While our love of queuing may be integral to our national identity, the truth is that we, just like everyone else in the world, don’t really like having to wait. This is particularly true in the dental practice – with waiting times being a real bone of contention amongst patients.
Of course, it may be impossible to completely eliminate your waiting times – after all, dentistry is a very, very busy profession and, while you will undoubtedly do our best to see patients as quickly and efficiently as possible, the very nature of the work that you do necessitates a level of care that can sometimes result in delays.
Nevertheless, it is always important to strive to ensure that your waiting times in practice are not unacceptable – not only since you have a responsibility to your patients, but because it can also be damaging to the reputation and success of your practice.
Indeed, waiting times can be a very important factor for patients when choosing where to go for treatment. Nowadays, patients are well-informed, organised and far more discerning when it comes to choosing dental care, and are much more likely to conduct their own research before booking an appointment – and if they find reviews of your practice that mention a long waiting time, they may simply choose to go elsewhere.
You also have to remember that this can be true of your existing patients too. Unfortunately, loyalty to one’s dentists is largely a thing of the past. No matter how good the service they receive has been before, if your waiting times begin to increase, your current patients may just leave for a practice that is more convenient for them.
As such, being in control of your waiting times is key to providing consistently excellent customer service. To be a successful, thriving practice in what is becoming an increasingly competitive profession, customer service must be impeccable from the minute a patient first makes contact. Indeed, if a patient does not believe they have received the utmost service in this respect, even if the treatment itself was a success, their opinion of the practice in general may be ruined. After all, if you go to a restaurant and are served delicious food by a bad waiter who made you wait, it’s likely the poor service that will be remembered.
You should also remember that people lead increasingly busy lives nowadays, and sitting in a waiting room is simply a waste of their time – making it unsurprising that so many people are willing to forgo their dental treatments in the first place.
However, by carefully managing our waiting times, you can improve your customer service and strengthen your patients’ positive relationship with your practice. It’s also good for compliance too, since patients who are happy with the service they have received are likely to be more receptive to any advice they are given regarding their oral health. It will also encourage patients to continue attending your practice, helping you build a more personal relationship with them, one that is more communicative and trusting, which will give you the information needed to better treat their problems.
What’s more, managing waiting times will also benefit your staff. Without having to deal with consistently annoyed or impatient patients, your reception staff will be less stressed. They’ll also be able to more effectively get on with their work, without the disruptions caused by potential complaints.
Of course, to set reasonable waiting times, you have to be ruthlessly efficient about how you organise our appointment book. Using an online booking platform is an effective way of achieving this. With complete control, you can upload only the appointments you want to fill, for your patients to browse and book. This allows you to keep your daily and weekly workload at an optimal level, within your abilities to manage, and gives space for any emergencies, routine follow-ups or, in those unavoidable instances, delays. Online booking will take some of the pressure off your reception staffs too, so they can focus more on welcoming the patients who have come into the practice rather than dealing with busy phone lines and bookings.
AppointMentor from Welltime is a perfect example of this kind of system. It affords complete control of your practice’s appointment book, is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year; is easy to use, and simple for you to review and revise.
Ensuring your patients do not have to wait unduly long amounts of time for treatment is a fundamental aspect of good customer service. It will also help streamline your whole treatment system and strengthen the reputation and efficacy of your practice. Look for tools that can help you set reasonable waiting times: they allow people to get actively involved in making decisions about their care and get the most out of you, their dentist.