Hey there, Michael Arias here, and on this week's Monday Morning Marketing episode, we're continuing the essential topic - patient retention. This episode is brought to you by the one and only Sandy Pardue, of Classic Practice, and our podcast Dental Drill Bits. Did you know that up to 50% of patients leave practices over the course of five years? That's a staggering number, but there are steps you can take to combat it. One of the simplest is to ask your patients how their last visit was and really listen to their answers. It's important to never give up on retaining patients, even if they've been inactive for years. With around 170,000 dentists in the US, it's crucial to stand apart by showing how much you appreciate your patients being there. Most importantly, don't forget to always keep an eye on your attrition numbers! It's hard to fix what we don't track, so these metrics are especially important for the health of your practice.
Dive into my conversation with Sandy Pardue to learn more on patient retention!
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Michael: Hey, what's up Sandy?
Sandy: Michael? Hey, I, I was just, uh, looking at our reviews on iTunes.
Michael: Nice. Yeah. Guys, don't forget, if you can press pause right now. Go leave us a review on iTunes. Let us know how we're. And then come back and listen in. Cuz in this episode we're gonna be talking about something super important.
I'm sure you're looking at the title Why Patients Lead.
Sandy: Yep, yep, yep. This is a deep topic, . Okay. This the deep topic and for the listeners, and they've heard us talk about patient retention, which is gross. You know, we've talked about that. And, and for the new listeners, I mean, they'll, you just have to know this number if you say like, okay.
Like 170,000 dentists. You hear these different reports, 166,000, 170,000. But we all know, cause you've worked in these practices that get at least 10 new patients a month. Right? Some of them are getting 20, 30, 40, 50, a hundred new patients a month. So I'm gonna say we know that at least 1.6 million people are changing dentists every single month in the United States of America Now.
That being said, I saw another interesting statistic then from the American Dental Association that said that 25% to 50% of patients in any given practice are lost over a five year period. Whoa. That's crazy. Okay. I believe that, actually believe that could be worse now than it than ever. Because of so much of their automation, we have less personal contact.
Mm-hmm. with people now because we're all living so fast and we count on text and that kind of thing. You need those personal, the personal contact for sure. But you know, when you look at people in general, and we already know that they don't love coming to the dentist. But why do they leave? And, and here's the thing.
Most practices are not tracking this, and that's scary to me. Mm-hmm. , so they don't have any idea how many people are not coming back. And then the whole recall process is terrible in most practices. So what you need to do, I like to keep an attrition monitor. An attrition monitor. Now this could be as simple as having an Excel.
Where your front office, every time they learn that somebody is left the practice, they put the name in and uh, their family members and why they're leaving. If they say they changed dentists because of insurance or they changed dentists and you don't know why, or maybe they moved out of town, maybe they died.
So you've got all this information, okay, about that patient, and you can start to see who's leading. And I think that's very interesting to track. But the fact is that most practices don't do that. They don't really look close into their recall process to see that, okay, maybe in the beginning of October they had 300 people that needed a cleaning.
They never go back in November and pull that same report and see that they still have 180 people that are due to come. In October, they did not come in. That's a huge problem, but why? Okay, why? Why is this happening? Number one, no one's watching. Number two, no one's following up. That is huge. And number three, nobody's actually tracking it, so, Those are the things that the practices need to implement versus, here's the thing, and I was explaining this to a friend of ours yesterday who was looking for a local dentist and he's been going to somebody and he is not having a success with some work that he, major work that he was having done and this particular practice he's been going to, I see a lot of TV ads and things and I'm, so that tells me, and I happen to know they're getting about 150 new patients a month and they've been getting 150 new patients a month for 10.
So where are the people going? They haven't had to hire more hygienist, right? This is telling me that people are coming in and they're not staying. So practices that are listening, you need to be paying attention to this. But one thing you can do, this'll help you get some of them back and find out while they're leaving.
