No matter what type of dental software programs they run, dental practices everywhere have adjusted how they communicate with patients now that offices have reopened following mandatory shutdowns. Simply programming your practice management system to send out text reminders of appointments and requests for scheduling won’t cut it anymore. Dentists need to show they’re concerned about the health of both their patients and staff to help ease any concerns patients may have about their safety should they return to their normal oral care schedule.
To start, consider how you’ve changed your daily operations and what your patients need to know about what additional or new steps you’ve taken to help ensure their safety. Talk with some of your patients to better understand what questions they’re asking so you can work on creating specific messaging that address those concerns to your patient base at large.
How to Develop Your Message
Creating an effective message requires consistency. When too many voices have input on what a message should be, it can comes across as muddled or as missing the overall point. To prevent this from occurring, select one person in your practice, or hire a professional marketing firm, to develop communication about how your practice will deal with patients going forward. Obviously, whoever you appoint this task to should have some experience working at your practice and have a good idea about what priorities to focus on.
When that communication is then put into writing, your team needs to take time to learn what they need to say to patients. Again, without consistency, any message will fall apart. Make sure your entire staff, from front office worker to hygienists, is trained on your new messaging so that they can all be on the same page.
Develop a Communication Strategy
When patients elect to schedule an appointment, they have many different avenues where they can use to determine which dentist best meets their safety concerns. From social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to email and Google Ads campaigns, you have no shortage of ways to address your patients’ potential concerns. Each of the channels you use should communicate how your practice is now taking care of patients during the pandemic. However, the information you provide through each channel can vary.
A few examples – In a Google My Business listing, you may want to change your practice hours to reflect how you’ve had to alter your practice since reopening. Your website should feature a page dedicate to how your practice is dealing with COVID-19. Google Ads you were running before the pandemic should be updated to make sure they’re still appropriate.
Your social media marketing campaign also needs to reflect your new focus on patient and staff safety. A boosted Facebook post that highlights the additional safety precautions your practice is now taking can help to better educate your patients so they feel safe. Your Instagram account can show photos of new safety equipment, team members wearing masks, and of other new safety measures you’ve put into place.
Throughout all of your online and website messaging, one tone should remain consistent and perfectly clear – Your safety remains our number one priority.
Listen to Your Patients
Being responsive and proactive with patients is more important than ever. Even patients who’ve regularly visited your office in the past will now deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with trying to protect their health during such an uncertain time. As a result, your team needs to quickly respond to any patient question or potential complaint. This means you need to have someone regularly monitoring Facebook, Yelp, Google My Business, and any other online platform where patients may ask questions.
You also need to monitor your response times for emails and phones calls to ensure that patients get a quick answer to any inquires. Once a patient reaches out to ask a question, they’ve signaled a willingness to consider scheduling an appointment. Failing to address a question quickly can provide time for doubt to build that will leave them feeling less comfortable about scheduling an appointment.
When answering patient inquires, you should develop a set of guidelines so your team knows how to best approach and respond. Ideally, these guidelines should include greeting the individual by name, acknowledging their issue, and providing an explanation as best you can to their question.
Updating your communication strategy will better enable your practice to weather the storm of uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Dental software programs designed to help keep your practice running smoothly can help, but a personal touch is needed now more than ever. Informing patients on what steps you’re taking to help protect their health will provide them the peace of mind needed to begin scheduling appointments without being concerned over their health.