Your Unique Value Proposition: The Key to Practice Differentiation

Here’s a little experiment to try: open up Google maps on your browser and type “dental practice” or “dentist” into the search box. If you live in a medium-to-large sized city – or even if you live near one – you’ll likely see dozens of little flags popping up, each of them indicating a particular clinic.

Patients today have many options, and if you want to increase the number of patients choosing your practice over the others, you need to think carefully about what makes your clinic different from all the others.

In business-speak, this is called the “Unique Value Proposition” or UVP. A UVP is what distinguishes you from the competition and it’s what keeps patients coming back even if another clinic might be more conveniently located. In fact, if your UVP is compelling enough, it will inspire patients to go out of their way to visit you.

I’ve written about the importance of a well-articulated UVP in the past, but today I wanted to explore some of the specific things to keep in mind when crafting your UVP and communicating it to your staff.

1. A Good UVP Solves a Problem

The first point to make about a UVP is also one of the most obvious: a good UVP tells a patient how you can solve a particular problem that they have. For example, if they are afraid of going to the dentist your UVP should explain how your clinic offers the friendliest, gentlest service in your region.

2. Make Sure You Communicate a Specific Value

As marketing expert Olga Mizrahi explains in this video, your UVP should emphasize the unique quality that places you above the competition – it isn’t about where you’re better, it’s about where you’re the best.

This isn’t always easy to do, and one of the reasons why identifying your UVP is a valuable process is because it can also help you set goals around how you can improve your dental practice management.

As an example, if you believe your UVP is convenience you should ask yourself and your staff whether you are doing everything you can to offer the greatest convenience possible to your clients.  Are you using cutting-edge tools like ABELDent patient reminder software to make it easier for patients to confirm, change, request or be reminded about required appointments?

It’s important to remember that your UVP needs to be backed up by concrete examples that illustrate what makes you better than the competition. 

3. Appeal to Your Patients: Keep it Simple!

A common problem that many businesses (not just dental practices) face when going through visioning exercises is boiling ideas down into clear, accessible language. If your UVP isn’t simple and easy for your patients to understand, then it’s probably not going to keep them coming back.

As noted earlier, the best UVP solves a problem, so when it comes to communicating your UVP to your patients, you should focus on the way your clinic makes their lives easier. If your UVP is about the quality of personalized care you offer, then emphasizing how that makes a difference is important.

Ideally, you will want to avoid both being too vague or too specific. ABELDent software includes a lot of advanced patient communication tools. This allows clinics that use our software to keep track of each patient’s particular preferences and needs and have quick access to this information during the point of patient contact. But when communicating this as a UVP, it is important not to get bogged down in the details. Instead, emphasize the fact that your clinic uses preferred communication tools like text and email to make sure you never lose track of an appointment.

4. Remind Them Why They Love You

At the end of the day, a UVP exists to remind your patients (and yourself) what makes you different from the competition and to explain in concrete terms why this is.

For example, at ABELDent we understand that there are other kinds of dental software clinics can use so we strive to show our customers how ABELDent dental software provides a more integrated, extensive and usable platform – one that can be tailored to their specific needs. A good UVP should make a clear case as to why your clinic’s services are unique and special.

Because a UVP is about articulating what makes you different there is always a chance that, during the process of mapping out your UVP, you will conclude that your practice isn’t doing enough to separate itself from the competition. If this happens, don’t be afraid to adopt a new plan that will help your dental clinic stand out from the crowd and give your staff the motivation to strive to offer the best service possible!

Good Reviews are Key to a Successful Practice: Here’s How You Can Get More of Them

Imagine you’ve just moved to a new town: there are many things you will need to take care of in the first few weeks, but finding new service providers like bankers, lawyers, doctors, and dentists who you can trust to take care of your financial and healthcare needs will be one of the most important. So, what do you do? 

For most of us, the answer is simple – go online, and start looking at reviews. Websites like Yelp Google Reviews, Facebook and Ratemds.com (for healthcare providers) are a great way to find out what other peoples’ experiences have been like, and they can save us a lot of time and trouble when it comes to locating the best service providers for our needs.      