Now you guys, you've heard me talk a lot about the reactivation program that I, I love, and that's like sending. Postcards with return service address on there. So you get back the, to see who moved without ever having to call them. You, they call you, you get back about 20% without a phone call. It's a great project to do, but uh, you could also do a fall insurance letter.
That's a great thing to do right now. These are all activities to get people, but you've gotta communicate and you've gotta find. Why they're leaving. Okay. When you do this type of activity that I'm about to describe, you'll learn a lot about your practice. So what you wanna do is. Somebody that's a good communicator in your practice.
If it's been around and they know some of these patients, that's even better. You wanna get them on the phone, they start calling and you let 'em know we're updating our patient records and we notice you haven't been in for a while. And then zip it up, let them talk now. And uh, they see what they say.
Well, yeah, I know I need to get in. Or they say, well, I've changed Dennis, or I'm never coming back there. And that's when you. That pointed question. If I asked you a question, how was your last visit here? And then listen and see what you can learn. See what you can learn. Now, if somebody immediately says, put me in your inactive files, okay, , and sometimes they do that and sometimes they might just hang up, but you can't be scared of them.
You just keep doing, and that's where your scheduler is gonna try to discover any problems, because here's the. Patients can act crazy, but most of them are not gonna be crazy. And then sometimes when we meet these practices that are constantly firing patients, they are firing people less than, right? Well, I promise you that many people aren't crazy when you've got the practice two doors down, that never fires anybody.
That tells you that the people inside the practice are the ones running them off. Does that make sense? Mm-hmm.
Michael: Yeah, that does, that makes a lot of sense. And I like that. So we're asking them almost like as a post-op kind of thing, right. Once they're home or something, we ask them, how was your last visit here?
Or once they're in the practice, we're like, Hey, the visit before this, how was that? Yeah.
Sandy: Or, or say it like, can I ask you a question? I'll always like to say that first. Mm-hmm. and, and with a high pitch at the end. Can I ask you a question? And wait, how was your last visit here? That just opens up a conversation and that's when they come out with all kinds of things.
Like they left me in that chair and nobody tam to check on me. I was so thirsty. I was . You know, people get upset about things, right? They get quoted the wrong fees, the fee changes. Nobody told them in advance. Thought they were gonna see Susan, but uh, April was the hygienist. You know, they get, there's all these reasons because people are really sensitive about their mouths.
Okay. I'm just gonna tell you, people are super sensitive about their mouths. They are. And so, and people are just, they expect good customer service, especially people. West High expectations, more successful people. You know, they're used to going to the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton, and you want these kind of patients.
You know why they have money and they have rich friends, and so you wanna cater to these people. You don't wanna make them mad, and so you've gotta make sure we talk a lot about the tone of the office. Well, you've gotta make sure that your team is supporting you and your view. And they're happy to be there and they're wearing smiles cuz all of these things contribute to patients leaving.
They have a lot to do with your attrition. So you've got your team supporting you and complimenting you. A practice should be growing, not shrinking. So every year you should be growing and need, you need to hire more people. It's because you're retaining and growing these people that say they're never coming back.
You need to let them know the person that's calling, well, I'm sorry. We're not gonna be seeing you here again. We sure did enjoy having you as a patient. You know, a lot of times people when they hear something like that, they may be in between of leaving the practice. Maybe they were going to leave and then they got this phone call and they heard something like, And they, they never found that other dentist, so they will go ahead and appoint.
You can, you should never give up on your patients. I had somebody I saw in Dentaltown recently where he said he was gonna inactivate everybody that hadn't been in 18 months. Well, my gut got real tight. Okay. I'm just like, ugh. Because I know how hard it is to get those new patients and 18 months goes by really fast.
Mm-hmm. , I went 15 months without getting my teeth cleaned. Last time I did Sandy Cardew, I did , and so it just made everything. I'm glad my dentist didn't inactivate me. That's insane. Of course, I know how to take care of my. And, you know, I have a little scaler at home, so I believe me, I'm, I'm okay. But you, you know, people leave most of the time cause of the service they received or they felt like it wasn't fair or they didn't like they were treat the way they were treated.
