2014 – The Year Of The Patient

Tactics For A Thriving Orthodontic Practice

If 2013 was the year of the online customer then FooCo predicts the patient-power revolution is well under way and set strong for 2014 and beyond. All buyers are now privy to more information, more access and more choice than ever, lower prices and better products and service seem to have become little more than minimum requirements.

Given this landscape, the question has to be how can orthodontic practices distinguish themselves from the pack? The answer is to be found in what visionary companies like Apple & Amazon have achieved in transcending price and features to create fulfilling and compelling customer experiences. The rules have been re-written on customer relationships so that every touch point and every interaction is designed to create convenience, fun and meaning. This approach has raised the bar for all businesses when it comes to customer and indeed patient expectations.

By embracing the patient revolution your practice will see greater loyalty and revenue. A recent study by Break Out Brand reported that 83% of consumers are willing to spend more on a service if they feel a personal connection to the company and 20% said they’d pay more if they felt the company put the customer first.

The good news is you don’t have to be a Footsie 100 company with global brand recognition to deliver a personalised one-to-one customer experience. For a successful orthodontic practice it all starts with listening to the ways patients and prospective patients are interacting with you, whether that’s via your website, email, telephone or in practice.

Research Phase Patients

Online is where most of us start these days when we’re looking for information. Remember, you’ll see many more browsers on your website than patients in your waiting room but don’t make the mistake of putting prices, offers and discounts on your homepage in an attempt to attract every site visitor. You’re not, or shouldn’t be, after Groupon Groupies. I’ve seen many orthodontists and dentists make the mistake of over-using Groupon and other such discount based tactics to attract patients. The mistake is that appointments go up and practices think they’ll convert a percentage into long-standing patients. The reality is there’s little or no customer loyalty once the discounted service has been redeemed. In short, they’re loss leaders with the emphasis firmly on the loss.

The fact is first time visitors to your website will, more often than not, be research-phase patients looking for educational content, FAQs, patient testimonial and information on key staff, before they even look at prices. If the decision-making process starts with price then they tend be less serious buyers.

Database Building & The Physical World

Email marketing offers a great way to build on existing relationships. It’s in your practice where you’ll have the best opportunity to gather contact data from patients and invite them to receive regular communications. Instruct your receptionists to gather email addresses at the point of contact and through regular contact you’ll stay in the mind’s–eye of patients who may one day recommend you to friends and family.

Phone Manner Matters

Running a marketing agency for the orthodontic industry means it’s my job to make sure your phone’s are ringing and your reception-area’s full but even the most effective marketing strategy in the world can be ruined by just one person – the moody receptionist! So here’s the scenario, I’ve made my decision, a perfect smile is my aim, I’ve done my research and narrowed the field to a choice of two orthodontic practices. I dial the first and am greeted by the sound…. of misery. We’ve all had this experience in one form or another but it’s just not acceptable in 2014. There’s too much competition to wave goodbye to what could be £1000s just because someone’s having a bad day!

Proper training and monitoring of this vital point of interaction is crucial if you’re to maximise return on other elements of your marketing spend. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant with a really friendly waiter or waitress or stayed somewhere where the staff seemed to really love their job. You notice it, it matters and is often the thing you remember most.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Trust is such an important part of business. The hard part is establishing it and it can be lost in an instant but don’t ever confuse the need to seal-the-deal with fear that asking for business will somehow compromise the trust you’ve built or the ethics that underpin you as an orthodontist and practice owner.

The fact is some patients find it hard to make a decision and need a gentle push. There are three good rules to follow here.

  • Make sure the environment when you ask for the business is relaxed and informal.
  • If a patient has any reservations, you need to find out what they are before asking for their decision.
  • Give the patent a reason to sign up there and then.

There should never be the need for the hard sell when it comes to healthcare but treat patients as you’d like to be treated and you’ll get their respect and their business.

Author Biog

Malcolm Counihan is the founder and MD of FooCo Video & Marketing. Launched in 2007 FooCo now helps over 450 healthcare clients with their marketing and communications. Orthodontic clients benefit from an array of products and services including; website design; video production for websites and waiting-rooms, brace care video and other design and printing services.