As a business owner, I know first hand just how important reviews can be for dental clinics that want to grow their patient base. If potential clients can go online and see that real people have appreciated the service they received, it makes them feel a lot more comfortable about trying it out for themselves. I know I always feel better about checking out a new dental practice if I can see what other people are saying about it first! 

While all service providers should be aware of the importance of good reviews, there are even more reasons why those responsible for dental practice management need to take this kind of customer feedback especially seriously.  

Most dentists and dental hygienists care deeply for their patients and will bend over backward to make their experience more comfortable, but research suggests that large numbers of adults routinely avoid having their teeth checked due to fears of going to the dentist. Having lots of good reviews is one important step toward helping patients feel more comfortable visiting your clinic.

But how can you increase the number of good reviews you get? This week, I’ve provided a few ways you can make the most of online reviews.

Good Service = Good Reviews

When it comes to making your patients feel welcomed, comfortable and cared for, there really are no shortcuts. If your clinic isn’t offering patients a personalized experience that lets them know you take their health and well being seriously, no amount of marketing is going to make up for that.

But improving patient experience isn’t just about treating them as gently and empathetically as possible when they’re in the dentist’s chair. Remember, your patient’s experience begins the moment they pick up the phone or send an email to request an appointment: if you want to make a good impression, you need to make sure that patients feel comfortable and in control from the beginning.

Appointment Scheduling Software Can Help

One easy way to improve your patients’ overall experience is to use practice management software that remembers and easily finds a patient’s preferred appointment time. It’s also helpful to patients if the software can locate patients who want to come in earlier if a preferred time opens up.  

Patient Portals also give patients an easy way to participate in the management of the dental care when it comes to managing appointments, reviewing their personal health information record, and responding to post-visit surveys. And because it includes options that allow patients to refer new patients to the practice, it makes word-of-mouth recommendations that much easier. 

5 Steps Worth Taking To Increase Review Numbers

While good service is essential, it isn’t everything. If you don’t have any reviews, you may need to jump-start the process yourself. Here are a few things you can do to get started:

1. Ask Your Regulars to Submit a Review

If you have patients who have been with you for a long time, ask if they would be willing to contribute a review. This is the best way to build momentum initially.

2. Provide Patients Guidance for Reviewing

Recommend review platforms that don’t require payment from you in order to receive positive reviews since their credibility is naturally suspect. Also, choose sites that allow you to respond to the review if possible, particularly to address negative comments. Recommend sites that have a large user base since more people will see your patients’ reviews and keep track of which sites provide the best results. This way you can narrow down the recommended sites over time and build a significant review base per site.    

3. Use Social Media as an Outreach Tool

Increasingly, social media is becoming a major way that people connect to and discuss their experiences with healthcare services, and there are lots of resources that can help you use social media to spread the word about your dental practice. Or better yet, read our post on Facebook groups to learn how easy it is to get started.

4. Thank Your Reviewers

Gratitude is a powerful motivator, and reaching out to reviewers who comment positively is a great way to ensure they keep spreading the news. For those who leave negative comments, it’s a good way to address concerns and make people feel heard. 

5. Track Patient Satisfaction

Most practice management software (including ABELDent) gives you the ability to use “Flags” that you can designate to define particular patient profiles.  Use one to indicate your estimation of the patient’s level of satisfaction with your services. This makes it easier to target highly satisfied patients that are most likely to give you a positive review. Use another flag to indicate patients that have provided a review to avoid unnecessary solicitation.

Finally, it is important to remember that, as you increase the number of overall reviews, you’ll inevitably increase the chances of getting a bad review. When this happens, don’t sweat it: if people on the whole are positive about your clinic, a couple of negative reviews will only confirm the authenticity of the positive reviews. 

In a media-saturated world, one good word from an existing patient to a potential one is worth dozens of paid advertisements. Make sure your dental clinic is capitalizing on the power of positive reviews!

Reducing Anxiety is the Key to Patient Retention

Identify and Reduce Common Causes of Dental Anxiety: Understanding Positive Patient Perception Will Help You Grow Your Practice

If you are a fan of Netflix or enjoy a night out at the movies, you’ve probably noticed that dentists aren’t often portrayed kindly in popular media.

