It’s the stuff of nightmares, isn’t it?
An empty appointment book, I mean. Or one with gaps.
You can lie awake at night worrying about it. Wondering how you’re going to pay the bills next month.
Wondering how other practice owners seem to have a steady flow of patients.
Wondering if it’s all worth it.
You also wonder what to do about it. Maybe you should invest in a social media campaign. Or maybe you should undertake some other form of advertising.
But it’s all so expensive. And such a risk.
You’ve heard you “need to spend money to make money” but that’s scary when you’re not making ends meet.
The good news is that there are things you can do to solve the problem. Actions that you and your team can take to get your appointment book filled, without spending a cent on advertising.
These things aren’t complicated. They’re simple, and you can start implementing them today.
You just need to do a little reading and implement some processes.
You can do that, can’t you?
Right, let’s fill your appointment book and get your business soaring.
Convert Price Shoppers
All practices get calls from price shoppers. You know the drill, “How much do you charge for a crown?” All too often we treat these callers as though they’re annoying, but they’re a golden opportunity to gain a new patient.
You see, these people are actually looking to buy. All you have to do is give them the right information.
This doesn’t mean you need to undercut the quotes they’ve already received, or promise them cheaper rates than any other dentist in town. It means you need to build rapport and give the caller the information they need to make an informed decision.
How do you do that? Simple. Just follow the scripts we’ve put together in the blog post on How to Convert Price Shoppers Into Loyal Patients.
Cancellations are frustrating and costly, but the good news is that they’re also avoidable. In fact, cancellations are usually the fault of the practice, not the patient.
There are two main ways to prevent cancellations. You need to build value, so your patients prioritise your services, and you need to gain appointment commitment.
When your patients value and prioritise your services, they’re more likely to keep their appointments. And when your patient commits to attending their next appointment, they’re likely to keep that promise.
This sounds simple, but when you stop and think about exactly how to build value for your patients, and how to get them to commit to their appointments, it’s hard. So we’ve made life easier by putting together a guide on How to Get Rid of Cancellations Once and For All.
It contains scripts and processes you can implement immediately.
Mine Your Database
Most dentists have a database of patients. The problem is that a large proportion of those patients aren’t active.
They’re people who’ve been in a few times and intended to return but didn’t. That’s normal.
But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. All those inactive people in your database could become active patients.
That’s right. Loyal patients who fill your appointment book, and you don’t have to advertise to bring them back.
You don’t even have to be pushy or try any sleazy sales techniques. All you have to do is check they’re OK and offer to take care of their health.
You could say something like:
“Good morning Mr Smith, this is Carrie calling from Bespoke Dental Practice, Dr Green’s surgery. Dr Green has asked me to give you a call as we have been reviewing your file this morning. At your last appointment, Dr Green diagnosed a crown for a tooth in your lower left quadrant as the tooth was cracked. He is concerned that this is a severe fracture and left untreated may result in a root canal, which is a costly procedure. So he asked me to get in touch with you to schedule an appointment. We have an appointment available at 9.30am this Wednesday or Thursday at 2 pm. Which one of those suits you best?”
The key to getting this to work is to have a clear reactivation process (or steal ours) and to start with the people who’ve become inactive most recently.
Most business owners start with the patients who became inactive first – or those they haven’t seen for the longest time. But you’ll get a greater success rate if you start with the patients who visited you most recently.
Set Individual Recalls
Recall periods don’t have to be generic. You don’t need to stick to a general 12-month or 6-month schedule. Instead, set recall periods specific to each patient.
And remember that the purpose of an appointment is to make another appointment. Before patients leave the practice, they should have their next appointment booked.
Here’s an example of how you might do that.
Receptionist: “OK, James can we book your next appointment in November?”
Patient: “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing then.”
Receptionist: “That’s OK, let’s book the appointment now so you are in the book and you can let us know when it’s closer to the time if we need to move the appointment. This way you can choose a day and time that works for you. Which day is better for you?”
Receptionist: “And do you prefer mornings or afternoons?
Receptionist: “Great. We can do 3 pm or 4.30 pm on Wednesday 29 November.”
Patient: “4.30 pm.”
Receptionist: “Thanks, James, we’ve got you book in at 4.30pm on Wednesday 29 November.”
Get More Favourites
Go on, admit it. You have favourite patients.
Ones that arrive on time accept treatment and pay their bills. On top of that, you probably like them as a person, and they’re likely to share similar values to you.
And the great thing is that you can get more of those sorts of patients quickly and easily. All you have to do is ask.
Simple but often scary. Lots of people have trouble asking for a referral. That’s why I teach my clients to use a “Care to Share” card.
You can find the details of the card, and the process for introducing it to your patients, in the Minimalist Guide to Gaining Ideal Patients.
Fill Your Appointment Book Without Spending a Cent
Now you have the low-down it’s over to you. You’ve got the scripts, the processes and all the knowledge you need to pull this together.
You can do this.
You can fill your appointment book without spending a cent by mining your database, converting price shoppers and preventing cancellations. You can set individual recalls and use ‘Care to Share’ cards to ask for referrals from your favourite patients.
It’s not rocket science. It’s certainly not as hard as becoming a dentist.
All you need to do is take action.
Pull your team together and get them onboard. Make it fun. Challenge each other.
Before you know it your business will be soaring and your sleepless nights will be behind you. Instead, your days will be filled with patients who wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else.