If you think that hailing a cab for patients and paying for it to get them to their appointments on time is a bit excessive, then you may be missing a trick.
In the midst of a recession, dentists are having to crank up their efforts in enticing patients back into the dentist’s chair. And keep them there.
The current economic climate means the profession is required to go that extra mile with tempting appeals such as a freebie take-home bags of toiletries, membership of clubs and gyms, with special offers and concierge services.
In a recessionary environment, buyers want a ‘deal’ and some dentists are sealing that deal with offers such as free teeth whitening for life, buy one get one free teeth whitening, free electric incentives when patients refer a friend and gifts such as iPods when committing to starting a big treatment plan.
A VIP private membership scheme in which members receive discounts to the dental and beauty treatments available at the practice as well exclusive discounts to high profile shops and apartment stores is also enticing in patients.
One dentist is saving his patients and his practice money by providing a free taxi service.
Patients at the Kissdental clinic on Stanley Street in Manchester are encouraged to pre-book the Tooth Taxi to get them to and from their appointments.
‘It may sound crazy but laying on the Tooth Taxi actually makes us money,’ says dentist Kailesh Solanki.
‘Missed appointments push our charges up so, even though it costs us to provide transport, we save money in the long run. We can pass those savings on to our patients so everyone ends up happy.
‘Patients receive a lower bill and also don’t have transport and parking costs to worry about in the city centre.’
Kissdental noticed a significant improvement in attendance during trials of the taxi service at the two existing clinics in Manchester, with missed appointments down by 30%.
‘The journey to and from the dentist is just another reason why people miss appointments.’
‘By taking the hassle and stress out of the journey, patients are left with a smile on their faces, especially when they see their lower bill.’
‘This takes our five star service to the next level, especially in these recessionary times. Patients like the concierge service and we are now pitching the idea to corporates, too. If any employee needs emergency treatment, for example, we can get them to our practice and it can be dealt with in five minutes and then have them back in the office so no wasted work time.’
Dr Solanki says that he has been able to cut the average appointment cost by £5 after providing the Tooth Taxi.
Smile for Life
Bow Lane Dental Group is a London dental practice located in the heart of the City of London so the team there is well aware of the importance of attracting patients on the go.
The practice offers cosmetic dentistry, orthodontic care and general dental care but a driving force behind their treatments is a ‘Smile for Life’ package to which patients sign up for life membership.
It includes one visit a year with a dentist, two visits a year with a hygienist, all necessary X-rays, preventive and dietary advice, UK and worldwide dental injury and emergency insurance, 10% reduction off all dental treatments (excluding referral for specialist treatment), free teeth
whitening all for £19.99 a month.
Practice manager Lucy King says: ‘The package is a success and definitely makes patients come back. We also offer patients M&S vouchers for referring friends and family and we always do follow-ups to hear the positives and negatives. Our reception team offer a good welcome, too.
Sunita Verma, principal dentist at Sparkle Dental Boutique in west London believes every patient is special – and giving them added value, especially in times of financial woes, is essential.
She says: ‘The ethos of the practice is that everyone who walks through our door is special. Listening to patients is the most important skill as is understanding the patient’s needs.
‘Our aim is to offer a different service that’s also fun. From a full smile makeover to just a check-up, we never assume what the patient wants. As a clinician, we are here to diagnose but we are led by where the patient wants to go.’
To ensure this special ‘Sparkle’ ethos, the practice has a number of gifts to make the patient feel special.
Sunita explains: ‘After every course of treatment over £100, we give our patients a little gift pack containing lip balm, hand cream and referral cards, with a branded tag, which lets patients know that if they refer a friend, they receive a £10 gift voucher.’
‘For ladies that have had a makeover, we are giving them a purple shawl as a thank you, a luxury gift they can drape over their shoulders.
‘We also give them a branded compact mirror so they can view their lovely smiles regularly.
For patients that refer others, the top gift we give is a tea-for-two experience at the Ritz Hotel.’
So, if your practice is in need of finding renewed enthusiasm in the new year, consider adding value. The small cost of ‘something extra’ to your treatments could, in the long run, reap you big benefits…