Yesterday, your hygiene schedule was fully booked for the next six months. Today, there are three openings due to last minute cancellations. Your front desk team tells you they’ve exhausted the quick-call list and they don’t know who else to call. It’s frustrating, since you suspect there are dozens of patients who haven’t been back since the beginning of the pandemic. In this article, we’ll explore how your team can reactivate hygiene patients so that they WANT to come in.
What You Can Stop Doing Today
There are three things your office can stop doing today because they do not help to reactivate patients.
- Stop sending recall texts, emails and postcards. Let’s face it, if the patient hasn’t responded to your last two automated messages, it’s time to move on. Impersonal automated messages that remind patients that they are “overdue for their cleanings” won’t inspire most people to make an appointment. Your front desk and hygienists need to make personal contact with patients. I’ll show you how they need to reach out.
- Stop referring to these appointments as cleanings, deep cleanings or professional cleanings. A huge reason why patients cancel hygiene visits and delay scheduling another one is because they don’t see the importance of these visits compared to other things in their lives. Do patients want cleaner teeth? Sure –but it’s not as important as other demands on their time, which is why they so easily cancel these appointments. You need to elevate the importance of hygiene treatment and it starts with the words you use. Even if you think you don’t personally use these terms, I challenge you to look at your website and recall messages because almost every dental practice does use these terms.
- Stop relegating reactivation activities to the front desk to do when she has free time. If your hygiene schedule looks like a ghost town because patients are cancelling, then your practice needs to develop a system with dedicated time and goals.
The Philosophy of the Call
As crazy and old fashioned as it sounds, your team will need to talk to patients in order to re-establish the patient’s relationship to your office. In fact, because this the primary goal of these calls, I suggest you describe these as “reconnection calls.”
This is where we get to a paradoxical truth. It’s true that the ultimate goal of these goals is to get the patient back in your office. However, if your front desk team approach these calls as simply a transaction, then the patient is going to recognize that this call is really about meeting the practice’s needs and not about them.
No one likes getting tele-marketing calls where the only agenda is to get you to buy something. So, your team needs to approach these calls with the goal of connecting with the patient first and scheduling them, second.
What to Say on the Reconnection Call
- Hi Patient, I’m so glad to have reached you. Dr. Wonderful asked me to check in on you. We’ve missed you. How has everything been going for you since we last saw you?
- We do want to make sure you’ve been okay. Because there is a strong link between your overall health and your dental health, could you tell me if you’ve had any new health issues or concerns since your last visit?
- What about your oral health – what changes have you noticed there?
- Given what you’re describing, it sounds like it would be a good idea to get you checked out and see what we can do to support you. How does that sound to you?
- I notice you like morning appointments with Polly. We can see you as soon as…
What to Do If
- If the patient doesn’t have any health concerns/new issues
Ideally, the front desk person can make a connection between the patient’s health and the need for dental care but if the patient says they are perfectly healthy and have zero dental issues, then the focus can shift to the patient’s original goals in coming to your office. “I know you came to us originally to do X. Let’s make sure everything is going well with that and to catch up on your hygiene treatment so that things stay healthy.”
- If the patient doesn’t want to commit to an appointment
If the patient can’t or won’t make an appointment during the call, then the front desk can make an appointment to make an appointment. “I know you don’t have your work schedule in front of you. So that you don’t have another thing on your plate and we don’t play phone tag, how about I call you when you will have that information? What would be the best time and number to reach you?”
- Patients don’t answer the phone
First of all, make sure that your office’s name will appear on the patient’s caller ID. I never pick up the phone for a number that says “unavailable” because of the likelihood it’s a telemarketer. If the front desk leaves a message, the message should sound intriguing so that the patient’s curiosity is aroused.
“Hi Patient, it’s Sharyn from Dr. Wonderful’s dental office. He asked me to give you a call regarding a conversation you and he had last time you were here. Give me a call before 5:00 today or tomorrow and I’ll relay that message.”
Most patients will wonder, “What the heck is she talking about? I don’t remember this conversation, but it sounds important so I guess I’ll call back.”
If the patient calls and asks about the conversation, then the front desk can truthfully say, “Dr Wonderful and you have talked about the need to keep up with your hygiene treatment so that you protect your investment with the (restorative/cosmetic) treatment you had with us. He’s concerned that if you get out of schedule the problem could re-surface. Let’s get you in and checked out to make sure everything is okay.”
Notice, the reason to come back is to protect the patient’s investment in their dental care, not to fill your opening.
Why Do This?
Reconnection calls should be a priority for the practice even if your hygiene schedule is fully booked due to the likelihood of late cancellations. I’m happy to work with your team to script these calls or develop a consistent