Have you ever had a mystery shopper enter your practice? Jan Clarke explains why it could be helpful.

Looking at your business from your patients’ perspective may seem simple, but is it? It is almost impossible for you to view it from this angle without asking an independent third party to do this for you.

1. What do your patients see?

  • What is your website like, is it easy to find in searches and with Google Maps?
  • Is your business consistent on branding, website, building, printed material?
  • Is the overall impression welcoming?
  • How is the phone answered in your practice and how are enquiries dealt with?
  • How is the patient welcomed?
  • Does the receptionist seem knowledgeable?
  • Is the reception desk clear and are patients dealt with in a friendly manner?

You may be the best dentist in the world with superb work, but if no one is actually encouraged to make an appointment with you then potential patients will look elsewhere.

It is worth mystery shopping your business. Ask someone to call in with a potential new patient query and see what the response is.

Here are some good pointers when helping your team with phone answering.

  • Greeting – keep this consistent and friendly
  • Respond to the enquiry and take control with a broad question asking name and contact details, agree the next steps
  • Summarise – this confirms understanding
  • Agree next steps.

A new patient enquiry can take time, so encourage your team to spend time finding out about the caller and have a conversation with them. Unless you ask the caller what they are looking for then you will not know.

2. How easy is it to become a patient?

  • Is your phone answered quickly and by someone with knowledge?
  • Does the receptionist answer with the practice name and their own name?
  • Does the receptionist ask the callers name?
  • Does the receptionist ask how the caller heard about the practice?
  • How about the tone of the call?
  • What about emails? Are they answered within three hours?

Often patients ring several practices before they settle on one and price is not always the major factor. If your team can build rapport quickly in that initial call it is highly likely they will book in.

3. How easy is it to keep a patient?

  • Do you communicate with patients?
  • Do you ask for feedback and how your services can be improved?
  • Is there a system for keeping an eye on patients who haven’t used you for a while?
  • Is there a system for following up unbooked and open treatment plans?

Often we spend a lot of time and effort trying to get new patients that we forget to look after our existing ones. We maybe have offers for new patients and these alone can alienate our loyal existing patients. Keep a dialogue and communication wherever possible and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Listening to your patients and understanding them is a great way to build your business and be sure you are spending the right time on the right areas.

As I have said before, marketing is everything you do, from how you answer the phone, to how you pay your staff. It is an entire understanding of how your business is perceived. Get it right and it will thrive, any defects and you’ll see problems.