Providing a good patient experience extends beyond the dental chair. From the first step of locating a practice to scheduling an appointment and undergoing treatment, there are many factors that influence a patient’s dental experience. With the rise of online reviews, it’s become increasingly important to foster a positive experience at every step of the patient's journey and actively encourage positive online feedback.
Amplify your online presence
Patients are more internet-savvy than ever with over 51% of the global population has access to the internet, and 2.3 billion people worldwide own at least one smartphone. Having a strong online presence is as important for practice success as flossing is for your patients’ oral hygiene. Before selecting a practice, patients will most likely do their research online. Over 91% of consumers read online reviews before buying a product, and in the medical industry over 31% of patients look for online reviews before choosing a doctor. A practice search is not limited to using Google and looking up their websites, but rather prospective patients look for real experiences of other patients. Traditionally platforms such as Google Maps, Yelp and Facebook were the main source of information, but in recent years the dynamics of online reviews in the medical industry have been disrupted by the creation of specialized platforms such as My dentist, Jameda, and Mon Docteur. For this reason, it is critical to build an ecosystem of online reviews and engaging social media profiles. A good start is to ensure that you have completed all necessary information on the aforementioned platforms.
Leave an impeccable first impression
Once a prospective patient has found your practice, you will need an easy to navigate website and a well-designed contact page. Kicking off your patients’ experience with a positive encounter will influence every step that follows. If the patient has made an appointment online, you can provide an automated booking confirmation email over your secure network. If they book the appointment by phone, ensure that a friendly informative voice receives their call. Before the appointment, whether it is a phone or online booking, always provide a reminder via email, text or a phone call that provides all necessary information.
Once the patient has arrived, the way your practice looks will directly influence their experience. The atmosphere should be welcoming, clean and relaxing. The reception staff should be attentive and engage in light, friendly conversation. As delays in appointments cannot always be avoided, offering new issues of magazines, good quality refreshments and even digital entertainment devices such as tablets can go a long way to comfort the waiting patient. When the dentist is ready to start the appointment, a warm welcome should be echoed by the dentist, whether it is an introduction or the patient’s 50th visit.
Personalize the patient’s chair time
It is now down to the dentist to ensure the experience in the chair continues to be a positive one. Jumping into treatment details too soon may make your patient uncomfortable. Try to ask some general questions about the patient’s life to put them at ease. Ask questions to get a sense of who they are and how they are feeling at that moment. This will give you an indication of their experience so far and avoid the patient communicating a perceived negative experience at your practice post appointment. Keep in mind that one size does not fit all, so try your best to tailor your communication to each patient and continue to do so while explaining their treatment plan.
Encourage a review with a few easy steps
Your patient has had a great experience and you have an opportunity to turn this into a positive online review. It’s time for the dentist and the practice staff to be proactive and kindly ask the patient to post a review on their chosen platform. It will not feel pushy once you have listened and paid attention to their needs and asked about their experience. You can ask the patient to offer the review directly at the end of the appointment, or send a follow-up email within 24 hours. Either way, writing a review should be swift and easy. You can integrate a link to request reviews in all of your emails and printed materials for your practice. Ensure that someone in the practice monitors these reviews and responds to feedback as soon as possible. Even if you receive a negative review it’s important to thank the reviewer so that they feel heard.