Today’s tech-heavy, communication-intense era offers many advantages. Your patients have all the information they could want at their fingertips. Organizations large and small are finding more and more ways to reach out to new patients.
There are more ways than ever before to communicate with your customer base. Despite the many benefits that technology offers, there are also downsides. One of these downsides is that, due to the fact that entrance into the online market is so accessible, trust is at an all-time low. Weave helps practices build trust with their patients. We focus on the patient relationship in every aspect of our dental phone system.
How organizations fail to build patient relationships
While it has become easier for organizations to set up a slick, attractive web presence, it has also become harder to retain patient interest.
Why is this? There are several reasons.
First, setting up an attractive online presence is relatively easy. With this low barrier to entry comes an increase in competition.
Second, patients are learning that a great website and positive reviews do not always mean that they will have a positive experience with your organization. Take, for example, your friends on Facebook who constantly ask for recommendations for best service provider rather than simply trusting what the reviews say.
Finally, many organizations are using automation instead of building actual relationships with their patients. Unless this automation is set up correctly, this reliance on technology can result in impersonal interactions that leave customers feeling neglected.
This lack of trust presents practicees and organizations with a significant hurdle to overcome. While the challenge may be daunting, the result is that organizations who prioritize patient relationships and work to build trust have a serious competitive edge over their rivals.
Let’s delve into why building this relationship is so important and take an in-depth look into how to foster those lasting relationships with patients.
High tech tools have made it easier for organizations of all sizes to attract patients. From automated CRMs and plug and play websites to convenient smartphone apps, all of the tools you need are available at a much lower cost than you might expect. This availability creates an advantage for both practicees and consumers.
When it comes to practicees, the ability to present themselves to patients in a polished, accessible way, helps to level the playing field.
For patients, they have an increased ability to compare practicees to one another and make the choice that best suits their needs. Competition is also better for patients because it means that organizations are compelled to outdo one another to gain new practice.
Unfortunately, organizations all too often put the bulk of their efforts into attracting patients initially, rather than putting substantial effort into providing an amazing patient experience for their existing book of practice. This lapse in effort is where patient relationship management comes into the picture.
It’s vital for today’s organizations to realize that the real competition isn’t just about attracting patients initially—it’s about keeping them. This means building trust and proving to patients that you are reliable, that you care, and the patient experience is a true priority for you.
If you’re truly playing to win, just getting them in the door isn’t enough. You want them to be proud that they chose your organization and feel confident in the relationship going forward. That assurance is what will truly put you ahead of the competition.
The Customer Experience
Social media and review websites have made it easier for customers to compare experiences and share their ideas. In turn, this openness has resulted in the growing importance of positive reviews and online feedback.
If customer A orders lollipops and loves them, they’ll post a review extolling their experience. Potential customer B now has a better idea of whether they want that product or something else.
But of course, the easy accessibility of opinions isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, many companies are discovering that these things can backfire.
One reason for this is that patients are more likely to speak about their negative experiences in greater depth than their positive experiences. One reason for this is that venting about a bad experience is often more motivating than sharing a positive one.
The only way to combat this is to build a strong relationship with your patients so that they are motivated to share their positive experiences as well.
Think about your experiences in sharing reviews and experiences online or with friends and family. Do you recall the last time you went to a restaurant?
If you had a pleasant experience and everything was acceptable, you probably enjoyed yourself and might mention off hand that you recommend the place. Unless you’re a die-hard reviewer, you likely didn’t go to Google or Yelp to praise the service.
On the other hand, if you had a long wait, your order was brought out incorrectly, or the food wasn’t acceptable, you may well have found an outlet on social media to share your negative experience.
patients are motivated to share their negative experiences because they want to have that experience reversed. They want to be compensated or given a chance to retry your service. There’s a strong driving force to share these negative experiences because they can identify a potentially positive outcome.
To combat this tendency for patients to be more willing to share negative experiences than positive ones, organizations need to build strong, positive relationships with their customers so that they are equally or even more motivated to share their positive customer experience.
You can accomplish this by building a strong, trusting relationship with the patient. When you prioritize your customers to the point that they understand what a priority they are to you, you will become a priority to them as well. While you might not generally be motivated to review every restaurant you’ve ever eaten at, you might be inclined to share your positive experiences at a small local eatery that you want to succeed.
Why is that? Did the owner come to your table? Does your favorite waitress remember your name or your usual lunch order?
It’s experiences like these that result in customers wanting to share their experiences with friends and family online. Those experiences can only happen when your organization prioritizes patient relationship management.
Automation—Friend and Foe
Customer relationship management (CRM) software has come a long way, and that’s excellent for practicees and patients alike. Scheduling appointments, setting reminders, and following up for feedback are all easily automated. In fact, these sorts of features are what makes Weave’s software so popular. They streamline your patient interactions and cut down on your employees’ workloads while maximizing patient communication options. These are all beneficial for your organization.
However, some organizations have taken to using automation as a replacement for personalized interactions instead of as a tool to improve personalized interactions.
Automation is your friend, not your foe, but automation alone isn’t enough to make your customers feel prioritized. It’s important to understand that automation is simply a tool. It’s a powerful tool, and a useful one, but it’s no replacement for building a strong, trustworthy relationship with your customers.
Convenient CRM features are now the expected baseline for customers—not the zenith of a positive relationship. Improve customer experience by understanding that automation is simply a tool to use, not a stand-in for actually building that relationship.
