Create clear processes to turn leads into dental patients
An ambitious or growth-oriented dental practice can use several advertising mediums to generate more leads. The problem with most dental practices is that they don’t have clear processes and responsibilities in place to convert as many leads as possible into patients.
If you launch a new marketing campaign and the leads start coming in, your staff must be prepared to handle them.
Below you will learn about the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to successfully convert your leads into actual patients so that you can finally start growing your dental practice and stop wasting limited resources such as time and money.
Understand how patients contact your dental practice
From my experience here are the most frequently used means of contact:
- Telephone – calls
- Live chat – on the website or
- Facebook (if applicable)
- Form submissions on the website
- Telephone – text messages
Despite the technological advancements over the last two decades, most people still prefer to use the telephone when contacting a dental office as it gives them assurance that somebody responds to their question right away.
Let’s put ourselves into a dental patient’s shoes to understand why based on their situation they might use different mediums to contact your dental practice.
Scenario #1: Acute dental pain
Do you think someone who is suffering from acute dental pain will send you an e-mail and wait hours or days until they receive an e-mail back from you? No, they will pick up the phone and call you multiple times if necessary to get a hold of your dental office as soon as possible and schedule an emergency appointment. If you fail to pick up your phone, they may even go so far to seek out other emergency dentists to resolve their issue.
Scenario #2: The big case price shopper
If someone is need of a dental implant or a bigger tooth restoration then they may contact several dental practices in the area to shop around for the best quote and compare the offerings. In such case the patient may resort to a form submission or e-mail as they are not as time pressed and want to make sure they get a good value for their money.
Scenario #3: The office worker
If one of your patients works in an open-space office or a tight cubicle setup, where their colleagues can hear every word, it is not advisable for them to pick up the phone and call their dentist to schedule an appointment if they don’t want to anger their manager.
Contacting your dental practice via live-chat, form-submission or an e-mail allows them to book an appointment with greater privacy.
Great systems help you get more dental patients
It’s important to have optimized systems in every type of business, not just dentistry.
Understand your employee capacity
- How many employees do you have.
- What skills do they have and what is their job function.
- How many hours do they work?
- What takes up their time?
- Check for each employee individually whether they are under, at or over capacity.
Once you have the answers to all these questions you are one step closer to optimizing the day to day processes of your dental practice. Ideally, you should aim to fill each employee’s capacity to a 85% – 90 % level.
If you have employees that are using less than 80% of their time capacity to get their work done, you are not making best use of them. In such case you should task them with additional duties or reduce their hours.
If you are running someone at 100% capacity for an extended time your employee will suffer from work overload and burnout sooner or later. In such cases you should aim to delegate some of their duties on other staff members or hire additional staff.
Understand how many leads you are receiving on average
Please tell me you are tracking leads automatically or manually. As Peter Drucker said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.“
Automatic lead tracking:
In an ideal scenario your dental practice has a professionally built website that includes a web analytics setup to track website conversions such as e-mails, form submissions and phone calls.
Manual lead tracking:
As an alternative you can manually track leads each day. Simply use a pen and a paper to track phone calls, e-mails and form submissions.
To start out you can create a table for each weekday with two categories: Phone calls and E-mails. Your form submissions will land in your e-mail inbox, therefore you do not need to track them separately when starting out.
Do this meticulously for 1-3 months so that you get some reliable data that you can use as a performance baseline to evaluate your current lead flow.
Once your front-desk staff has created and implemented the habit of daily lead tracking you can even go one step further and divide the daily calls and e-mails into new patients and active patients.
Why should you do so you may ask?
If your goal is to find out how many new patient leads your dental practice is generating each month, you should not dilute or skew your numbers by including your active patients in the data.
By scoring your daily leads into the appropriate categories you will get a clearer picture of the lead flow in your dental practice. This will let you evaluate seasonal trends over time and check whether marketing activities have a positive effect on increasing the lead flow.
Moreover, you will be able to tell whether it is sufficient to have one staff member handle all your office management tasks or whether you should hire an additional employee to handle all incoming leads.
Assign clear roles and responsibilities for your staff members
Once you have mapped out an overview of each employee’s capacity and job function, you should define clear responsibilities for each staff member.
By having clear procedures in place and defining responsibilities on an individual level you can create a sense of accountability and evaluate each employee’s performance.
Let’s say you have tasked Anna, your front office staff member, to handle all incoming leads. You open up your dental practice’s e-mail inbox and notice immediately that several e-mails have not been answered in more than 3 days. As you know that it’s Anna’s duty to handle this task, you should have a meeting with her as soon as possible to find out why she did not do the work that you have assigned to her.
If e-mails were not answered, because Anna did not even notice the inbox, you need to inform Anna that she needs to concentrate more and take here duties more serious. Let her know the importance of these tasks to your dental practice and that you need to be able to rely on your front-office person 100% and expect a proactive approach in handling and answering all patient inquires as soon as possible.
