One practice has added 30% to their turnover since November last (circa £1.1 to £1.4 million), another has nearly doubled their turnover since last July (from £390k to £740k). Many Breathe practices are using tactics that are still rather unusual in General Dental Practice and, to underline our open-source approach to good ideas, I have listed our top 20 most effective tactics which help our clients keep their diaries overflowing.
Here’s a really radical idea, why not implement all 20 tactics? If you do, or even get close, please let me know how they have helped you.
20 Tactics To Fill Your Diaries:
- Offer fixed priced, same day, private Emergency Treatment, for non-registered patients. Optimise your web site for search terms that people with dental pain use (ask your web site designer to establish what they are in your catchment) and add a page to your web site that gives information on your service and how to access it. Zone your diaries to accommodate at least one of these patients per dentist per day. Be kind and effective with these emergency patients and around half of them will come back for a new patient consultation. All of them will tell their friends and relatives what a fantastic practice you have.
- Increase your Opening Hours. Offer appointments from breakfast time to supper time, 0700 to 1930hrs. In our new age of austerity, patients are finding it increasingly difficult to take time off work for dental treatment, particularly routine treatment such as Check Ups and Hygiene appointments. Make it easy for them by offering appointments on the way to and on the way home from work.
- Saturday Opening. For the same reasons as No 2, make it easy for patients to come to your practice. Patients love Saturday Hygiene appointments! Change the atmosphere in the practice on a Saturday, have the Saturday newspapers, a pile of fresh croissants and good coffee and the patients won’t want to go home!
- Walk In Hygiene Appointments. Most Hygienist diaries suffer from late cancellations. Why not offer patients (those you know and those you haven’t met yet) access to your hygienists, without the need for a visit to the dentist. The new regulations allow patients to self refer to a Hygienist. Highlight this service on your web site home page and optimise your site for this availability. Many patients want the “look good feel good” mouth they get after a visit to the Hygienist. Also, consider that the first step for a really nervous patient might be to have their teeth gently cleaned by a sympathetic Hygienist.
- Double your Check Up Times. Consider the effect of having twice as long to spend with your returning patients. More time to build rapport, examine, test and diagnose, more time to show them the inside of their mouths, more time to discuss the benefits of a comprehensive treatment plan rather than single unit dentistry…. etc etc!
- Stop doing Scale and Polishes and start Treating Perio Disease. Perio disease is still the main cause of tooth loss and now there is increasing evidence of the link it has to serious systemic illnesses. Scale and Polishing teeth is not a particularly effective answer for your patients. Start a new crusade for your patients and, with your Hygienists, help them get rid of their periodontal disease.
- Get A Web Site that Works. Get hold of your Google Analytics data and find out what it means! Are you getting enough unique visitors to your web site (more than 500/month?). Are 6% of them contacting your practice reception? How are they contacting you? If you are not getting enough web site traffic and around 6% calls to action, find out how to fix it. Around a third of your new patients should be coming from your web site.
- Lift your New Patient Value. Assess the value (in ££££) of your new patients. At Breathe, we see a tremendous range in New Patient Value from an average of around £190 to over £4000. Make sure you give your dentists enough time to build rapport with new patients, co-discover, co-diagnose, co-treatment plan with them and have plenty of time to talk about treatment options and next steps. Personally, I would want an hour for this appointment.
- Make sure your patients know what Services your Practice can offer.Many patients have no idea of the extent and range of your services. They may even look elsewhere for a service that you supply but they have assumed you don’t or won’t. Use screens, menus, posters, before and afters and, most of all, talk to patients about what you can do.
- Put up A Banner, and change it regularly! A highly visible, temporary banner outside your practice (usually no planning permission required) can have an instant effect on bringing in enquirers. Use copy such as: “Now open Late on Thursdays and Fridays – new patients welcome”, “Now open all day Saturday – new patients welcome”, “Find out how dental implants can give you a wonderful smile”, “Say goodbye to dentures – find out how implants can change your life”.
- Learn how to Get a Yes! Stop saying to patients: “Would you like to think about it?”, “Would you like to discuss it with your husband?”, “Ill send you a treatment plan in the post.” And start saying: “Would you like to get started?”, “Shall we book and appointment?”, “Would you prefer an implant or a denture?”
- Stop doing Single Unit Dentistry! Obviously, you can’t stop, but you can make your treatment plans bigger and ethical if you focus on more than one tooth at a time. Multiple unit dentistry can be better for the patient and better for your diary.
- Keep a Short Notice Cancellation List. Many patients would like to come in sooner than the appointment they have been given, or they may be willing to help you out by coming in sooner. So when patients re-arrange appointments at short notice (despite your reception’s best efforts) make sure that reception has a list of patients they can phone to come in at short notice.
- Zone your Diaries! If you keep time for high value treatments every day, and ring fence it so that niff-naff and trivia appointments aren’t allowed near it, you and your dentists will focus on filling this time (rather than having it stay unbooked). This will quickly lift your daily gross as well as squeeze all the low value appointments together.
- If your diary Is very lightly booked, Spread the Check Ups Out. Don’t bunch them up, leave at least 30-45 minutes between them so that if they need some work doing, you/your dentists can do it there and then.
- Sign your patients onto a Compelling Membership Scheme! Be generous, add value, create a scheme that is truly in the patients interest to join (not just yours!) This will fill your diaries and those of your hygienists with retuning patients.
- Offer Invisible Orthodontics. This high value treatment is much sought after from Truro to Dundee. If you’re not offering it, your patients may be looking elsewhere. (See No 9.)
- Offer Online Booking. Breathe members who have embraced this are amazed at its popularity. Folk who are looking for a new practice at evenings and weekends are especially keen to book themselves into your diaries without having to ring your reception during office hours.
- Get a Cerec Machine! In our non-stop society, people are increasingly reluctant to wait 2 weeks for their final restoration. Cad-cam technology in the right hands, can be the way to go for many treatment plans. Surprisingly few practices have embraced this technology.
- Stop Missing Phone Calls! I promise you that your practice is missing many many calls. In one study Breathe was part of, 70 practices were missing on average 734 calls per week! Patients, particularly new patients, are reluctant to leave messages. If you haven’t got one, get a high tech phone system which can do one or some of these: Divide calls into New Patients and Retuning Patients and direct them to different desks within the practice. Have a hierarchal ring-around system so that if the call is not answered quickly by reception it is automatically directed to another phone and then another etc. Have a facility to have your phone answered by a human being when your practice is closed. Avoid at all costs using recorded message answer phones.
If you would like to chat about how to implement these tactics in your practice, then give me a call on 07770 430576 or drop me a firstname.lastname@example.org
With All Good Wishes,
Simon Hocken BDS.
Director of Coaching