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An old-fashioned solution to dentists' current problems

Jan. 31, 2023
That handwritten envelope in the mail is what people open. Your dental practice will get noticed when you send handwritten notes, and here's how to do that.

Nearly every industry has been impacted by rising prices, and according to research from the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI), 35% of dentists said inflation and rising costs were their most significant concerns, along with the continuing staffing challenges.1 After just starting to recover from the challenges of cancelled and delayed appointments during the pandemic, dental offices are now faced with a decrease in appointments due to inflation.

As consumers become more discretionary with their spending, they’re putting off dental visits, and some people put them off even when they’re in pain. According to a recent report from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than one third of Americans are skipping or delaying dental visits due to higher costs.2 If patients are opting not to seek care, even when they have a dental emergency, it’s easy to assume they’re also delaying cosmetic and optional procedures such as whitening treatments, veneers, and orthodontics.

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Most marketing and sales experts agree that customer retention is more cost effective for a business than new customer acquisition. As consumers and businesses watch their discretionary spending and cut back on extras, savvy companies are investing more effort into maintaining positive relationships—including through communication—to protect their bottom lines. However, receiving an email, text message, or phone call may be the last thing customers want.   

What patients will notice

These communications might also be the last thing customers pay attention to. The amount of promotional email the average person receives each day can be overwhelming, not to mention that many email services now allow users to filter promotional emails into folders where they may never be seen. Text messages from unknown numbers often cause suspicion, and an unexpected text message might be viewed as a phishing scam. But a handwritten note is entirely different because it invokes curiosity versus fear or annoyance.    

Nothing says “pay attention” like a personalized handwritten note. No one flips past or misses a handwritten envelope in their mail. These stand out from everything else that was delivered, and recipients wonder what’s inside. While envelopes that look like bills or ads and graphic postcards are set aside, handwritten envelopes are usually opened immediately. The attention-grabbing nature of a handwritten envelope provides an instant advantage that even the biggest and most prevalent direct mail marketers cannot overcome.    

Spending hours writing notes by hand can be prohibitive, especially for businesses that are struggling to hire. So, consider hiring a robot to pick up a pen and do the writing instead. This is the service offered by Handwrytten. Handwritten envelopes have been found to have a 300% greater open rate than standard envelopes.

Handwritten marketing has response rates seven to 21 times greater than printed mail, with a return on investment three to seven times greater than print. Some companies have found that retention rates are 50% higher for customers who receive a handwritten thank you note.  A handwritten note can be used to explain to patients why there are price increases so they’re not caught off guard at their next appointment.

There is no quick fix to help businesses recover from pandemic complications and inflation. How deeply inflation will impact consumer spending habits remains to be seen. Identifying ways to recruit and retain employees as costs increase and labor shortages persist will take creativity and new approaches.

As dentists develop solutions and evolve to thrive in the postpandemic era, the need for effective communications will not diminish. After two years of a seemingly never-ending stream of new problems, making the most of upcoming opportunities will be critical to making 2023 as successful as possible. Visit Handwrytten to learn more. 

This article originally appeared in DE Weekend, the newsletter that willelevate your Sunday mornings with practical and innovative practice management and clinical content from experts across the field.Subscribe here. 

References

1. Garvin J. Dental services affected by country's high inflation. July 19, 2022. ADA. https://www.ada.org/publications/ada-news/2022/july/dental-services-affected-by-countrys-high-inflation

2. Montero A, Kearney A, Hamel L, Brodie M. Americans' challenge with health care costs. July 14, 2022. KFF. https://www.kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/americans-challenges-with-health-care-costs/