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Patients seem to hop from practice to practice, so how do you make sure yours stands out?
As I was giving a presentation at the Chicago Midwinter Dental Meeting this year, I was asked a question about how to retain patients in today’s transient era of dentistry. After seeing all of the nodding around the room, I knew that dentists are now realizing that patients don’t have the same loyalty to practices - or any business for that matter - they did in the past.
Access to the internet has given patients a vast array of options for everything from dental care to purchasing their shoes. So how can you keep your patients from turning to what they think is greener grass?
Building loyalty through loyalty programs
One of the most effective ways that businesses can retain patients today is by creating powerful loyalty programs. Programs like these create bonding experiences and strong relationships with customers and have been going on for years. Fifty years ago, banks gave away free toasters to people who opened new accounts. Today, everyone from Nordstrom to Dunkin’ Donuts has loyalty cards that you can access to acquire points for free items and discounts, and be apprised of all kinds of specials, events or deals.
While having loyalty cards that give away free dental care is unrealistic, practices can create an opportunity for patients, particularly those without dental insurance, to become extremely loyal and bonded to the practice. Uninsured patients are changing practices as rapidly today as insured patients. An effective way to keep them involved with your practice is to offer an in-house benefit plan.
In-house benefit plans
In-house benefit plans offer patients a way to receive basic hygiene services at an affordable monthly fee, and even receive discounts on necessary treatment depending on the terms of the plan. Plans can be as simple as offering two preventative appointments and one or two restorations as needed over the course of a membership.
This has patients feeling that they now belong to a plan, which is similar to many businesses offering club status to customers who participate in their special loyalty card or benefit program. By allowing patients to purchase basic dental services in advance, they also benefit by understanding the entire amount that they will spend upfront.
In-house plans are an excellent way to retain patients and increase referrals. I believe the key is to create a plan that’s effortless for your practice to execute, and easy for your patients to understand.
My suggestion is that you outsource your plan rather than trying to run it yourself. Companies like Dental HQ can help your practice implement an in-house benefit plan on your behalf, making it easy to operate, track and monitor with automated software. I believe that the Dental HQ model is the model for the future - practices outsourcing in-house benefit programs to an expert company with outstanding automation. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else’s wheel is already better?
I believe that in-house benefit plans will be a major part of the future of successful dental practices. Giving the opportunity for uninsured patients to belong to a “club” that provides dental care at an affordable rate helps them financially and cultivates a connection that builds loyalty and increases referrals.