Tina Wixon offers her advice on how to grow your plan membership into a thriving part of your business…
The value of a dental membership to a dental practice has become more and more apparent during the COVID-19 crisis due to its ability to support practices through financial hardship.
During lockdown, practices with a healthy plan membership uptake had the security of a regular cash flow, despite not being open to the general public. Further to this, they benefitted from increased patient loyalty and higher uptake in treatment plans in general.
Patients also benefit from the membership knowing that with the practice reopening, they would have already paid for their next check-up or hygiene visit through the monthly Direct Debit and would be a priority in the practice’s diary.
Ensuring that your plan membership is a success is down to you and the practice team, here’s a few steps to help you on your way:
Make sure the plan is right for your patients
Understanding your patient base is vital in ensuring the plan you offer is appealing. Collectively, the benefits of joining the plan should outweigh patients paying as they go. This means in an ideal case, the plan needs to offer a cost saving against pay-as-you-go fees for an equivalent service, a discount against a variety of treatments and the right level of support for your patients to maintain their dental health.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your competitors to ensure you’re offering a competitive membership price in the local area.
Make your plan membership default
When a new patient enquires about joining your practice, make your plan membership the default option. That is, don’t offer a choice in the first instance, instead, when they call, tell them that your practice operates through a plan membership in order to help them maintain optimum dental health through regular visits – reducing the risk of restorative treatment by catching dental problems early.
You could take this a step further by prescribing the plan – patients respect and trust their dentist’s knowledge and advice when it comes to maintaining their dental health. They are more likely to join the plan upon your recommendation as the best way to maintain a healthy smile.
Make sure you understand why plan is best
Knowing your stuff when it comes to the features and benefits of the plan is far more persuasive to a prospective member rather than trying to bluff your way through. Make sure every member of the team is well trained, knows how the plan works and how best to communicate it.
Ensure the team discusses the benefits of the plan – not just the features. What we mean by this is that the patient won’t be buying two check-ups and two hygiene visits a year. They’re buying into the understanding that regular visits will help prevent bigger problems in future, or that the monthly Direct Debit breaks larger maintenance costs into smaller, more manageable chunks, etc.
Don’t rely on crutches
People connect and engage with other people. While marketing aids such as posters, TV slides and digital communications are a great way of planting the seed, these shouldn’t be used in place of an actual conversation. They should be used to back up your discussion of the plan benefits and remind patients at a later date if they are not prepared to sign up then and there.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Relying on the front desk team to ‘sell the plan’ is going to limit your membership growth. To be successful it needs to be the responsibility of the whole team and part of a cohesive process. Discussions of the membership need to start in the surgery by the dentist and be followed through by the reception team once the appointment is over. This reinforces that you truly recommend that the membership as the best way forward for your patients.
If you’re a Practice Plan member, contact your Regional Support Manager for further advice and support in boosting your plan membership numbers. Find your Regional Support Manager here www.practiceplan.co.uk/team.
Tina Wixon is a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan and has 17 years’ experience in the dental industry, including with a corporate orthodontic group and its practices. Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, partnering with over 1,500 dental practices and offering a wide range of business support services.