HOW TO RESTART YOUR DENTAL PRACTICE AFTER COVID-19

Your dentist office has been shut down for 3-6 weeks. How do you restart? There are realistically three communication areas from a marketing perspective to be thinking about:

Now is the time to communicate. In Tennessee, where our office is located, there is already news about a soft reopening, so your patients may already be wondering what’s coming next. Getting in front of the communication is key to controlling how many inbound emails, calls, texts, and social media comments you get asking “when will you be open”. 

First and foremost you want to communicate to your patient base when you will be open, any changes to hours of operation, and what steps you want them to take regarding scheduling. You also want to over communicate to them about anything else that may be different about their experience. 

Communication and Scheduling

Will you be contacting them, or should they contact you? Most likely you’ll want to email all of your patients and then begin to individually contact them via phone and text message for scheduling.  You will probably start with patients who are in pain, and then going next to the appointments from early March.  If you are leaving voicemails, make sure you are clear how you are scheduling so that this opportunity with patients doesn’t turn negative because they have to wait another three weeks to be seen.  Also remember the shut down was immediate, but practice openings will likely be staggered and there will be lots of questions from existing AND new patients about what will quickly become routine for you. 

You will want to update a page on your website with this information, and link to it with a banner or pop-up on your homepage as well as your contact page.  Also share this link and graphic on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  A quick video from the dentist on this pop-up can also help communicate what to expect in tone and richness that text just doesn’t.  

Make sure to emphasize to your front desk staff to be extra gracious, emphatic and understanding. This will be new for everyone and the responsibility is on your team to make it the best experience possible, with as little fear or confusion for the patients as possible

Communication and Cleaning Your Office

Understand that patients will have some fear about the spread of disease and your office environment.  What can you do to alleviate this fear? Be proactive about sharing with them the steps you are taking to sanitize the office, your tools, and each place a patient goes.  One way to do this is to create a video of how you are cleaning between each appointment to keep everyone safe.  If you can’t do a video, even just a picture of the cleaning supplies you are using can help.  

Even though it seems commonsense, if you don’t tell your patients what you are doing, they won’t know what you are doing and they might begin to wonder if you’re doing anything at all.  Clarity is king. 

Communication and Patient Expectations

Humans like routine, which is why my 5-year-old loves getting “school milk” even at home right now for lunch – routine makes us feel comfortable. Your patients coming back into your office will be expecting it to be “the same”—and if it won’t be, you need to prepare them for it.  

For example, if your team is going to be in face-shields and facemasks and you don’t normally do that, use social media to share a picture of it and tell the patients what to expect.  If they aren’t going to be able to wait in your waiting room, tell them that when you schedule the appointment.  

Walk them through what they will be going through when arriving for an appointment. Will they wait in the car rather than the waiting room? Will you be asking screening questions about potential exposure to COVID-19, such as if they’ve had any symptoms like coughing or a fever, or exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus? Will you be scanning their forehead for a temperature? Let them know, step-by-step, what to expect from the time they arrive in your parking lot to how they’ll be received and treated in your office. 

Try to think through anything that will be different than it once was. If they can’t brush their teeth when they arrive like normal, let them know that, and what they should be doing instead.  If you are going to be tightening up your scheduling appointment times to be sure as many patients can be seen as safely possible  or if they are going to see someone new because of scheduling, you should tell the patient that too.  People are reasonable and understanding, especially if you  don’t surprise them.  

Online Reviews

On the reviews front, because everyone is still stressed, and you’ll have new procedures in place for routine treatments, there will be problems that crop up so it’s very likely that your negative reviews will increase.  The best way to combat more negative is by increasing your overall reviews. If you normally got 20 reviews in a month and 19 were 4 or 5 stars, how can you get 30 or 40? 

4 Easy Things To Increase Reviews: 

  1. Make sure you mention it to patients at checkout.
  2. Use a reviews software that integrates with your office software to automate asking for reviews
  3. Have a sign printed up so they can see the best review platforms for your practice
  4. Consider doing a giveaway of something people want (an example might be a 50” LED TV or YETI Cooler) where the entry is leaving a review.  

What’s Next? Thinking Past The Next 6-8 Weeks

Beyond the immediate rush of the next 8 weeks, when you will be VERY busy, it’s also critical to be thinking and planning about the rest of summer and months following. Decisions will need to be made about how to acquire new patients, your marketing strategy, and any scheduling changes.  You need to make room in your schedule to think about these important questions so that your practice will thrive.  

What will you be doing to get more new patients in? Do your marketing efforts need to be the same as they were before you shut down? Will you need to do more?  If your competitors spent the last month to re-energize their marketing with videos, updates to websites and other marketing plans, have you thought about how that will impact you?  As everyone ramps back up, what should be spending?

Was your website easy to update and communicate the changes to your practice with your patients, or did it take days instead of hours to have the correct information listed?

How did your agency support you in the last few weeks? Were they proactive and quick to over-support you, or did you find yourself on a waiting list needing to follow up with them to make plan and figure out messaging and contingencies? 

It can feel overwhelming to think about and answer these questions, but the good news is that you don’t have to do any of this alone.  I’d be glad to talk with you and answer your questions.  Call or text my mobile (865) 257-9249 or email me at gavin@bakerlabs.co.  

The world won’t be the same and your practice won’t be either.  The great news is that you can still impact how you and your practice thrive in the future.

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