If Anna usually handles her tasks well, but has not been productive this week, ask her if everything is okay and discuss with her why the performance dropped off suddenly. Maybe she is overworked and needs a break, maybe she is facing personal problems that are taking her focus away from work. Mistakes happen and that is unavoidable, however a good manager should always understand the root cause and find ways to resolve them.
If Anna is doing her best, but simply cannot handle the increased amount of incoming leads that is brought on by effective marketing activities, Anna should proactively reach out to you and inform you that, despite doing her best to keep up, she is constantly missing phone calls or not able to respond to all e-mails within the work hours.
When you get this information, as a manager or dental practice owner, you have two options. If your dental practice is fully booked and you don’t need additional patients you can scale back on the marketing. If you need to fill capacity, you will need to hire additional staff (interns, part-time or full-time) to handle all incoming leads and convert as many leads as possible into new patients.
Define activities & assign roles:
Leads: Phone calls
Leads: Website live chat / Facebook live chat
In-office: Greeting patients, registering patients
In-office: Informing doctor or hygienist about patient’s arrival
In-office: Appointment scheduling
In-office: Invoice preparations, payment processing
In-office: Treatment plan preparations
In-office: Cleaning / Tidying the office
Aim to convert as many leads as possible into new patients
No business in the world will ever be able to convert 100% of its leads into paying customers. People love to shop around for the best prices, search for a business that offers specialty services or search for a business that is located in a specific geographic area.
While you may not be able to convert 100% of your leads into new patients, you should still do your best to convert as many as possible by controlling everything that is in your power. In the end it will be up to the customer to decide which dental practice he will choose. All that you can or rather should do is to make sure to answer their inquiry as fast as possible in an empathetic manner.
If a potential new patient calls one of your local competitors and the call goes unanswered or straight to voicemail, while your dental practice picks up the phone the first time he or she calls, you already have a big advantage over your competition.
If you manage to do this on an ongoing basis with great consistency, your dental practice will strive while other dental practices in your area will wonder where all the new patients have gone.
Let’s take a look at how the performance of converting leads into new patients affects the economics of your marketing and overall dental practice by assuming that your current marketing activities are generating a lead for £50.
Lead to new patient conversion rates:
Top dental practices: 60% – 80%
Solid dental practices: 50% – 60%
Most dental practices: 20% – 30%
If you had a superstar front-office staff that is able to convert 60% – 80% of your leads into new patients you would be able to create 6-8 new patients from 10 leads.
If you had a solid front-office staff that is able to convert 50% – 60% of your leads into new patients you would be able to create 5-6 new patients from 10 leads.
If you are working without clear processes and have an average front office-staff you are likely only converting 2-3 new patients from 10 leads.
Cost of a new patient:
Top dental practice: £62,5 – £83,33 per new patient
Solid dental practice: £83,33 – £100
Most dental practices: £166,67 – £250
Do you see what is happening here? You simply cannot afford to have a poor-performing front-office staff that is wasting away leads.
The top performing dental practice can afford to market very aggressively, thanks to relatively low customer acquisition costs. By converting the majority of its leads into patients, it is only paying a fraction for a new patient when compared to the average dental practice that is not handling incoming leads well.
The time and money that it takes to train your front-office staff is one of the best investments that you can make. The front-office staff in a dental practice can either make or break your business. Make sure you know how it is performing and take the required steps to improve its performance overtime to create your own superstar front-desk.
How quickly should you respond to your leads?
Aim to have your front-office pick up the phone within three rings. If you can do this on a consistent basis you will wow your callers, and make other dental practices in your area look like amateurs. If your staff misses a call, aim to call back as soon as possible, ideally within the next 5 to 15 minutes.
The longer your staff waits to call back an unanswered call, the more time the caller has to call one of your competitors and arrange an appointment elsewhere.
It should be self explanatory that the live chat should indeed be a live chat. This means that you should respond near instantly to any question a potential new patient sends your way via the live chat. In case your front office cannot fulfill these customer expectations, you should remove the live chat feature from your website, as it will do you more harm than good.
If people send you a message on your live chat and don’t receive a response near instantly, they will have a bad user experience. If in this case the live chat would be the first point of contact with a potential new patient, you have missed a chance to make a great first impression.
E-mail / Form submission / Text messages:
Aim to respond to e-mails or text messages as soon as possible. Ideally, all e-mails should be answered within 2-3 hours.
People that use e-mails to contact you are typically not facing an urgent situation and are aware of the fact that it may take a while to receive a response.
By answering them as soon as possible, you have a chance to wow them early on and show them that you are on top of your game when it comes to customer care.
Now that you are armed with powerful knowledge on how to convert more leads into new patients, I hope that you will go ahead and start implementing processes to handle incoming leads like a true professional.
If you struggle to generate enough leads to fill the production pipelines of your dental practice, I can help you out with Google Ads and local SEO campaigns.
By hiring a search engine marketing professional like myself you will not waste the majority of your Google Ads advertising budget on irrelevant clicks or focus on irrelevant keywords during a search engine optimisation.
Instead you will have a partner that produces results that put a smile on your face.
Feel free to reach out via e-mail or the contact form and I will be happy to discuss your questions with you.