Doing Business in the New Normal: Maintaining Effective Communication

Part Two of our Doing Business in the New Normal webinar series, recorded September 17, 2020, features presentations by two experts on dentistry and business communication.

The first speaker is Dr. Brian Baliwas, a general dentist from San Francisco, who covers some of the communication strategies he’s developed as a practitioner in the Bay Area. Jon-Mark Sabel, a Product Marketing Manager at Weave, follows Dr. Baliwas with his unique perspective on new and different ways for thinking about customer communication.

Madi Bullock, Weave’s Digital Events Manager and PR specialist, hosts the webinar, and opens up the discussion by asking the following question: What is the new normal? She frames the webinar as an exploration of what modern dental offices are doing to improve their client contact rate.

The Basics of Maintaining Communication

Dr. Baliwas graduated from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in 2014. Since then, he’s built a successful practice, in no small part thanks to the communication strategies he’s employed to find new patients and maintain strong relationships with them. In fact, Dr. Baliwas now has over 32,000 followers on Instagram because of his talents with social media.

The first strategy Dr. Baliwas recommends is to figure out who your office is talking to. For example, since Dr. Baliwas works in a building with 145 dentists on 26 floors and is based in one of the biggest tech areas in the country, he understands that many of his customers want their dentist to rely on tools like paperless forms and digital communication.

Dr. Baliwas also realizes that smartphones hold the attention of almost everyone in our society. 25% of smartphone owners can’t remember the last time their phone wasn’t right next to them! Dental offices should be using mobile platforms to meet the demand for smartphone communication.

When chatting with patients on their smartphones, your office should ensure that their interactions are personable. Dr. Baliwas chooses to handle many of the social media conversations with clients himself, but he says offices only need to be sure they have somebody in the practice responding to questions and comments in a meaningful way.

Dr. Baliwas emphasizes the importance of establishing a human connection with patients. He added 1000 patients to his practice over three years by working through social media and conducting virtual meetings. Virtual communication can include initial consults, treatment planning, post-op check ups, invisalign follow ups, and even minor emergencies.

Canned responses, automatic likes, and automated comments are a net negative in Dr. Baliwas’ opinion. Automation is not a substitute for authentic connection. Dr. Baliwas quotes George Bernard Shaw, who said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

In order to guarantee communication with patients is real, Dr. Baliwas recommends keeping things personable, trusting the technology, and catering to your audience. These simple principles have helped him run a prosperous dental practice in a competitive market.

The Patient Communication Pyramid

Over his time working in the business communication industry, Jon-Mark Sabel has developed some new ways of thinking about communication. He asks, “Why don’t the old ways cut it?”

Relying exclusively on phone communication can put you in what Jon-Mark refers to as “phonetag hell.” Voicemails go unheard 34% of the time, which is a serious drain on your office’s efficiency and productivity. Effective communication has two main components: getting to the right people at the right time and prompting patients to take action.

The patient communication pyramid is a tool Jon-Mark uses to hone an effective communication strategy. The pyramid has three levels: the communication type, the patient persona, and the medium. By walking through these steps, your office can create a pointed approach to communication with its patients.

Jon-Mark breaks communication types into the categories of coordination, updates, and marketing. Coordination includes reminders and confirmations. Updates involve important information, telehealth options, and scheduling changes. Marketing communication encompassses attracting new clients, recalls, benefits, and promotions. Identify which type of communication you’re employing before moving to the patient persona.

A patient persona is a fleshed out description of patient needs, appointments, and reasons for having you as their dentist. Recognize the patterns of people you and your staff see in the office. These patterns shouldn’t be stereotypes, but 3-5 characteristics that set patients apart.

There’s a wide array of communication available to dentists today. Picking the right medium out of phones, text messages, emailing, web chat, and social media can be tricky. That’s why it’s important to understand your audience before choosing a medium. For instance, patients under the age of 35 are twice as difficult to reach by phone than by text.

In conclusion, Jon-Mark breaks the patient communication pyramid into several question words. For communication type, he asks what and why you want to communicate. The patient persona can be framed as who your practice is trying to reach. Finally, the medium is a question of how your office will communicate with its clients.

Questions and Answers

In the final portion of the webinar, Madi and our two experts field questions from an online audience of practicing dental professionals. They address questions about HIPAA and review sites, social media traction, automation versus personalization, the ethics of sharing reviews, contactless payment options, and teledentistry codes.

Dr. Baliwas and Jon-Mark have given practical advice on communication that they’ve gathered from years of working in the industry. Dr. Baliwas uses Weave to make his communication a reality for his dental office, and Jon-Mark sees how Weave positively impacts the client contact rate for our customers on a regular basis.

To discover how Weave can help your dental practice maintain effective communication in the new normal, contact us today for a free demo, and feel free to check out our other webinars in the meantime.

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