Understanding patient Relationship Management as a Tool for Better Customer Experience
We’ve established that building strong patient relationships is a must for organizations, especially in today’s world. The more successful you are at building patient relationships, the more successful your practice will be as a whole. CRM solutions are meant to specifically address issues with planning, scheduling, and communicating with your customers. Having a reliable and effective CRM solution can help you build those very necessary relationships.
However, to use a CRM to its full potential, you need to understand what it can really do. It’s not just applying technology to streamline your workflow. It’s also a strategy that helps you learn more about your patients’ needs, their behaviors, and their desires. A CRM is more than technology; it’s also a philosophy that will help you interact with your patients efficiently and effectively.
Good practice isn’t just about expanding your patient base—a fact that all too many organizations overlook. Retaining your existing customers is also critical and will help you expand over time. It costs more to find new customers than to retain existing ones. Your existing patients, as we’ve discussed, can certainly contribute to helping you find new patients.
The more interactive opportunities that you provide your patients, the better. Providing more opportunities means opening up more channels for communication. Naturally, opening more channels means that you’ll need to find effective ways to manage them.
Customer relationship management helps you open up these channels effectively without being overwhelmed. Also, any good CRM system will offer you important insights into your patients’ needs and behaviors so that you can concentrate your efforts where they’ll really make the most difference.
Implementing a CRM isn’t about outsourcing your patient interactions but improving them. The right CRM can be used to let your customers know that they’re valued. When you’re able to use these tech solutions to understand your patients better, you’re able to provide them with an optimized patient experience. The more you understand them, the more you can respond to their needs, and the stronger your relationship with them can be.
Take Weave for example. Our phone system ties into your practice management system and creates a better patient interaction every time they call. Weave delivers information about the caller instantaneously to allow your conversation with them to be more meaningful. This is one way that Weave’s technology improves the patient relationship.
Another way that our software weaves (yes, pun intended) together technology and customer relationships is our reminder technology. Weave has one of the most robust reminder systems available. It has two-way texting capabilities and built in technology to recognize affirmative responses. This allows practicees to make the reminder texts more personal, while still being automated.
Benefits of a CRM
While a CRM does require some initial investment, the benefits are immense. When properly used as a customer experience improvement strategy, a CRM can increase sales. That’s because it helps you predict your customers’ needs better based on the data you gather over time. It’s not just about predicting what the customer wants, either—it can help you predict when they want it.
Using a CRM to understand your patients’ needs better can help you with cross-selling and up-selling additional services, enhanced services, and alternative services. You’ll also be better able to identify which target audiences are most profitable for your practice.
This ability can lead to better marketing practices. When you understand your target audience and their needs better, you can more effectively target your marketing communications to advertise the right products to the right audience. You’ll be able to understand what new and improved services your customers might want in the future, which will contribute to growing your organization.
These benefits can lead to improved customer retention and satisfaction, which will improve your reputation in your industry. You’ll get more value from your existing customers and having an efficient CRM approach will also reduce costs over time—resulting in an improved ROI.
Good customer relationship management means understanding that there’s always room for improvement. Your patients also expect it and need it. They will certainly notice if you’re not offering a way to improve.
Does Using a CRM Have Drawbacks?
As long as you choose a cost-effective CRM that’s a good fit for your organization’s needs, there will be little to no downsides of implementing a CRM.
However, there are issues which can lead to your CRM implementation being less than successful.
Your organization needs to understand why a CRM is being implemented, and how it can help at all levels. If patient facing staff, for example, do not understand the importance of collecting information, you won’t be using your CRM to its full potential. If the marketing team doesn’t understand how much data you have available or how to access it, you won’t be using your CRM to its full potential.
Lack of commitment
Customer relationships are extremely important, as we’ve outlined. However, not everyone in every organization understands this. You may need to implement a cultural change in your practice to start prioritizing patient relationships. Make sure that everyone in your organization is committed to viewing success through the lens of the patient’s perspective. patient relationships will not improve regardless of what tools you have available if this does not occur.
Getting commitment at every level requires a strong leader. It’s management’s responsibility to lead the way when it comes to prioritizing customer relationships. It’s also the management’s responsibility to come up with a practical plan for implementing a CRM. Do you have a plan for each stage of implementation? Have you set realistic milestones? In some cases, it’s a good idea to do a pilot program to work out the kinks before full-scale implementation. Does your selected solution have the ability to scale?
Lack of flexibility
Rigid rules can be the death of a great customer relationship strategy. Prioritizing customer relationships means understanding the needs and wants of your patients. It also includes understanding that not all of your customers have the same needs. With automation, it can be tempting to try and implement a one-size-fits-all solution, but this can feel impersonal to your patients.
Choosing the Right CRM Solution
Now that you know how important patient relationships are and why you should be prioritizing them, it’s important to figure out the right CRM solution for your organization.
However, with so many available, how do you choose?
Things to consider when selecting a CRM:
- Is the supplier reputable and well established?
- What are the short-term and long-term costs associated with this solution?
- Is there a “try before you buy” option?
- Is their customer service accessible, knowledgeable, and willing to answer my questions?
- Are the charges for tech support?
- Will this solution scale as our patient base grows? Does it need to?
- Will this solution interact well with my other applications?
- Has this solution been used effectively in my particular industry?
- Is training necessary? If so, how much and what are the associated costs?
The Customer is King
As more and more organizations realize that prioritizing customer relationships is important, it becomes more important to do so to maintain a competitive edge.
Today’s consumers expect targeted marketing and a personalized experience, and you’ll need to be able to deliver these things to build solid relationships with your existing customers. This ability is also a necessity for attracting new patients.
A CRM is a fantastic tool for doing both and a wonderful way to strengthen your ability to form strong relationships with all of your patients and grow as a practice.