Retaining Customers for Life: How Dental Providers Can Leverage Feedback to Consistently Deliver Awesome Patient Experiences
Fresh from our participation in The Future of Dentistry Roundtable in Chicago, where we engaged in invaluable discussions, and drawing from our on-going collaborations with several major global dental clinics – ones we’ve assisted in becoming renowned for consistently delivering world class patient experiences – we at AskNicely have garnered deep insights on the industry. It’s unequivocally clear: the game has changed, and dental practices and Dental Support Organizations (DSOs) must now prioritize not only top-tier care but also the entire patient experience, from the moment they hear about a provider to the moments they smile (or frown) at their pearly whites months after their treatment.
Undoubtedly, the experience the patient has is what determines whether they come back, and refer their friends and family. But how do we ensure that the patient experience is awesome every time? In this article, we uncover the new era of patient feedback and frontline driven experiences that will help you not only retain patients for life, but build your patient base through genuine, raving referrals.
Open wide, let’s dive in!
A New Era of Dental Care
Historically, dental practices and DSOs had a refined focus; to provide quality dental care. While this is clearly a top priority, dentists and DSOs now need to provide quality care and exceptional patient experiences, in order to stay competitive and retain their customers.
As John Glaser for the Harvard Business Review writes:
“The medical care may be world class, but if the experience is dreadful, the patient may seek care elsewhere or inform friends and family that they should avoid a condescending physician. The clinician may have developed a great plan for patients to help them manage a chronic disease, but if the motivational support is lackluster and the process of scheduling routine follow-up appointments is convoluted, adherence will likely fall by the wayside.”
This is perhaps why Eddie Coyle, Chief Medical Officer at Colosseum Dental, uses the term ‘customers’ instead of ‘patients’. He recognizes their purchasing power, and understands that with this purchasing power comes an increased need to focus on improving experience.
The Rotting Retention Problem
In most business contexts, the cost of acquiring new customers is around five times more expensive than retaining existing ones. In the healthcare industry, that acquisition cost significantly increases – in fact, it’s estimated to cost at least six to seven times more to attract a new patient than to retain an existing one. This is because the business to patient relationship requires far more trust, empathy and connection than many other service industries. Unlike filling up with gas or buying a new pair of socks, the dental ‘customer’ experience is very personal, and small slip ups lead to big repercussions.
Unhappy patients pack a powerful punch – whether they file official complaints or leave scathing online reviews, a single dissatisfied patient can set off a ripple effect, influencing their entire network of family and friends. In the world of dental care, reputation is everything, and losing just one patient can send shockwaves through a practice's bottom line, not to mention significantly tarnish its image.
So, how can you build such a level of loyalty that patients return to your practice time and time again, and refer their friends and family? Or, in the words of Eddie Coyle, “How can we retain patients for life?”
Old School Approaches Holding Clinics Back
Without question, if you want to improve the patient experience, you need to know what matters most to your patients. The most effective way to do this is through a new approach to feedback and experience (we’ll get to that in a second). However, as dental practices catch on to this new need for exceptional experiences, many remain stuck in antiquated approaches that are holding them back.
In the UK for example, many practices rely on State systems, e.g “Friends & Family Test, which surveys a random selection of patients on an infrequent basis. In the Netherlands, it’s a regulatory requirement for providers to send out patient surveys made up of 20-25 questions every quarter in order to maintain their registration. In various other locations, the only patient feedback they receive is through public Google reviews.
While regulatory feedback serves a purpose, it doesn't move the needle when it comes to elevating the patient experience. Long, infrequent surveys from selected customers are not only an inaccurate representation of customer sentiment, but the feedback is extremely hard to act on, as by the time the clinic receives the feedback (or let alone act on it), unhappy customers (and their close circles) are already lost.
Not only do clinics have old school systems of feedback, but they have old school ‘top down’ approaches to patient experience as a whole. High level executives and managers are calling the shots from the boardroom, without listening to, empowering and supporting the very people responsible for delivering the patient experience on the frontline.
A New Approach to Feedback & Experience - Enter AskNicely
Giving Feedback Meaning
AskNicely isn't about collecting data; it's about giving feedback meaning. We take patient feedback in small, actionable soundbites after each service, and deliver it straight to your clinicians and frontline staff, the unsung heroes shaping the patient experience every day. Armed with this feedback, every patient-facing staff member, from the receptionist to the dentist themselves has clear oversight as to what they’re doing a great job at and what their customers see as areas for improvement. They know exactly what they need to do that day to improve the patient experience, instead of waiting for annual performance reviews or the results from regulatory surveys to finally arrive.
AskNicley flips the traditional service business model on its head using a frontline staff first approach. Instead of an old school top down strategy, AskNicely empowers each employee by putting the direct feedback of their patients in their pockets. Armed with a clear oversight as to what their patients love the most about their experience, and the areas they need to work on, they become connected to their impact and purpose, accountable for their actions and motivated to show up every day as their best selves at the clinic.
Smiles All Around
An awesome patient experience starts with an awesome frontline experience. With AskNicely, clinics are able to see and celebrate the biggest movers and shakers at both the practice manager, clinician and dentist level. The clinics at the top of the leaderboard (those with the highest NPS scores) receive shoutouts, recognition and kudos which reinforces positive behaviors and creates a culture of empowerment, support and friendly competition. Daily huddles are filled with recognition and big grins, and as the experience of the employees improves, so does the experience of their patients.
Real, Scalable Results
With large dental clinics, achieving a consistently patient awesome experience across multiple branches and locations is a mighty challenge. AskNicely is the simple solution. At a glance, managers can see which branches and individuals are killing it and need extra recognition, and who requires further coaching to reach the desired level of performance. With this overnight, clinics can finally start to reach a consistent level of awesomeness at scale, across large teams with multiple branches and locations.
Using this new approach to feedback and experience, Colosseum Dental clinics saw a remarkable 12-point boost in their NPS scores. Their lowest performing clinics worked their way up to match their highest performing clinics, helping them maintain consistency and success at scale.
Ready to Elevate Your Patient Experience?
We've witnessed how dental clinics worldwide are shifting their focus to prioritize patient satisfaction, and we understand the challenges they face in retaining patients for life and building a strong referral network.
Gone are the days of outdated feedback systems and top-down management approaches. AskNicely empowers your clinicians and frontline office staff, the true champions of patient experience, with real-time feedback and actionable insights. This approach not only ensures that every member of your team knows how to excel but also fosters a culture of recognition, support, and friendly competition that ultimately transforms both the employee and patient experience.
Join the new era of patient feedback and experience with AskNicely, and let's make your patients' journeys extraordinary, one smile at a time.