Going to a dental practice is an intimate experience. It is one fraught with pain emotionally and financially. Dentists need to look at why people leave and fix what they can so they don't lose patients.
Warning: This article is not for the weak at heart. This is the brutal truth … the truth that “we” your patients don’t tell you. Why? Because when we are done with you, we are soooo done. Haven’t you wondered why that patient you really, really liked never came back? Here are the reasons why…
You are always late!
Do you know how often I have to use my PTO because you are running late? It drives me absolutely nuts! For me to get stuck sitting in your waiting room because you came back late from lunch, the patient before me was late, or you had to take an emergency is infuriating. Life happens. If you are running late, please just pick up the phone and call me as early as possible. I will stay at work longer and not waste my vacation time. This is such an easy solution to solve. That is how you can get me back.
Read the next reason on page 2...
Your staff is always bickering right in front of me
Do you have any idea what it is like to be nervous that I am getting a painful shot in my mouth … and I have the joy of listening to the backstabbing that is going on in your practice? Your staff needs to stop talking about personal problems at work. I expect to come to a professional practice where there is a team of folks going to work together to take care of me. At your practice, that is … shall we politely say … lacking? You want me back? Fire your staff if they can’t work out their problems behind closed doors. That is how you can get me back.
Read the next reason on page 3...
You charge too much!
I know that dental care is not regulating the way my healthcare is when it comes to pricing. What you are charging for my X-rays, crowns, and cavities is just “way above” what I can afford. Dental insurance isn’t even offered where I work. Even if it was, so few of us can actually benefit from it. So, please, look at your pricing. Is there any chance of prorating it? I know that you are running a business, but I have seen other practices do it. I get a discount at my specialist’s practice if I pay in check or cash rather than using my credit card. This way they don’t have to pay the fees. That is how you can get me back.
Read the next reason on page 4...
YOU need to work on your chairside manner
This is my rain reason why I left. I have watched you use my chest (yes, MY CHEST) as a tray to throw your dental tools on when you are working on me. In what world is it acceptable to use a patient’s body as a human tray? You are playing with fire when you do that. I have a condition that is aggravated when you thump those instruments down on me. I bet you didn’t learn that in dental school. It is degrading to women. I don’t really care if you do that to men, but stop that practice immediately or you may end up getting sued one of these days.
Why haven’t I told you about this? What is the point? You aren’t approachable. I came to you for your expertise. You are the best in your field and, sometimes, a patient “puts up” with your lousy chairside manner because he or she needs you. I was in that position … but my retainers, braces, and surgeries are finally over. I don’t need you any more. If you want to get me back, it’s too late. I have walked or ran to a specialist with an incredible bedside manner. You should have a clue about this since your own staff doesn’t like you. Your patients put up with you. You want to grow and have a thriving practice? Start at the top of the food chain. You are the problem. Get a coach. Get a therapist. Just stop your rude, obnoxious behavior or you will lose more patients. It’s too late for me because you can’t get me back. However, it’s not too late to try to keep your other patients from leaving like I did.
Wow, I feel exhilarated! Yep, I had to get a few things off my chest. I didn’t realize how deep that would go. My message is clear and simple. Going to a dental practice is an intimate experience. It is one fraught with pain emotionally and financially. You need to look at why people leave and fix what you can so you don’t hemorrhage patients. There are some practices I will never step foot in again … but there are also other ones where I will drive 45 minutes each way to continue to work with such a great team. Make the right choices. Fix the problems in your practice.
Email me and let me know about situations where patients have left your practice and why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: Following the publication of this article, we received a lot of comments through email and social media. Because of that, Lisa wrote a follow-up article addressing some of the comments that you can read by clicking here.