Earning patient loyalty in the age of consumerism

April is International Customer Loyalty Month. Customer loyalty is one of the most powerful determinants of success for a small business.

By Jen McGuire

"LOYAL customers, they don't just come back, they don't simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you."

~ Chip Bell

April is International Customer Loyalty Month. Customer loyalty is one of the most powerful determinants of success for a small business. This month, set aside time to evaluate the loyalty of your customers using the following Three Components of Loyalty*:

  1. Repurchase (loyal patients stay in your practice)
  2. Share of wallet (loyal patients accept treatment)
  3. Advocacy (loyal patients refer family and friends)

What percent of your patients meet these criteria for loyalty? In today's environment of consumerism, many customers are satisfied but few are loyal. Patients have higher expectations. They are more price-conscious, and they have more access to oral health information and comparison shopping. Patients who are simply satisfied will leave your office if or when a "better" offer comes along.

Six months ago Kristen came to your practice for the first time. She completed the new patient paperwork, took a tour of the office, and received a cleaning. She seemed satisfied with her experience and approved a treatment plan for two composites; however, she left without scheduling the next appointment, and you never heard from her again.

How can you build loyalty in this environment? The best way to receive loyalty from patients is to give it first. Be loyal advocates for the health of your patients. Earn loyalty by bringing unique value and quality care to every patient.

"The compassion with which care is provided appears to be the most important factor in influencing patient intentions to recommend/return." – Burroughs, Davies, Cira, Dunagan

One of the most effective ways to increase loyalty is to provide a compassionate, caring, customized patient experience. Implementing a wellness focus in your practice reflects a respect for patients' overall health that differentiates your practice and will pay dividends in patient loyalty and in the health of your patients. To maximize the impact of a wellness program, it should be visible in all areas of the practice from the preventative services offered in the operatory to the language used with patients at the front desk.

Services

Simple services, such as screening for sleep apnea with a questionnaire and quick physical examination, taking blood pressure, and using an oral cancer detection device are easy to implement and can be offered at no or minimal charge to the patient. With additional training, your team could offer testing for diabetes or inflammation, salivary diagnostics, and nutritional counseling. Not only will these health services increase patients' perceived value of the appointment, they can also lead to other revenue-generating procedures for the practice.

Patient Communications

Educate patients on the connection between periodontal disease and systemic illnesses. Gather all relevant health information from patients so you can customize treatment plans based on overall health. Share recent news on oral health so patients recognize you as a health expert. Ask patients for their permission to share their wellness success stories. When a patient receives treatment for periodontal disease, and is able to reduce medications as a result, obtain permission to share that story with other patients who could benefit from the experience. These conversations reinforce the importance of oral health and the relationship between dental appointments and total body health.

With an increasingly complex health-care market, patients are looking for ways to stay healthy. Let them know this can start with a visit to the dentist! List wellness services on your website and in practice advertisements. Share oral-systemic facts and research on your Facebook page and in your newsletter. With what we know about the connection between the mouth and the body, dentistry has become a primary-care profession. Share the impact your care has on patients' health to create loyal followers for your practice. To learn more about evaluating and increasing patient loyalty with wellness, visit www.HenryScheinBusinessSolutions.com. For more information on the oral-systemic connection, visit www.aaosh.org.

With more than a decade of marketing experience in the health-care industry, Jen McGuire now leads the marketing of Henry Schein Dental's Business Solutions. As part of this offering, Jen developed and launched dentistry's first wellness program, Total HealthTM Beyond the Mouth. Contact her at (800) 372-4346 or at jen.mcguire@henryschein.com. Learn more at www.HenryScheinBusinessSolutions.com.

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