Believe it or not, but simply having a “good” waiting room is seriously draining your profitability. In fact, the number is probably well over $100,000 but probably higher. Sound scary? It is. But it can be fixed – if you know how to turn a good waiting room into a GREAT one. Read on to discover exactly how to do this.
Ah yes, your waiting room. Chances are, it’s comfortable and it’s well-lit, tasteful and professional. You probably even have an electric fireplace, a digital music system, toys, crayons and video games for the kids, and of course, a richer supply of People, US Weekly, Reader’s Digest, and Sports Illustrated than most public libraries on the planet. All of this is good.
But good isn’t good enough. In fact, merely being good is a nicer way of saying that you’re driving patients to your competition – because, unlike you, your competition isn’t settling for good. To borrow from Tony the Tiger: theyyyyyy’rrrrere GREAT!
Take a Seat in your Waiting Room
About 50 years ago, novelist Harper Lee wrote that “You don’t really know a person until you get into their skin and walk around in it for a while.” It was sage advice then, and it’s sage advice today so let’s follow it.
Seriously. The first chance you get — perhaps when you close for the day, so people don’t think something strange is going on — take a seat in your waiting room. And for a moment, forget what you see and focus on how you feel.
Do you feel important? Do you feel special? Unique? Attended to? Do you feel like you’re in charge and that your dentist is respecting your right to choose where you want to go, and frankly, where you want to spend your time and money? Do you feel like a VIP?
Patients aren’t patients, they’re PEOPLE
All of these questions are designed to help you realize, with stark simplicity, that your patients aren’t patients; they’re people.
“Patient” is merely a role that they’re playing while they interact with you; just as when you go see a movie you’re a “patron” or when you take a flight you’re a “passenger” or when you cast a ballot you’re a “voter”.
All of these roles are true and must be respected. But underneath them all is an authentic, complex and invaluable human being; a person. In other words, if the role is the tip of the iceberg that peeks out of the water, the person is the massive mass of ice below.
Now, aside from the moral and ethical point that people matter – something that you certainly don’t need to be reminded of – the point here is that your waiting room must be designed to engage PEOPLE, not PATIENTS because in the truest, most technical sense of the word, you don’t have patients. You have people.
People Have Choice
Once you discover (or possibly, rediscover) that you serve people and not patients, you immediately arrive at another truth; this one, even more potent: people have choice!
And these days, they have more choice than ever, as competition heats up and they’re flooded with ads and marketing from other dentists who are competing with you for their attention and for their choice.
Choice Means Profit (or Loss)
Make no mistake: the choice we’re talking about here has a price tag. Specifically, studies say that the value of a new dental patient is between $900 and $1,200; with some estimates boosting that number up to $3,000. That’s pure profit after all costs are deducted.
So let’s do some math: if your waiting room helps you retain 200 patients who’d otherwise be lulled onto a different dental shore AND it helps you generate 200 new patients, that’s a profit swing of a cool $360,000 and that’s using the lowest estimate at $900/patient. If you ratchet that up higher to $1200, $1500, $2000 or even (as some say) $3000/patient…
Your Waiting Room: Revisited
Seen in this context, it becomes clear, practical and essential for you to achieve this clear business objective: your waiting room – yes, that place that only a few minutes ago you thought was merely a place with chairs and magazines and other stuff – must, in every possible way, confirm that your patients are making the right choice of dentist.
Or, to put things more simply and sharply: if your waiting room isn’t firing on all cylinders, you’re going to lose patients, business and revenue while your competition increases all three.
5 Principles of GREAT Waiting Rooms
In our experience, there are five principles of GREAT waiting rooms, and again, when we say great, we don’t mean those with the best quality of furniture or shiniest gadgets. We mean those that work to constantly engage and re-engage patients (read people), so they deepen the relationship, purchase more solutions, and know without a doubt that that they’ve made the right choice of dentist.
Principle #1: Environment
Successful dentists provide a great waiting room environment where everything is about solving problems and enabling potential. Remember: your patients don’t see things the same way that you do. You see things in terms of features and the what. Your patients see things in terms of the benefits and the how. Every element in your waiting room must speak to the environment that you want to create, which, of course, is one that confirms and evolves the fact that your patients are making the right choice.
