In this episode, Sandy Pardue, from Classic Practice, shows us the importance of patient retention and how we might have more patients going out the back door that coming in the front! The first step to a healthy retention system is knowing your numbers. If you know your retention rate, you can locate the problems and put an end to patients falling off the radar. Sandy emphasizes the use of multiple forms of communication and staying top of mind with your patients. While staying in touch with patients is important, spamming them with texts isn't the answer. Building a communicative team that shows the value of dentistry at each visit is the sure path to happy and healthy patients.
Catch Michael and Sandy's conversation here to learn more on patient retention and effective office practices!
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Michael: Hey Sandy. So talk to us about patient retention. How can we utilize this, or what advice or suggestions can you give us that will improve our patient retention?
Sandy: Michael, that's one of my favorite topics because I feel like in dentistry, people aren't paying attention to it.
And I, I'll ask team members and doctors as I see 'em, like, what's your retention rate? And they're like, I don't know. They're clueless about. . And that's really sad because when you think about the marketing, uh, people are spending a lot of money on marketing and they're getting in these new patients, but the new patients aren't staying.
The back door is wide open. Mm-hmm. , and there's so many parts to retention that people don't think about. It's you're getting these patients in right. But there's that internal marketing that plays a big role. And then it's the follow up with recare and the way people feel when they come in. All those things play into people wanting to come back.
So we always talk about this, um, and our consulting and our lectures because it's so important. And so listeners might be thinking, well, Sandy, I've never really thought about what percentage of our patients we retain. . If you think about it, if you've got a practice that's getting 30 or 50 new patients a month, and as time goes by, if you've got 10 years in the practice, how many patients should you have?
Are you still starving for new patients? Because so many left, the retention percentage that we see is 50 to 60%, so that means 50 to 60% of the patients aren't coming. So I wanna give the listeners some tips. Like what? What do you do? Well, first off, learn where you are, and that's fairly easy. In fact, I would implement this system in the practice to.
At the beginning of the month, you train your front office team to to pull a recall report, a recare, whatever you call it in your practice, and find out how many people are due to come in for that month. So let's say the month is March. look at everybody due with or without an appointment to see the hygienist in the month of March.
Write down that number at the end of the month when you're moving into. Now you're gonna pull that same report and see how many people are still on it. It is shocking for a lot of practices. Mm-hmm. . So they find out, wow, only half of our people came in. Or maybe only, only 60% came in. That's still terrible.
Right. So the first part of fixing anything is knowing, okay. Knowing and now watching, monitoring it. Mm-hmm. and then. . The things that people can do is you wanna make sure with your, whatever you're using for your third party software to reach out via text and email or however you do that. You wanna make sure that that is.
Reaching out to people longer than one year, or even longer than 18 months, because when people are out in the world and they're doing their thing, time goes fast. And you don't wanna just write off people and forget about 'em and quit trying to get them back in because a year or 18 months passed.
Mm-hmm. . So I always say, this about retention, like as long as blood is flowing through their veins and they didn't call and say, I'm never coming back. , consider them your patient cuz they consider you their dentist. Right? Hmm,
Michael: that's true. I never thought about that. Where they still consider you So 18 months.
Where would, how would the system look? For example, let's just say we're, we're pulling up our report, we figure out, my gosh, we're at 60%, right? Like, that's, that's pretty bad. Mm-hmm. . Now what's the steps to, I guess, bring them back and keep. .
Sandy: Okay. That's a good question. So what, what you wanna do, and I recommend all practices, just make this standard protocol every January, February, March, like in the beginning of the year, is go back about three years.
You could go as far back as five years if it's an older practice, if the practice has been around for 8, 10, 15 or more years and just go back. As far as three to five years and get last by last visit date. And then you're gonna get a bunch of people, like if you have 4,000 patients, you're gonna get a thousand, 2000 people on this list and reach out to them.
You wanna reactivate them. You see what happens, Michael, is people. if they're not being contacted. what happens is, have you ever heard that, that saying outta sight outta mind? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So I think what happens is we want our patients to come back, or we tell 'em they need to come back, or we make every effort to get 'em back.
And then as time passes and they don't come back, they start feeling a little guilty. And they might even be a little embarrassed to come to the practice because you wanted him there. They may even cheat on you, right? They get this big postcard in the mail from, from the dentist down the street that offers like a big discount on a cleaning, and they go check them out.
But they really, really didn't like it as much as they like your practice and now they're embarrassed to go back because you might know they even have feeling over there. So you're surely gonna know mm-hmm. . So if you stay in contact with them and you're always reaching out, I think you'll stand a much better chance of, of reactivating them and getting them back.
But retention also, uh, starts in hygiene. But what is your hygienist spending her time doing, communicating to that patient? With that time that your hygienist has with them, are they talking about what's gonna happen the next time they come in, or how important it is for them to keep that upcoming appointment because you wanna check in a certain area.
