Over the past 20 years, I’ve been working within the UK and American Dental Industry to support dental practices growth through a number of different engagement and marketing strategies. However, over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that something has drastically changed. Suddenly getting new, high-value patients has become increasingly difficult, expensive and confusing. So what’s happened?
By Steven Mills.
There’s a huge problem out there affecting your acquisition of new patients, and you may not even be aware of it.
In order to explain this, I need to take you through how big tech has entirely revolutionised your patient’s behaviour and has turned them against you!
Tech has now conditioned your patient to expect a fast and effortless solution to their problems, a personalised experience and instant gratification. We can thank the likes of Social Media, Amazon, Netflix and Sky for this. It’s also one of the reasons why mobile call volumes dropped by 2.5million minutes last year – as patients no longer want to talk, they want immediate answers at their fingertips.
With a rise in website automation, LiveChat and “swipe and click” technology, your patients have become lazy, time-poor, impatient and more price sensitive. While these sound like harsh words to use - I’m including myself in this behavioural bracket! Since the advent of the smartphone era, the average human attention span has plummeted to just eight seconds!
The issue is, your customer expectations of what Sky, Amazon and Netflix provide, are extremely costly and labour intensive. They have spent millions, if not billions, on creating seamless online experiences for their customers and in doing so, conditioned your patient to expect it of you too. Yet, when these patients find your practice they are greeted with outdated, unresponsive technology that hasn’t evolved in 20 years.
The question is how do smaller practices deliver the same seamless patient experience with smaller budgets and less staff in a “need it now” culture?
The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to ‘plug the holes’ in our sales operation and help our patients transact, enquire and book with ease. These ‘tips’ can be implemented for next to nothing and can have dramatic improvements in your online revenue. (You will have to come and see me for the rest).
This is something you have been doing for years. Think of when you go on holiday, that glorious ‘Out Of Office'' response. Yet, when a patient enquires on your website, ready to spend their hard-earned money with you, they’re likely not getting any acknowledgment of their enquiry.
Did you know, the average response time of an enquiry at a Dental Practice is 84 hours (3.5 days). With 82% of patients expecting immediate responses on treatment enquiries, it’s really important that you get your acknowledgment emails within 10 minutes of them enquiring.
Imagine that you have enquired about purchasing an expensive dental treatment worth (£10,000) and you were made to wait 84 hours for a response - would you be happy with those response times? Would you be worried that your email had even been received? Set up simple autoresponder emails or redirect the patients to a page that thanks them for their enquiry and tells the customer when to expect a reply.
As patients now expect to get answers right away and be able to reach you with minimum clicks, effort or contact. You need to adapt and facilitate these behavioural shifts – otherwise, your patients may look elsewhere. The website, in 20 years is still, as it was then, the main touchpoint for your customers. Other than being mobile optimised, what has changed?
Using a standard or lengthy contact webform just doesn’t cut it anymore. Forms are normally boring, unengaging, and can be a total turn-off for the modern-day website visitor. Remember, people want to do as little work as possible, so when they see lengthy webforms - you might as well be putting up a larger “we’ll wait for you to make the first move” sign.
Also, make webforms context-specific, so that when someone completes it, the enquiry goes to the right person or department. For example, if the webform sits on an Invisalign page, the enquiry goes to the patient coordinator, not to receptionist which then must be distributed. This will make your internal process for managing enquiries much more efficient too!
Website visits have increased by 150% in the past 2 years. With the number of Google searches increasing year on year by 10%, and Facebook growth showing no signs of slowing down, patients are engaging online in ever increasing numbers. Demand for Invisalign and Dental Treatments and pretty much everything dental is higher than ever. Yet, conversely, staff levels have been reduced.
For those reasons, we need to ask ourselves one question. Is the time we have being used effectively?
Well, one of my biggest frustrations when helping practices is watching staff, who complain of lack of time, type out the same email response, over and over again. Day in day out, to their patients and prospects. Most email platforms allow you to save templated or stock responses, which can be personalised to the customer when sending. You can even pay a good copywriter to pen these emails so you know your staff are sending good quality responses and saving time.
Dentists need to compare the virtual experience they offer patients to how they treat them in the real world. Dentists wouldn’t dream of leaving a patient who enters their practice unattended. Or ignore a phone that was ringing off the hook. But without realising it, this is exactly how most practices are interacting with patients online - leaving them to fend for themselves in the hope that they will reach out with their enquiry. While these tips are simple, 80% of practices are not doing it and need to act fast to make sure they don’t fall further behind.
Steven has delivered new patient leads worth over £10m for hundreds of dental practices in the UK & USA for over 15 years.
He has worked at leading international ad agencies and smaller start-ups. He now runs PPC Republic - an agency specialising in Google, Facebook & LinkedIn Ads for dentists. EnquiryBot Dental is a fully automated concierge service that converts more of your website visitors into patients, and is guaranteed to double your new patient enquiries.