Help Patients Keep Their Scheduled Appointments by Communicating Benefits
Do you know what you provide for your patients?
Before you answer something like, “oral hygiene” or “clear vision,” first consider this quote by economist, Theodore Levitt:
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Marketers across the globe have shared this quote over the years to encompass hammers, beds, and just about any product you can imagine. What this quote signifies is that people don’t buy products or features. They buy what those products can do for them, otherwise known as the benefits.
If you continue with this train of thought, you’ll realize that people aren’t really buying the hole that the drill provides, either. They’re buying what the hole can do for them, which might be hanging a shelf.
But again, the shelf isn’t the primary motivator. Perhaps the buyer wants to hang a shelf so that they can display pictures of their loved ones. They want to share memories as a family for years to come, show the photographs to houseguests, and see something they love every time they enter the room, even if no one is home. So, in reality, this person didn’t buy a drill or a hole. They bought happiness.
Your patients are also buying happiness. A patient with a crooked smile isn’t buying straight teeth. The patient is buying confidence, the ability to smile without hesitation, and maybe even the promise of finding love.
So, when you think about your patients, you should be able to identify what is prompting them to make an appointment with you in the first place. What are they seeking? What benefit do you deliver?
How to Remind Patients of the Benefits
People schedule appointments with the intent of keeping them. If they didn’t think a visit to your office would be beneficial, they wouldn’t schedule an appointment at all. But, then this thing called “life” happens. And when life gets in the way, it’s easy for scheduled obligations to take a backseat.
To reduce the prevalence of those dreaded last-minute cancellation calls, make sure your patients understand exactly what benefits they’re getting by keeping their appointments. It’s not just the features like a clean mouth or a new pair of glasses. Those are just the results or byproducts. Instead, remind them of why they want those things. How do they benefit from them?
There are several opportunities in patient interactions to communicate benefits, including:
- When the appointment is scheduled
- When you send a reminder
- When the patient or client arrives for the appointment
- During the appointment
In this article, we’ve included five ways to convey the benefits and help keep your patients on track.
Congratulate Patients on Doing Something for Themselves
Do you ever feel like no matter what you’re doing, you should be doing something else? For example, you might be at the grocery store picking up ingredients for dinner, but all the while you’re thinking that you need to hurry up and get home to give the kids a bath, do a load of laundry or review a work presentation.
Welcome to the world of being busy – population 7.5 billion.
That sensation of being pulled in multiple directions is hard to ignore. There’s always something else you “should” be doing, and there are never enough hours in the day. But, what about the time you schedule that’s just for you?
Whether it’s having your teeth cleaned, being fitted for new contact lenses or getting a haircut, that time is dedicated just for you. There’s literally nothing else you can or should be doing at that moment because this is your time. Even if your office is on fire, it’s not like you can do anything about from a doctor’s office. So, why not sit back, relax, and enjoy this time for yourself?
Your clients and patients should know that their scheduled appointment is a time that is reserved specifically for them. Convey this message by sending a reminder message something along the lines of, “Congratulations on taking this time just for you. Doesn’t it feel great to do something for yourself for once? See you tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.”
Another option is to take a lighthearted and humorous approach. For example, if you manage a dental office, you can say something like, “While you’re in our chair, you can miss a meeting, and your boss won’t care! See you at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4th!”
The tone of these messages is meant to communicate that as long as someone is at your office, they are exactly where they are supposed to be. The chaos of their life will be waiting for them after the appointment, but when they are at your office, this is their time for self-care.
Remind them of Their Goals
If you know why someone has sought out your services, then you’ll be more effective at motivating them to follow through with the appointments. For example, if someone hires a personal trainer to lose weight, one of the first questions the trainer might ask is why their client wants to shed some pounds. Is it to be healthier? To keep up with kids or grandkids? To feel more confident about how they look?
When you know what someone’s motivation is, then you can remind them of their purpose when they’re not motivated to keep going.
Paint a Before and After Picture
Whether you’re an optometrist helping patients see life more clearly, a dentist helping the community achieve and maintain a healthy smile, or a dermatologist helping teens and adults enjoy a better complexion, there’s always going to be a “before” and “after” state.
Patients with blurry vision now see clearly so that they can drive safely or see the beauty of the world around them. Patients with a toothache will leave your office pain-free. Patients with acne or dark under eye circles will soon have a glowing complexion.
By reminding patients and clients of what they will achieve after their appointment, it will make them think twice about canceling.
Discuss the Need for Consistency
Rarely is something achieved in a single visit. While some services are rendered only a couple of times a year, like a dental cleaning or checkup, others require frequent appointments. Physical therapy and psychiatry are just a couple of examples. When appointments are scheduled at regular intervals, consistency is crucial, and we can use the personal training scenario again to illustrate that point.
For example, a personal trainer might recommend that you start coming to the gym for three workouts per week. In a four-week month, that would equate to 12 workouts.
You might be tempted to tell your trainer that your schedule is incredibly busy, and there’s no way that you can make it to three workouts every week. The trainer will rightfully argue that you can expect to see some results after 12 gym sessions in a month. But, if you’re too busy and you only go to the gym once per week, your results won’t be noticeable; and you might not see any results at all.
If your service requires multiple visits to achieve results, then make sure you communicate how important it is to be consistent with appointments to get the full effect of the treatment or service. Share milestones and progress reports so that the patient can see how far they’ve come and what they can still accomplish.
Provide a Sense of Accomplishment
Completing something feels great. Whether it’s making the bed in the morning, getting to the last page of a book or finally finishing that scrapbooking project you’ve been putting off, once it’s over, you feel like you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
This sensation can also apply to completing an appointment. Can you give a client or patient something at the end of their appointment to signify that they’ve finished an important task?
Before you dismiss an idea like a sticker as silly or childlike, think about what happens after we vote in an election. We performed our civic duty, completed a task that strengthens our democracy, and at the end, we get an “I Voted” sticker. People proudly wear these stickers all day and tend to share their status on social media.
What can you offer that conveys a similar message? It could be as simple as a pen or a branded water bottle, but whatever you choose, add significance to it by explaining why you’re giving it to them.
For example, as a patient is leaving a dental office, your staff could say something like, “Thank you for seeing us today at Sunny Smile Dental. Here’s an oral hygiene kit that will help your new smile stay clean and healthy.”
Now, whenever the patient sees this, they’ll be reminded that they followed through with their visit and did something constructive for their health.
No matter how busy we are, we will always find time for what’s important to us. By making sure your patients understand how your services and treatments make their lives better, they’ll be more likely to make keeping their appointments a top priority.