Principle #2: Engage
How often do you and your staff hang out in the front area, so you can engage patients and discover what they’re thinking, what questions they have, and what their anxieties and aspirations are while they wait? You need to know all of these answers because the opinions and impressions your patients form in the waiting room profoundly shape their overall experience, negatively or positively, regardless of how the actual meeting with the dentist might go. The rule here is simple: engage early, and engage often.
Principle #3: Educate
These days, educating your patients must start in the waiting room – long before you or your staff sits down with them – because, as you’re now aware, the waiting room isn’t just for waiting; it’s a place where opinions are formed, impressions cemented, and decisions made. Use a range of focused and targeted internal marketing tools, like in-office lifestyle video, to educate your patients on how your practice will specifically help them achieve lifestyle, health, success and career goals. And if lifestyle, health, success and career goals seems strange to you because that stuff isn’t applicable to dentistry, then the next principle is especially for you.
Principle #4: Expand
With increased market segmentation, more competition, and a relentless 24/7/365 fight for your patients, precious attention – not just from other dentists, but from all kinds of marketing and advertising – you need to expand your view and realize that you do so much more than just provide dental services. You’re a core part of your patients’ ability to live a fuller, happier, more successful and of course, a healthier (and possibly even a longer) life. So how does this play out in your waiting room? It’s simple: you need your information, resources, marketing tools and even your staff to understand all of the ways that patients benefit, and be in position to target each one within the waiting room environment. When you help your patients realize the total value that you deliver, you earn their loyalty, deepen the relationship, and win their choice.
Principle #5: Emotion
Most waiting rooms are big on efficiency, but small on emotion. This is a missed opportunity that can be fatal. Why? Because waiting rooms are the ideal place to touch patients on an emotional level because they’re receptive, open-minded, and, well, waiting (i.e. you don’t have to ask them for a few minutes of their time – they’re already giving it to you for free!). And when we say touch patients on an emotional level, we don’t mean that you should have ballet dancers prance around them, a lonely violinist in the corner driving them to tears, or a juggling clown riding by on a unicycle. We mean that you should use tool like in-office programming and patient information products that makes an emotional appeal to your patients, so that not only deepen their relationship with you, but are inspired to explore new solutions you offer, such as cosmetic or leading-edge dentistry that is high value for them, and high margin for you.
However, before we leave this principle, there’s a vital point that can render emotional negative force instead of a positive one: generic, one-size-fits-all programming. Your in-office system and other materials must be customized for your unique practice, and not simply entertain patients but instead strategically inform them in an emotionally appropriate way. In other words, you don’t want to kill time here by foisting Oprah on your patients for 10 minutes while they wait. Instead, you want to take full advantage of this limited opportunity to emotionally touch your patients, and ethically influence their choices.
If it were Available in a Bottle, Everyone Would take It
Let’s wrap up with this: you know better than anyone that there’s no short-cut to great oral health. It takes a conscientious and appropriate program, along with the right tools and guidance. Sure, achieving great oral health isn’t as looming as climbing a mountain or putting together a 50,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of Starry, Starry Night, but it’s not an overnight thing. It takes time, effort and the right information. As the old saying goes: if it were available in a bottle, everyone would take it. Great oral health isn’t available in a bottle.
The same applies to creating a GREAT waiting area, and implementing all five principles described above. It’s not an overnight sensation. It’s going to take planning, time, and the right information. With that being said, it’s neither looming nor cost prohibitive.
In fact, when you consider the massive ROI of retaining a patients who would otherwise be stolen by your competitors, and ushering those same and new patients to your higher margin solutions (think cosmetic, restorative and so on), creating a great waiting room is a low-risk investment that pays dividends normally associated with high risk.
Or in simpler terms: taking steps now to create a great waiting room is plain good old fashioned common sense.
Transform your Waiting Room from Good to GREAT with CCS
At CastleCS, we create effective and affordable solutions to transform your waiting room into a high-performance profit centre. We’ll provide the tools, the technology and the training – all you have to provide is the desire to take your practice to the NEXT LEVEL.
Contact us today to book a free consultation and get ready to say goodbye to your good waiting room and hello to your GREAT waiting room!