That's what they always remember how they were treated. So that one phone call to follow up on these people that hadn't been. Instead of saying, hi, this is Sandy from Dr. Gutes, I was calling to set up an appointment. You know you're gonna be more personable with them. Letting them know, with missed seeing you, doctor asked me to call.
And you do it in such a kind voice. You don't, it's not just, I'm following them, schedule an appointment to you or send a text like I got yesterday. It's time for your cleaning. I didn't even say what dental office it was from . I was like, who is. Was it from my husband or me? I didn't, you know, and then I saw the text, and by now I've gotten about 25, 30 other texts and I forgot all about it until I was just talking about it here, ,
Michael: until right now.
I was just talking about, yeah, exactly. So then the, the three points keep, no one's watching, no one's following up, no one's tracking. No one's watching is we have to keep an attrition monitor. Right? Yeah. And that. What is that in our practice management
Sandy: software or No, you need to create your own Excel document,
Michael: and that is you're literally looking at who needs to be reactivated.
You're following up with the
Sandy: calls and stuff. The attrition monitor are the people that have left the practice. Those are the people. You're gonna only enter the people that are not coming back, so, You have pulled a report from your dental software, you see who hasn't been in for a long time. Go back three years, go back five years, you have a smaller practice, go back five years.
Then what happens is as you're making these calls, then you find out someone's not coming back. They're entered on that sheet. So it could be that they moved out of town. They changed dentists. They changed dentists because of insurance. I wanna put that in a separate category. So let's see, what did I say?
Change dentists, say Joseph of insurance and moved out of town and deceased. So, and then I like to send a letter to every one of them. If they're deceased, they get a sympathy, the family gets a sympathy. So some type of communication goes to them. Even if they changed Dennis, it's because of insurance. I want them to know that they're welcome to come back to the practice.
And so I'm calling these people, it's like I'm, I'm calling all these people that haven't been in, and I'm not calling them for a cleaning. I'm calling them because doctor asked me to call. Cuz we miss seeing them in the practice and I'm continuing this conversation letting them know how much we've enjoyed seeing them on a regular basis.
You know, ideally we're gonna reactivate them. If they say, oh, well you know what, I'm not coming back. Or, you know, my grandson is a dentist. Now, you know, or you are gonna tell you all these things. Or if you don't really know the reason why, it's okay to say, well, in order to complete our clinical records, may I ask why you wish to become inactive for the reason, and then they'll tell.
And then you make sure that you put that in, in the computer file. And if it's like a, it's, it's an upset. You know, a lot of times when you're talk to these people, you realize they're upset about something, some misunderstanding or, or bad communication somewhere. You've gotta get that handled. You've gotta report it to the doctor and get it handled cuz they're gonna go around and tell everybody.
Michael: Mm-hmm. . Okay. Okay. And then that's how you keep it, the monitoring, right? The attrition you have to follow up with. every
Sandy: week. To me it should be going ongoing. Like every day she's making a few calls and she's putting on the list, and then doctor as or the manager says, oh, can I see our attrition list? How are we doing?
Oh my goodness, look at this. We learned out of those calls that she made in a week that we lost 25 patients. It's just data. Okay? Running a business, you've gotta have data. Stats are everything. I love them. They, they give you a picture of everything going on, and so that. If you have a lot of people leaving the practice, you need to know.
And if you're not keeping up with it, you don't really know it, or you just know a number and you don't know who it was. So I like to communicate to the people that leave because they do come back. I've seen that first in, and they'll come back.
Michael: Gotcha. So then what do we do in this scenario when they're like, oh, you know what?
Yeah, I didn't like that. Uh, I didn't like that this person did that. Or did something happen? That's why I left. I, I'm finding another person. Right. Is. Are we trying to win them back or is it more like, oh my
Sandy: goodness, always, because if you don't, they're going to go talk around town for the next 10 years about you.
