How to Serve Patients When You Close for the Holidays

Customer service in dentistry takes many shapes. In this post, Trish Lewis-Clark of The Dental Detective shares how you can establish trust with patients by serving them even when you close for vacation or the holidays.

When holidays fall during the week what does your practice do as far as closing? Do you close only that day? The day before or after? After the year we've had, the team certainly deserves time off to recharge—but not at the expense of our patients. As dentistry is a business of trust, it's essential to show patients that you are there for them, even when you're on vacation, to keep them coming back. More than 61% of dentists are reporting a lower patient volume than normal since the pandemic (according to a recent poll by the California Dental Association), so patient retention is important. This holiday season, take the extra effort and exercise some creativity to keep your patient connections healthy. No one can afford to be complacent.

Show patients that you are there for them even when you take time off

First things first: make sure someone continues to take calls. Now, before you say, “No one will work!” or ask, “How can this be done?”, hear me out. How many times have you called a customer service line and felt frustrated because you couldn’t get through to someone? Show patients that you are there for them even when you take time off.

With careful planning ahead of time, you can have a team member available to answer phone calls, check the mail, and help emergent cases get scheduled for when you return. That diligent team member can even do it remotely in the comfort of their own home with the right solutions in place. Patients will appreciate the fact that even when you are unavailable, you have made it a point to have someone in your practice ready to assist them. Details like this go a long way in strengthening that patient connection.

Let’s look at this from the view of a patient. Let’s call him Mr. Holiday. Mr. Holiday is having major mouth discomfort—who will he think of first? He’s been to your practice a few times, so he’ll think of you. He remembers how well you took care of him on his last visit and the last thing you said to him on his way out made a great impression on him: “Mr. Holiday, everything looks great today. It was such a pleasure seeing you. Please tell Mrs. Holiday we loved the poundcake she made for us! We look forward to seeing you again in six months. Please do not hesitate to give us a call if you need anything before your next hygiene appointment, we are here for you.”

So, Mr. Holiday calls you, because you said you’re always available. “Do not hesitate to give us a call if you need anything… we are here for you.” But, no… he gets your voicemail. He hangs up without leaving a message. He double-checks the number again and redials, this time leaving a message asking for an immediate return call due to his extreme discomfort. With no answering service or no employee to answer your phone, doubt begins to creep into Mr. Holiday’s mind. When he doesn’t hear back from anyone, he starts to worry. What if his tooth gets worse? What if no one calls him back?

From there begin what I refer to as “panic calls”. Panic calls happen in a series, often over the weekend and around the holidays. It’s the result of not getting help—your help—when it was desperately needed. This is where Mr. Holiday loses his trust in you and your practice. Your relationship with him is now shattered, and he's looking elsewhere for his dental care. Sounds harsh, right? Not from the patient’s point of view.

A plan in place is much better than no plan in place

What happens when you close for a long period and your patients need you? Yes, we all need a break or vacation, but having a plan in place is much better than having no plan in place, especially if the latter leads to the loss of patients. It takes time and effort to build relationships with your patients, but it only takes one misstep to undo it all. Sit down with your team and discuss ways to have someone available around the major holidays to take the calls at the office or remotely if that option is available. You'd be surprised at how many would jump at the chance to have hours in-office to catch up on tasks that are close to impossible to complete with patients around. They might also be eager to be there for the patients when you explain things from the patient’s perspective. This way, both the practice and patients are well taken care of.

Next time you plan to close for the holidays without a contingency, stop and think about how Mr. Holiday would feel. After all, it’s the patients who have built the practice, and they’re the ones who keep coming back to see our smiling faces! Learn more about how RevenueWell improves case acceptance and creates more close-knit relationships between dentists and their patients.