The movie industry still clings to the cliché of dentists as villains – just look at Horrible Bosses, where Jennifer Aniston plays a crazed dental practitioner who gleefully tortures her patients and staff, or horror films like The Dentist or its sequel.

These portrayals are unfortunate because most dentists, and their team members, are actually quite amiable and likeable. Personally I can say that at the dental clinic where I receive care they routinely share little anecdotes and we have some good laughs.

Any dental practice in the know recognizes the importance of patient perception and will address and even reverse the all-too-popular assumption that the dentist’s office is a place to fear.

Dental industry experts tell us that the most common reasons given by patients for not routinely visiting the dentist are:

  • Communication issues
  • Failure to address concerns over the cost of dental care, and
  • A lack of appreciation for patient anxiety

If you run a dental practice and you want to ensure that your patients not only return for future work, but also return for regular preventative care – and not just to deal with a crisis – you need to address these concerns.

Improving Communication

Effective communication is essential for creating positive perceptions, and improving communication is easy – if you know what people want. Most patients appreciate a health care professional that speaks to them, not at them. By reducing your reliance on technical jargon and by presenting information clearly, you can significantly improve your patients’ overall experience. After all, the more aware they are of your administrative and clinical processes, the more comfortable they’ll be.

You can also work on improving the non-verbal communication skills of your dentists and support staff to increase patient retention. It’s a dentist’s office after all, so make sure everyone’s smiling!

Addressing Concerns about Cost

Many patients reporting negative reactions to their dental experience say the care was satisfactory but are unhappy with the cost. This is especially true in countries like Canada where many other forms of healthcare are fully or partially funded publicly.

One way to help patients understand the cost-to-benefit ratio of dental work is to explain the treatment process, the breakdown of the individual services you are providing, and the consequences of not proceeding with the required treatment. For Millennials, who tend to be more budget savvy, spend time educating them during their decision-making process to help them understand the reasoning behind your recommendations.

Dealing with Dental Anxiety

Fear of the dentist has been reported as the second most common phobia – second only to public speaking – and every dental patient experiences some degree of anxiety.

To help alleviate this anxiety, remember that comfort is key. Go the extra mile to establish an open and caring relationship with patients, especially those under the age of 12. Coloured glasses can help reduce the glare of the bright lights above the dental chair and can add a bit of fun to the experience, while having TVs spread about the office can give both kids and adults a happy distraction.

Reduce Appointment Jitters

Patients are already anxious enough about going to the dentist, and they don’t want their appointments continually cancelled or postponed. Running a dental clinic should never be viewed as chaotic, and ABELDent’s automated patient communication and other dental scheduling software can help keep you organized – which will help reduce patient anxiety, and keep them coming back for future care.

Don’t let the Hollywood media define you! Address these common patient concerns and watch your practice grow and patient satisfaction increase!

ABELDent Keeps You Informed on Digital Dental Office Solutions

Consult our Simple, Straightforward Guide to Building the Perfect Facebook Group

As a follow-up to our October article about using Facebook to promote your dental practice, here is a new article that will show you how to harness the power of Facebook groups to better engage and connect directly with your patients.

At ABELDent, we know how to connect dental practitioners to the right dental practice management software and the tools they need to increase productivity, but we also know how to connect to people – which is why we’re confident the insights presented in this guide will help you build a better practice.

Consult our Simple, Straightforward Guide to Building the Perfect Facebook Group

What to Know Before You Start

Understanding patient needs is the most important pillar of any healthcare practice, and being able to connect directly with those patients is the first step toward building a lasting relationship.

You probably already know that owning the customer experience is the key to marketing any brand on social media. But if you really want your dental practice to stand out from the competition, you need to understand how these platforms actually handle user experience, and where your individual brand fits into the equation.

These days, companies compete first and foremost on the basis of customer experience (according to Forbes, 89% of companies list it as their primary metric for success). Like any other type of customer, dental patients use how they feel about the service you’re offering to decide whether or not they will keep doing business with your brand – or engage with that brand in the first place.

