There is an old adage in business that is still true today: it costs less money and time (also money) to retain a client than it does to acquire a new one. This applies to dental patient retention just as much as it does for any small or large business. When it gets down to brass tacks, dentists are running a business, after all.
While there is a countless amount of advice out there that focuses on gaining new patients, not much has been said on patient retention. Yet this remains a big concern for dentists, especially those who do not have the time to put into incessantly following up with patients to ensure that they come back. Some experts say that most practices operate on only a 50-60% patient recall rate. So what is a dentist to do? The answer lies not only in what you are actively doing (i.e. the treatment and service you give to patients), it can also be found in something passive, yet not out of your control: the experience patients have in your waiting room.
Is Your Waiting Room Reducing Your Patient Retention Rates?
If you are having trouble retaining patients and don’t know where to begin rectifying the problem, look no further than the very first thing patients see when they enter your office: you waiting room or reception area. If it doesn’t look like much, then it probably isn’t doing a whole lot to encourage return business.
Everyone has to wait when they visit the dentist, but whether that wait is a few minutes or a half hour or so (on bad days), their impatience can be significantly alleviated if your waiting room isn’t an uncomfortable den of boredom.
Here’s a strange but useful test: go and sit in your waiting room for 20-30 minutes. By the time you are ready to leave you should have a few ideas on how to make the experience better for your patients. If you are curious to know what your patients actually think of your waiting room, ask them. A simple questionnaire will help you make the experience better for them. Better yet, ask them while they are in your dental chair. It’s not like they will be going anywhere for awhile.
Here are a few questions that you can ask them:
- What do you think of the waiting room furniture? Is it comfortable?
- What do you wish the waiting room would have that it doesn’t?
- What do you think of the overall atmosphere? Is it welcoming?
- Is there anything you don’t like about the waiting room?
The more information you can get out of your patients, the more you will be able to provide a great waiting room experience for them.