It's always better to have friends. It's always better to have really good relationships in life. Um, you know, it's never good to have somebody that's not happy with your service. And, you know, people, like, if you think about, you know, why, like, why would I stay at my dental office? Well, you know, I kinda like 'em.
I like how I feel when I go in there. Everybody's really friendly and I feel comfortable because I'd been there for a long time. And I feel like that work has lasted, that, that dental work. I mean, it, that's what people say, things like that. Right? Or, you know, they love it when they get like, oh, you know, I get my birthday cards from my dentist.
He's the first one that sends me a birthday card every single month. And people like that, they like it. Or, or you can hear 'em talking like, oh, my dentist, this is, this is what my husband's friend told me yesterday. I like this, Dennis. He's got a lot of good UpToDate technology. Hmm. He said, but I, I just don't like what he's doing with my den.
And I'm like, okay. So this is a guy that my husband has known for about 50 years that he worked with about 50 years ago. And every year they have a phone conversation. And that was yesterday. And I overheard some of this conversation. So he has an upper denture and he w, he was in an accident years ago and he lost some of his teeth.
So he is trying to, he want some implants, he's trying to do some work with to his mouth and he doesn't like what's happening. So he calls us and starts telling us about all this You. And that's what they do. He said, you know what, one thing I do like too is they gave me his, an emergency number after I had my surgery there.
And so that was the thing that impressed him. So he was impressed that the technology, he was impressed that he got that doctor said, look, if you have any problems, give me, um, you know, give me a call at this number. And so you're giving them kind of like you're impressing them and they have like a reason to, to stay.
And they're, they're looking if they found your practice and they're gonna stay. If you have, number one, a good care system, number two, you are communicating with them for that recall process, right? You're reaching out, you're in the calling, you're texting, you're sending cards, whatever it is you're doing, you're not being idle.
And I'm telling. The way they feel when they come in there, in that atmosphere and the technology and how easy it is to get an appointment. Those are the things that they are gonna like. Oh, and, and look, we had a friend that told us this at dinner one night. It's like every time I go to the dentist, I'm telling you, I, it's like he's mad and he's just assistant, he's like throwing the instruments down and I don't know what's going on.
Look, those are the little things that make a difference in the practice. Okay? So you can't, you can't do that. You cannot do that. And, and the way the team are interacting with each other. Yeah. They also, the things that's gonna have them stay to your practice is because, you know, if you come across. That you're rushed being impatient or you know, you seem like you're mad at your employees, they're mad at them, or you're not telling them what's going on with their mouth.
The last hygienist I saw was so good and she, she knew I was in the dental industry, but I think she probably does this with all the patients. So she was like telling me constantly, you know, what she was gonna be doing and um, yeah. And if they feel like. Overcharging or focusing on money, that'll be a turnoff for sure.
I think that if the practice is giving them more reasons to stay, you're, they're gonna be fine. Being aware of who's coming, leaving. Okay. Who's staying? You've gotta, you gotta take care of your patients. .
Michael: Yeah, I like that. Like it's, as long as we don't see it, like you said, idly by. Right. Like, give them more reasons to stay than to leave.
Right. I mean, maybe mistakes will happen. The more can compensate for that, right? Yeah. Um, and then monitor them. Any final words for this
Sandy: episode? The only other thing I wanna add, Michael, is I would like for everybody to start watching that attrition number and know how many patients they're retaining.
That is the most important statistic that you can keep. You're always looking for new patients. Let's close the back door. Let's keep some of those patients as you currently have.
Michael: Gotcha. Awesome. So guys, if you want to talk about this episode, come on the podcast or submit any questions. Then you can do so by joining the Facebook group Dental Gumbo.
And at the same time, don't forget to leave us a review on iTunes. It helps us out a ton. So please go ahead and do that. And thank you guys so much for tuning in, and we'll talk to you in the next
Sandy: episode. Yeah, Rebe, have fun. Reactivating those patients.