This is why companies in the know have begun to use the community-building nature of Facebook groups as a backdoor into deeper connections with potential and returning customers. The experience of being connected to a community paves the way to brand interaction, and Facebook privileges and promotes this kind of organic interaction.

Think about it. At the start of 2018, Facebook needed to change the way its News Feed functioned, and so they tweaked the algorithm – the code that decides what information to present to users and what information to deprioritize – to promote more posts from family and friends, while demoting content posted by brands, businesses, and media outlets.

While the new algorithm actively pushes followers away from traditional ad campaigns, it simultaneously rewards businesses that connect to users by building vibrant group communities.

Tip #1 – Find your Niche

Facebook groups are great at bringing together people who share a common interest. Creating a group dedicated to spreading dental health awareness, for example, might attract Facebook users who have similar oral health questions, or who want to learn more about local dentistry options in their city.

This gives you ample opportunities to improve awareness of yourself and your dental care brand simply by being helpful and informative.

Tip #2 – Engage with your Members

Posting and engaging with your group members goes a long way to building your numbers (just ask social media marketing expert Neil Patel, whose own Facebook group has over 11,000 members)!

More than just a controllable asset, a Facebook group is a hub – a space for people to gather, share, and discuss – which influences users in a far bigger way than a Facebook page alone.

People need answers to their questions, and if you are able to offer consistent solutions, you will see patient communication within your group soar, especially as people start to share the experience with friends and family on the platform, driving more attention to your brand. You can start by offering simple dental hygiene tips related to proper brushing and flossing techniques, the benefits of teeth whitening, and the importance of routine visits to the dentist. Once you’ve solidified your brand’s status, you can then begin to suggest specific services, such as those offered by your practice.

If you’ve been consistently providing answers to oral health questions, you can slowly begin to recommend that people stop by your clinic to learn more, turning Facebook engagement into potential business.

Tip #3 – Commit Yourself

If you’re thinking about starting a Facebook group for your dental clinic, or you want to improve the group you’ve already started, you need to put some time and energy into the endeavour. Remember the following:

  1. Be informative. Let the world know what your group is about. Write a great intro blurb in the About section to get people interested. This is your elevator pitch, so make those characters count.
  2. Be welcoming. Create a pinned post anytime a new person joins your group, welcoming them aboard and inviting them to introduce themselves. People who feel like they belong are more likely to participate and engage with your content.
  3. Be encouraging. Talk to existing customers in your group routinely, and encourage them to post positive reviews or testimonials. This will allow you to highlight patient experiences for others to see and share.
  4. Be present. Make sure you commit to giving your group members a piece of your time every day. It might not be the most ‘scalable’ use of your half-hour, but you need to be present in the group to get members to believe in you and your brand.

There you have it! Hopefully you can use this guide to create the perfect Facebook group that will allow you to position yourself and your brand in a more visible space, find new customers, and bring more attention to your dental practice.

At ABELDent, we routinely publish informative pieces on all things related to dentistry software and dentistry itself, so be sure to check in on the blog regularly!

Bad Press? You’re a Doctor… Spin It!

We often hear that there is no such thing as “bad” press. The fact that someone is talking about you at all is considered a good thing, right? It can place you in the spotlight for a fleeting moment and give you the opportunity to right a wrong. Misfortune may befall, and mistakes will be made. The fallout is usually brief; it’s how you deal with it can help you win friends and influence others.

There have always been forums for patients to voice complaints and, of course, regulatory bodies for serious claims. But in today’s culture of sharing the most mundane of activities and trivial opinions on social media, the exposure is magnified. People are increasingly post-happy, looking to provoke controversy in search of their 15 minutes of fame.

Within this climate, it is only prudent to develop a plan for damage control. Like back-up and recovery of your data in the event of cybercrime or catastrophe, reputation management requires an ounce of prevention.

Essentially, it’s the patient experience itself that becomes your best risk mitigator. One of the wisest things you and your team can do is ask for patient feedback after each appointment. Did we meet your expectations? Is there anything we could improve to make you more satisfied? Especially if your team has tracked the patient’s appointment in your practice management software and has used the information in real time to smooth out any glitches, feedback is valuable.

