Why practices fear ‘follow up’

The need for a statement

Team members can be afraid of the dark: afraid of certain patients.

I am willing to bet that everyone reading this article is afraid of ‘following up’. And what do I mean by that? I mean the job that you, the team, everyone puts off whenever they can. It doesn’t just happen in dental practices – many businesses can be hamstrung and it can, in many cases lead to the ultimate failure of the business.

Fear of follow-up is the fear of any kind of further personal interaction with a patient or potential patient following a telephone conversation, recall letter, appointment or even treatment plan where the patient in question didn’t take the desired course of action and hasn’t responded. The bit where you have to find out why they didn’t go ahead. The uncomfortable bit. The long pauses and silent treatment bit. Where they cagily say they are still reviewing it and will get back to you. When perhaps you find out more about you and the practice than you wanted to know?

Why fear of follow-up will strangle your practice

If you don’t follow up…

Treatment plans – then you will presume the patient felt it was too expensive, but it rarely is the issue. 

It is much more common that they didn’t understand a facet of the treatment properly and were too afraid to ask. Or it may well be, not now but in six months (that quickly becomes never if not followed up). If these are never reapproached, you will never know.

Recall letters/communications – people don’t receive these through the door, jump for joy and whistle while they ring to book the appointment. We all know that we need to attend regularly to look after our dental health but that doesn’t mean we don’t need a nudge now and again. If you don’t send in batches and follow up by telephone, be prepared for recall rates to be low.

Treatment coordinator consultations – perhaps you offer initial ones free so that potential patients can find out more about higher value treatments? However good the conversion rate (and a well-trained treatment coordinator should deliver at least £3000 pcm), follow-up can hone the treatment coordinator‘s skills and improve still further.

What you can do about fear of follow-up

I hope that I have opened your eyes to the huge difference follow-up will make to any practice. 

And the question that is probably on the tip of your tongue is: ‘I know all this, but I just cannot get my team to either follow-up at all, or follow-up effectively.’ 

The key to success here is knowing that every member of the dental team understands they are part of a team and understands their place within it. I understand the role of the treatment coordinator inside out having been one of the UK’s first treatment coordinators and it is not a position that can be learnt completely by script or rote – there has to be an element of leeway and flexibility built in. 

This is true of all the reception team too – everybody has to own their role and must take responsibility for it. And, as you would expect, you have to invest in your team and their training so that they understand their value to the team as a whole and why following up these patients is so important to the business as a whole. 

Patients need to be motivated and some will need more motivation than others. However, in many cases, in can often become a task that they actually enjoy. 

High powered ‘selling’ or tricking patients is not needed or demanded here. This is about giving the patient the pertinent information and staying in regular contact so that when they do make the decision to go ahead, they go ahead at your practice.

Cop out

‘My patients wouldn’t like to be phoned and followed up’: if you hear this, you know that it is a cop out.

There will be a small minority who will undoubtedly dislike this. If one does anything in this world, you could annoy or offend someone. I’m reminded of the Winston Churchill quote: ‘You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’

And if you do nothing you will also offend many, many patients who will view your lack of contact as indifference and go elsewhere.

It is up to you – which do you prefer?

Tracy is a well-known, well-respected and seasoned team trainer and practice development specialist across the UK and Ireland and wants to help dental practices get the most out of any training that they undertake. Tracy has been successfully delivering training programmes for the last seven years, with over 20 years’ experience in developing and managing dental practices. For more details on the training programmes offered, please visit www.nbstraining.co.uk or call 01438 217944.

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