When I was single, I used to ask women who their dentist was as a bit of an icebreaker when we got around to asking each other about work. The answer far too many times was, “I have a dentist, but I have not been in a while.” Sometimes they did not even remember the name of the office.
I learned two things: don’t date people who don’t have a dentist, and there is not a lot of loyalty when it comes to dentistry. With the Covid-19 shutdown of dental offices, this problem is going to be exacerbated because even patients who are used to getting cleanings like clockwork are now having that routine broken. How offices handle the downtime and the return to normal will determine whether those patients become free agents. This is no time for business as usual. This article will point out some ways you can maintain the loyalty of your hygiene patients.
Stay in contact
As a software trainer, I have been in hundreds of dental offices and regularly leave my contact information in the database. I have been receiving a steady stream of Covid-19 emails from my clients. The first email I received was before the stay at home order and it outlined the routine sterilization the office already had in place. As someone who was presumably going to continue going to dental offices, at the time it helped ease any anxiety I might have. Your patients should be reassured that your practice is going to be one of the safer places to be once they start coming out of hibernation. Sending a mass email to all your patients, outlining your current sterilization protocol as well as any improvements you may be making in light of the new reality, can put you ahead of the hairdresser on the list of places to go once things start opening up.
Take advantage of the downtime
I just trained a client online and we were looking at ways she could take advantage of her downtime. I pointed out a feature that would add efficiency to her note writing and she reminded me that I had shown her this years ago, but she never found the time to implement the solution. You are never (hopefully) going to get a chance like this again. Review all your processes and look for ways your office can be more productive.
Efficiently reschedule patients
Take stock of the patients you have in your recall system and make a plan for booking them once things get going again. Decide if you want to prioritize the displaced patients, or if you will treat it like business as usual. Keep in mind you will have at least 2 months’ worth of patients who need to be accommodated on top of the patients who are due when we get back. Mass communication will be a great tool once things get rolling again. Let your patients know you are back in business and they are due for a cleaning. It is also a good idea to purge charts in the meantime. Inactivate patients who don’t come to your practice and archive or shred charts as necessary. *Side note* This is a great opportunity to go paperless if you have not done so already.
Streamline in office time
Once this pandemic has passed it is anyone’s guess how long it will take to get people back to normal. When will we go back to shaking hands? When will we pack a movie theatre to see a bunch of people in spandex battle for world supremacy? When will we be willing to sit in a crowded dental waiting room, or wait on a receptionist to answer the phone, give out the washroom key and bill the person in front of us before booking our next cleaning? I am not sure we were too happy about doing that last thing even before all of this. Chair side billing and booking can help limit the amount of time the patient has to spend in the common areas of your office.
We really don’t know exactly what is going to happen next. Our industry has to be ready to meet the shifting demands of our clients. We have to do what we can to maintain their loyalty. I know first hand how fleeting that loyalty can be. The proof is my wife switched to my dentist after we got married!!