Post-appointment surveys can be even more effective; they open lines of communication and keep you top-of-mind. They provide an equal opportunity for positive feedback which can be used (with permission) as a testimonial. A survey also opens the door to ask for referrals. The important thing is to ask for feedback and make it easy for your patients to give it.

In the case of a clinical error or unfortunate outcome, you would likely be immediately aware of the situation and able to work with your patient towards resolution. In the case of dissatisfaction with service or other issues, however, you may never have the opportunity for direct communication. And either case could go viral before you even break for lunch.

For a business, receiving a complaint – or worse, reading about one directed at your practice – can be shocking. The natural first reaction is emotional: we get angry, insulted, defensive. Some respond by immediately firing back an angry tweet.

Don’t do that. Instead:

  1. Give it time. In 24 hours, emotions will fade, and you can focus on facts. Make sure that your staff is aware of this advice.
  2. Assemble your facts. If warranted, involve relevant staff. Use your practice management software history for details. Make the exercise about fact-finding, not blame-seeking.
  3. Respond to your challenger using the same channel. Thank the patient for taking the time to communicate. “Your feedback helps us understand and address how patients perceive our service.”
  4. There is usually no need to apologize. “We are sorry you feel that way.” is a good way to validate feelings without accepting fault.
  5. Depending on the patient and the complaint, you might consider inviting the person to contact you directly to offer their perspective for improvement.
  6. Again, depending on the patient and the complaint, a personal phone call might be warranted, instead of or in addition to the above.
  7. Finally, there are situations where you are best advised to simply defer to your lawyer.

It seems unjust that one negative incident can outweigh the scores of positive interactions and examples of exceptional service you provide on a daily basis. Alas, the rule of asymmetrical rewards can apply in dentistry as much as in any customer-facing company.

Here is some food for thought to address the imbalance:

  • It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings. Criticism stings. Any Psychologist – and any mother – will assure you that “Nobody’s perfect” and “You can’t please everybody all of the time”. In fact, the principle of the pratfall effect validates the idea that infallibility is endearing. Flaws can make an individual more likable and less intimidating.
  • You – and your practice – have supporters. In the event of bad press, you may discover loyal patients inspired to voluntarily rally to your defence. I described in a recent post some of the steps you can take to improve your Facebook and social media presence… asking for testimonials is one of them. Let the occasional negative item get lost in a sea of praise. And the more digital presence you create, the more search engine prominence gets placed on space you control.
  • Remember the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion effect. It’s helpful to keep this principle in mind so that you – and your staff – do not allow a minor complaint to build out of proportion.
  • Finally, count on the spotlight effect. Although an overblown bad review about a trivial matter can still seem earth shattering, the fact is that in most cases, an isolated bit of bad press is not noticed as much as we think.

I am not a Psychologist, but I am a mother, and I learned from the best. I also found inspiration and data for this post in an article by Rebekah Bernard in Medical Economics, and another by Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer. When it comes to the power of positive thinking, I’ll take the half-full glass every time. Cheers!

Take Advantage of Facebook to Market your Dental Practice. Step 1: Create a page. Step 2: Use It.

How many organizations, small and large, stop after step 1 of this simple 2-step formula? Sadly, far too many. Neglecting a Facebook page – or any other digital property – is one of the most common social media management mistakes. And it’s a big one.

It is tempting to believe that if you build it, they will come. But they will not. Not unless you let people know about it, make it interesting, offer opportunities for interaction, and keep it fresh. Facebook mastered the push-out mechanism, making it incredibly easy to define and reach your desired target audiences, but as the saying goes, it won’t work unless you do.

It works like SEO – search engine optimization – for your website. Complex algorithms are constantly judging the content, context and relevance of your material against keywords, and ranking it accordingly. Google et al want their users’ searches to be productive. Facebook wants to be popular. It wants to be liked.

