How to build confidence and trust in your pandemic-precautionary practice
Reopening and recovery during COVID-19 is both an art and a science. To build confidence and trust with your patients and staff, clear, credible and consistent communication is more critical than ever. During this time, practice leaders have an opportunity to listen, learn, innovate and communicate to help ensure their practice emerges strong and positioned for growth while facing the challenges of COVID-19.
Here are five ways, courtesy of the team of practice management experts at 3M Oral Care, that orthodontic practices can communicate with patients to help them know what to expect when they come in for treatment during these uncertain times.
1. Keep staff engaged and informed
Staff members are an essential part of any orthodontic practice. Your staff helps ensure all processes are closely followed and serves as a representative of the practice when engaging with patients.
Whether your office is closed or in the process of reopening or reestablishing, staff members need to be aware of what’s happening so they can provide patients with correct and reliable information. Two methods to ensure staff members are up to speed on the business are emails and team meetings.
Staff email best practices
Ensure all employees have access to email outside of the office.
Use email to follow up with teams or individuals after meetings.
Provide details on any changes, expectations and next steps.
Keep staff engaged to clarify questions and concerns.
Team meeting best practices
Host both full-team and one-on-one meetings with staff members to ensure alignment on all news and expectations.
Encourage feedback during the meetings and promote confidence and trust among the team.
If meetings cannot be held in person, consider hosting virtual meetings using videoconferencing software.
2. Communicate with patients and provide helpful resources
Over the past few months, people’s everyday routines have changed drastically. Because of these changes, there may be hesitancy to add tasks like scheduling orthodontist appointments.
There are several ways orthodontists can help patients be informed about whether practices are open for appointments, and the protocols orthodontic practices follow to help protect patients and staff, including:
Email or call patients to schedule appointments. This ensures your office is actively communicating with patients directly.
Regularly update your website. Your website will be the first place patients will check for up-to-date information. Ensure that it has all necessary COVID-19 and protocol information on it to keep patients informed. These updates should include any alerts regarding office closures, alternate office hours, changes to contact information and any requirements for in-person appointments. Knowing what to expect before visiting your practice is a great way to help patients feel more at ease.
Share any updates that will affect patients. Important updates should be shared on any owned platforms you have, including emails, texts and social media, as well as on printed signs in your office (when applicable). These updates can include:
Changes to protocols or procedures and patient expectations.
Highlighting how any updates from governing bodies would affect the practice and what that means for patients.
How to contact the office in case of emergency.
Develop a list of FAQs and update as needed. When dealing with any changes, people will have questions. To help your staff respond to patients, develop a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. Ensure that this list is readily available to staff members to use during phone calls, in emails or on social media. This will help everyone stay consistent with their answers and provide patients with accurate, concise information. Add the FAQs to your website, too, so patients can easily access the information on their own.
3. Create and distribute a follow-up survey
Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool for orthodontists. Patients are very likely to share their experience with friends and family. Because consumer feedback is so critical to a business, it’s important to make patients’ visits as seamless as possible and find ways to improve any hiccups they may see in your process. To do that, consider distributing a patient survey after each visit. Some postappointment survey best practices:
Use a tool such as Survey Monkey or Qualtrics for easy survey setup and distribution.
Keep the survey short—no more than 15 questions.
Include an open-ended question to gather additional comments.
Communicate and act on findings.
4. Use social media
Social media is a powerful tool your staff can use to inform and engage patients. As you plan out your social media posts, include content related to changes or any important information patients may need to be aware of. But don’t forget to also share content in line with your typical communication strategy.
Here are a few creative ways you can share positive patient stories on your social media channels:
Share photos/stories of patients who had successful visits. This is a great way to showcase new protocols in place and highlight that patients are coming in for appointments.
Encourage patients to share their story on their own channels, tagging the practice’s social channels when applicable.
5. Share videos on social media or via email
Videos can be a great way to stay in touch with your patients. Videos can be easily recorded on a smartphone, tablet or desktop device and shared through email or on social media. Topics for the videos can include anything from your approach to reopening, the new office experience, the sanitization process or an introduction to the personal protective equipment your staff will wear.