That you communicated. So all those things are really important. So, uh, that knowing your retention percentage starts there and then having a really good recare system and staying in touch with people and better communication and better experience in the practice. Those are all
Michael: important. Gotcha. So let's, let's do that.
Let's, if you can give us the rear care system. So where, like, for example, I'm listening to this episode right now and I'm like, oh. Sandy's right? I gotta put, put this system in here. How can we implement it tomorrow? How can we insert.
Sandy: Okay, great question. So the first thing that people need to do is learn what their software is actually doing for them.
Like if you're texting or emailing or whatever your protocol is, learn what that software is doing. And you wanna sit down with your team. A lot of teams don't even know how often a text is sent. They know nothing. They don't even know what the message is. So you wanna look at the protocols for a pre-scheduled person or a person that left with no appointment.
They left the practice with no appointment. you need to look at both of those scenarios and you wanna write like a flow chart of what needs to happen. So let's take Prescheduled for example. Well, first off, I'll just have to throw this in here. Mm-hmm. is, you shouldn't be pre-scheduling every single appointment for every single patient, you wanna make sure that you, you're not putting people that are repeat offenders with broken appointments six months away. So let's say you're pre-scheduling about 80% of your people. time goes by and about three weeks before that appointment, you wanna reach out to them. I prefer a card, okay, for that first contact.
But if you'd prefer an email, just keep in mind that 28% are opened. Maybe it's a text, but it's three weeks before the appointment is the first contact, and that message is going to let them know that they have an appointment if they need to change it, that you need to know at least 48 hours in. Then moving closer to the appointment.
Three days before the appointment, you send out an email. Two days before the appointment, you're gonna send out a confirmation text. If you don't hear back from them the day before the appointment, you're gonna call and that confirmation text is gonna let them know. If we don't hear back from you, we're gonna put somebody else in that spot.
Mm-hmm. . And so you're gonna call though the day before just as one more try to get. And then you might have to put somebody else. If you can't get them there, then I like a same day text first thing in the morning that's telling them again, uh, we're looking forward to seeing you at two o'clock this afternoon.
So it's kind of a. Done deal. It's a matter of fact. We look forward to seeing you. So that's, that's pretty much it. And, uh, you can mix it up though. It's like, here's the thing, A lot of times people just send out so many texts and emails that it becomes spam. And I hear people talking about it. And as you know, everywhere you go they wanna text you.
I mean, just today I got, I had so many texts. I got a text from the Vigo Garden people and the bond plants people, or everybody I've done business with. Janie and Jack kids clothes, it gets ridiculous. So what's happening is it's not just dentistry that's texting people, right?
It's everybody texting and they give you a discount if you give your cell phone number. So people are doing that, right? So you're getting all this text and so it's getting a little annoying. So you need to mix up your communications, emails and text and phone and physical.
Michael: Gotcha. Okay. I like that a lot.
You're right. It now that you mention it, , you do see it like a lot of texts coming in and it's like, oh, okay. It's the same. You can even almost tell like the same systems that they're using kind of thing. You're like, okay, same software, same soft. Okay, so real quick, um, I wanna know, what marketing techniques have you seen when it comes to patient retention work internally?
Sandy: Internally. Well, I'm gonna tell you, it starts with the experience and I always tell people it's like I pay a ridiculous amount for my haircut. And you guys might be looking to say, really? Well, it's been since before Christmas. I just made an appointment this morning that I'm going for later this week, but I pay.
$90 for a haircut plus a tip, which is a lot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Okay, but why? Why would I do that? he's not that good. I mean, he's good, but I'm telling you, it's the way you feel when you go there. It's beautiful. That doesn't mean you have to go redo your office, but the smell, oh, I could, it. . It just is wonderful.
I mean, I, I love the way that place smells. Everybody is so friendly and they're always on time, okay? Mm-hmm. , I never have to wait. It's easy to get in. Those are the things that patients are gonna look at when they think about you compared to their previous dentist or their doctor. It's how you make them.
Were they welcomed? Did you have to ask their name or did you know their name? How did it go through the, through the entire appointment? Did you make them feel uncomfortable? Did you embarrass them? I mean, all these things have to be considered the only thing that's gonna separate your practice from the practice next door or a block away is how you make that patient feel.
They're not gonna remember what you say. They're gonna remember how you made them.
Michael: Awesome, Sandy, I appreciate your time and if anyone has further questions, you can definitely find her on the Dental Marketer Society Facebook group, or where can they reach out to you directly?
Michael: practice.com. Awesome. So guys, that's gonna be in the show notes below, so definitely go check it out, sign up to her upcoming seminars. Also listen to our podcast that we have, together and where we dive deeper on this dental drill bit. Yes, definitely go check that out. It's gonna be in the show notes below. And uh, Sandy, thank you for being with me on this Monday morning marketing episode.
Sandy: Loved it. Happy scheduling everybody.