So how can a dental practice optimize Facebook without turning it into a full-time job? Here are a few tips we’ve compiled:

  1. Involve your team. Add Facebook strategy to your weekly team meeting agenda. Or devote one team lunch every month to brainstorm content ideas.
  2. Assign a Champion. You’re bound to have at least one person on your team who would like to take this on as part of their job – with a reasonable time commitment of course so as not to interfere with other tasks. If not a team member, find a digital native: a son, daughter, or local college student who would love a part-time job.
  3. Be helpful. Supply facts, health information and useful links that will inspire your readers to like, love, be wowed by, and share your posts. Following you is the ultimate Facebook compliment. Be worthy.
  4. Try a little empathy. Publish what your think patients want to buy, not just what you want to sell. Special offers for Facebook friends are useful to reward followers and attract new business.
  5. Go for the visual. Photos, graphics, videos, and colour all add to readability. Before-and-after procedure photos are always popular – just make sure that you have permission for any photo you use.
  6. Stand out. Facebook algorithms are able to distinguish original and distinctive content. If it judges your post newsworthy, it will push your content to news feeds.
  7. Think local. Your existing and prospective patients are within convenient proximity. Get interested and involved in community events and report on them.
  8. Repurpose your content. Market your practice to even more people in your community by posting each of your messages on other social media like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.
  9. Get help. Ask your staff, family, friends and existing patients to like and follow you. Even better, ask them to post and share testimonials on their personal pages. Facebook gives higher visibility to an original post on a personal page.
  10. Using, monitoring and managing your Facebook page is a vital aspect of overall Reputation Management. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this topic!

The most important takeaway from this post is the emphasis on fresh and frequent activity on your page. Attention spans are short and digital multi-tasking is the norm. So when it comes to a company page on Facebook, use it… or lose it.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Shouldn’t Dentists be Especially Good at This?

Sales executives in every business will unanimously agree that referrals from existing customers are the of lead generation. Certainly for us, when a satisfied ABELDent user recommends our software to a colleague, we are thrilled on multiple levels.

First, it is testimony to the confidence that Dentists place in our product. We are honoured that they take the time out of their busy day to champion ABELDent! Second, the positive introduction promotes our solution and dramatically reduces the sales cycle. Finally, the direct lead to a qualified decision-maker is the most cost-effective method of welcoming new customers.

The same benefits apply to a dental practice whose patients trust them enough to recommend their services. Imagine for a moment if one-quarter of your existing patient base was to successfully refer just one new patient each. That would represent a 25% growth spike without touching your advertising budget!

As great as that sounds, it is actually realistic to aim to receive one referral per year from 40-60% of your existing patient base, of which ideally 10% will successfully convert to a new patient.

So how does your dental practice measure up? Do you even know how many referrals you received over the past year? Are you aware of the value to your practice?

Every dental practice should know:

  • The number of new patient referrals and revenue attributed to the new patients
  • Your referral conversion ratio – how many leads actually convert to new patients
  • The net patient growth of the practice (the number of patients leaving the practice vs. number of patients added over the same period)

The good news is that all of the information necessary to calculate these KPIs resides within your ABELDent data. Detailed Referral Reports present useful data about all referrals including names, sources, timing, and resulting revenue generation.

Now… considering the value of patient referrals, imagine the exponential benefits that could be achieved with a little proactivity:

  • Ask for referrals. Train your front-desk staff to be confident: “We’re expanding our practice. Do you know anyone who needs a great Dentist?”
  • Print out cards that your patients can easily pass along to contacts
  • Develop an email or texting campaign to make it easy for your patients to forward your coordinates
  • Create prestige whereby a referred patient receives a value promotion (and be prepared to offer that same promotion to existing patients upon successful referral)
  • Offer an incentive. Contests, random draws and Frequent Referral Rewards always spur participation
  • Establish a Patient Appreciation Event… remember the famous car maker that sponsored a free drive-in movie event each year for customers and their families and friends?
  • Maintain top-of-mind awareness through ongoing communication. Brief, interesting newsletters tend to have a high readership ratio

It is important to remember that new patient acquisition should only be a priority focus once a successful patient retention strategy is in place. To explore some practical ideas and strategies for patient engagement and loyalty, just re-visit my previous posts:

In with the new… Patients

Facts and Figures Speak Volumes about Dental Patient Retention

Every dental practice has a UVP. What’s yours?

In closing, we have recently launched our amazing new ABELDent 365. Do you know anyone who needs some great practice management software?

I invite you to continue this conversation by reaching out to our team at any time.