There are so many ways in which patients can hear about a practice. One of the most obvious would be from advertising, another could be from passing by the premises, and there are even referrals from another dentist. These days, the easiest way for people to search for what they need is using the internet.
It is so simple to type in Dental Implants, Dentures, and Orthodontics into a search engine and for all the information a patient could want to appear in seconds.Our practice website gives patients a lot of information on the treatment available within the practice, the team and their roles, and, very importantly, testimonials from patients that we have treated in the past. These testimonials range from the written word to audio and video. I feel that the video testimonials have the best response because patients like to have a visual aid to affirm the information given. The nature of a video testimonial is, perhaps, also more effective because of the raw, unedited nature of it. The person giving the recommendation could perhaps seem more ‘real’ than words on a page.
I know before I buy anything that I always read the customer reviews; good reviews will build my confidence in the product, whereas bad reviews will possibly prompt me to look at something else. Isn’t this what patient testimonials really are, just customer reviews? At our practice, we know the value of these testimonials, so have now implemented a final appointment for all patients with the TCO whom they saw for their first consultation. During this appointment, the TCO will ask how the patient found their treatment and if there was anything we could have improved on. This is a great time for us to ensure that the patients have been happy with all aspects of their treatment and that they have enjoyed the experience (as much as possible). If we receive any negative feedback, then we can make sure that the problem is quickly resolved and the patient leaves happy.
I have not received any negative feedback from the patients when I have seen them for this final appointment; I would say that the only criticism that has been brought to my attention was that one of our patients arrived for their first consultation, rang the doorbell and found that nobody answered. It turned out that the door was actually open, but the patient was not aware of this. This gave me the opportunity to check the batteries in the doorbell and, sure enough, they had run out. I changed the batteries and thanked the patient for bringing this to my attention. If this had gone unnoticed, we could have easily lost a couple of patients who might also have rung the doorbell but received no response.
This final appointment is also an ideal time for us to go through our treatment guarantees and maintenance plans. We discuss this with the patient prior to commencement of treatment, of course, but going through everything again ensures that the patient understands all of our terms and conditions. If the patient is not on our maintenance plan, then this can be arranged during the final appointment. We will explain to the patients the benefit of having testimonials from patients that have received treatment from us. Some patients may not wish to have a video taken, but are happy to write something.
One patient who comes to mind came to see me back in 2010. She was terrified of dentists, but had finally managed to talk herself into making an appointment. After the first consultation, the patient decided that she would like dentures retained on implants, so another appointment was made to take a CT scan. This patient was thrilled with treatment and returned to us at a later date to upgrade to fixed restorations on implants. She was only too happy to give us a testimonial. We have a written one from her on display in our testimonial book in reception and an audio recording on our website. She is also happy to speak to patients and tell them about her experience.
I feel that dentistry is a small world; if a practice has a good reputation, people will know of it, not just potential patients, but also dentists. Many dental practices are now starting to offer dental implants, but some may still refer patients to specialists - in a complex case, for example, such as sinus grafts. Our Implantologist receives referrals so that he can carry out the implant work and the GDP can complete the restorations. We also have many dentists who will refer their difficult denture cases to us because we have treated other patients of theirs in the past and they have been pleased with the end result.
As I said earlier, one of the ways to spread the word about our practice is through advertising, possibly in a local newspaper or magazine. In my opinion, the best adverts are the patients that have already been treated by a practice, or the referring dentists that have confidence in the treatment on offer. If someone visits a practice for a consultation after being prompted by a recommendation from a friend or dentist, then wouldn’t they already have some faith in your services? Overcoming this first hurdle of trust based on a recommendation is something incredibly valuable, a certain something that an advert in a newspaper simply cannot do!