The Perks of Patient Retention for Dental Practices
Becoming a dentist in Australia requires multiple years of university education and training. After that, these professionals must continue to hone their craft. However, even the best dentists won’t be successful without a steady stream of patients.
The average cost of customer acquisition (CAC) for healthcare in Australia is $122, a number that has increased by more than 60 percent in the past five years. CAC is the total cost associated with bringing a new customer to your practice and can be calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring more customers (i.e., advertising, marketing, overheads, staff salaries, tools) by the number of new customers gained over a fixed period of time.
Although the CAC can seem overwhelming for a small dental practice, once it has established itself, focusing on retaining its customer base can lessen the cost and effort needed to bring in new patients. That’s because it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
Customer retention rate measures a practice’s ability to retain customers over a specific period. It can be computed by:
- Setting a fixed time frame
- Figuring how many clients the practice gained during that time period
- Calculating the total number of patients at the end of the period minus new customers acquired during the period and dividing the total number of customers at the start of the period
The Value of Existing Customers
By focusing on their existing patient base, dental practices can achieve better conversion rates and higher profits with less marketing spend and lower costs. The following numbers highlight the importance of a customer retention strategy versus only focusing on bringing in new patients:
- The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent compared to 5-20 percent for a new customer.
- Almost 65 percent of a company’s business comes from repeat customers.
- Approximately 80 percent of a company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of its existing customers.
- Increasing customer retention rates by five percent increases profits by 25-95 percent.
Even though research has shown the value of maintaining a strong customer base, roughly 44 percent of companies spend their efforts on customer acquisition, while only 16 percent focus on retention. Along with loss of revenue and wasted spend, lack of patient retention can lead to damaged customer relationships and fewer word-of-mouth referrals.
A happy patient is a valuable one. One in three customers will pay more for a better experience, and Harvard Business Review research shows that emotionally connected customers can be 50 percent more valuable on average. One study found that satisfied customers tell an average of nine people about their positive experience, while dissatisfied ones are likely to tell 22 people about their negative experience.
Patient Retention Recommendations
Attaining a high customer retention rate doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be accomplished by following some basic yet useful actions. For example, by simply understanding patient needs, dental practices of any size can better engage and serve those individuals, which often results in increased satisfaction.
Another retention recommendation is to properly handle telephone calls. Although this sounds simple, the average practice misses 34 percent of calls. Typical healthcare providers have 53 patient calls per day and an estimated 150 to 300 calls per week.
One survey indicated that about one third of patients said they’re unwilling to wait on the line, 60 percent will hang up after 60 seconds and only about 30 percent will actually call back. Dental practice managers should establish standards to ensure that the telephone is picked within a certain time, mode and tone of speech are cordial and a triage protocol is followed to mitigate unnecessary calls.
A common-sense yet sometimes undervalued step for improved patient retention is a focus on customer service. Australian businesses lose $720 per bad customer experience, and over half of Australian businesses reported that customer churn has increased over the last 12 months.
A dental practice’s front desk staff often make the first impression on a new patient, so they should be effectively trained on creating a welcoming environment. These team members should greet patients as soon as they enter the office, attempt to personalize their experience and ensure they leave the office feeling positive after checkout.
Patient satisfaction leads to patient loyalty, improved adherence to medical advice and treatment plans and enhanced provider reputation. For providers, patients who are more satisfied with their healthcare positively affect the satisfaction of physicians and staff, resulting in increased productivity and reduced turnover.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to cost-effectively communicate with patients and keep them engaged with your practice is by utilizing technology. For example, mobile health (mHealth) apps and other solutions can be used to streamline patient communication while automating some time-consuming administrative tasks. Employing such methods also increases the probability your patients receive a favorable first impression.
The AirSmile platform was created to help dentists connect with patients eager to find the right dentist and get started with treatment immediately. You have complete control over the fees and what details patients see about your pricing, services, practice offerings and appointment availability. Plus, you only pay when you get a new patient through your door for consultation. Book a demo with us to learn more!