How to ensure front desk marketing finesse

February 20, 2019

Why coordinating your best front office team with the right tools will help your bottom line.

Who here likes to waste money? I’m guessing no one would answer “yes,” but if you’re spending money to market your dental practice without having the right internal processes in place, then you could be kissing those hard-earned dollars goodbye.

You can spend all the money in the world promoting your practice and investing in new technology, but if a patient has trouble making an appointment or leaves the practice feeling unsatisfied, then it’s hard to say that money was well spent. One area that can play a crucial role in maximizing every patient’s experience is your front desk.

Your front office team often provides the first and last impressions patients receive from your practice, so its communication skills and marketing savvy must be on point. The importance of having the right people at the front desk, and equipping them with the right tools and skills, can make all the difference to a dentist’s marketing success and bottom line. Here’s why.

Winning that first impression

New patients are extremely vulnerable. They have no loyalty to any one doctor or practice, and if they don’t get a great first impression, they’ll simply move on to the next dentist on their list. That’s precisely why it’s critical for the front desk team to schedule them with priority.

Traditionally, the front desk team has primarily communicated with new patients over the telephone. Today, with real-time text messaging capabilities and website chat features, it’s equally as important that the team have the skills at the ready to communicate effectively regardless of the medium.

Of course, your staff needs to know the right answers to questions about fees and insurance, but team members should also have training on the verbal skills needed to redirect that all-important first conversation. Shifting the patient’s attention toward topics such as the exemplary care the dentist provides or the unique focus of the practice gives prospective patients the impression that the level of care they’ll receive at your practice is far above and beyond what they would encounter anywhere else. This sets the tone for the patient’s positive in-office experience.

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Tracking campaign results

The front office team can be helpful in tracking valuable information related to sourcing new patients from various external marketing efforts. Everyone responsible for answering the phones or checking email should be in the habit of asking each prospective new patient how he or she heard about the practice - and recording this information in a tracking spreadsheet. This helps the office team better understand which external efforts are resulting in new patient opportunities, leading to better informed marketing decisions in the future.

A welcoming environment

If the front desk is too overwhelmed with answering the phones, or is too buried in paperwork to properly greet each patient upon arrival, what signal does that send to the new patient who’s likely already anxious about the appointment? Help the front desk staff shine so that it can warmly welcome each and every patient into the practice.

One way to do this is to consider automating daily tasks. Implementing email or text messaging features for appointment confirmations/reminders can potentially save the front desk countless hours of calling patients (and undoubtedly leaving voicemails that likely won’t be heard).

Enabling patients to update their own contact information and health histories via tablet devices allows this data to be uploaded directly to your practice management software - without requiring extra effort from your staff. Offering a self-service online patient portal through your website is yet another way to empower patients. Whether patients are filling out online forms or scheduling their own appointments online, these features free up your front desk team’s time so that it can focus on other important tasks like building relationships with patients.

Related reading: Scheduling patients with non-participating insurance plans

Leaving a lasting impression

Following a patient’s time in your chair, the front desk has one final opportunity to win him or her over in person. Scheduling the next recall appointment before the patient leaves builds value for the clinical team’s time, capitalizes on the momentum created over the course of the appointment, and can even help to reduce no-shows and cancellations.

The post-appointment survey - sent automatically through the practice management software or another patient communication system - can be a rich source of insight into your patients’ overall experiences. It also demonstrates to patients that you’re invested in their experience. It’s always rewarding to hear positive comments when things go well, but perhaps less-than-perfect feedback can be even more valuable. As Bill Gates so succinctly said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

A final note: While the front desk staff plays a critical role in patient satisfaction, it’s the responsibility of the entire dental team to employ top-notch customer service every step of the way. If you spend money on external marketing but the patient doesn’t choose to return after the first visit, all the time, money and effort spent on acquiring that patient was for nothing. Earn the biggest return on your marketing investment - and ensure the highest levels of patient satisfaction and loyalty - by making sure you have an all-star team at your front desk and beyond.

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