Avoidance. Procrastination. These are telltale signs of dental fear. Without understanding the reasons behind a patient’s reluctance to schedule an appointment, you cannot address the issue(s) and practice growth is hindered. With this in mind, SmartPractice recently held a focus group of insured individuals who have not visited a dentist in two years. We explored the reasons behind their avoidance and based on what we learned, offer expert advice on how you can overcome these issues in your practice.
Cost was the leading cause (50%) listed for a patient’s hesitation to visit the dentist. Participants understood the value of offers like a free consultation, but often did not make the connection that their benefit plan also provided free consultations. Participants stated that the free consultation demonstrated value and showed that the dentist was interested in helping them as opposed to just focusing on profits
• Highlight special offers or payment options
• Offer free consultations or 2nd opinions
• Always include an offer for elective services not covered by insurance
The difficulty and time spent in finding a good dentist, scheduling conflicts and taking time off work for appointments can make a patient reluctant to begin a search, let alone make an appointment. In today’s busy world, convenience is king. Focus group participants indicated that it was difficult and time consuming to find a dentist that accepted their insurance and could schedule with limited time away from work.
• Make it easy for patients to find your office and your hours. Highlight extended hours or weekends for professionals and families.
• Promote services like same day crowns or give an on-time guarantee
• Showcase easy to understand insurance and payment options
Surprisingly, finding a dentist they could trust ranked as high as pain/fear and convenience as a reason for not visiting the dentist. The focus group revealed that prospective patients are skeptical of materials they receive from the dentist. They likened the search for a dentist to that of finding a trustworthy car mechanic.
• Include testimonials in your marketing, these sources lend credibility to your message.
• Use words like ‘compassionate’, ‘caring’, ‘trustworthy’ and ‘good listener’ in marketing to appeal to their search for the ‘right dentist’
• Listen to their concerns on the initial call (and always)
Pain often is tied to past experiences and can create a strong emotional response that can last a lifetime. One negative experience with a dentist or procedure can skew someone’s opinion of dentistry. Oftentimes the whirring noise of the drill alone is enough to make some people feel uncomfortable.
• Highlight sedation options
• Include a testimonial using words like ‘gentle’
• Assure patients their comfort is number one
Points to Remember
- Overcome natural fear, history and trust concerns
- Incorporate patient-centric messaging on websites, direct mailers and on-hold messaging that overcome the top four obstacles
- Familiarize your staff with the messaging so they can utilize those words and phrases when interacting with current and prospective patients
- Know what solutions your office uses to counteract each obstacle and feature them in your marketing communications including social media