During lockdown, those practices with a robust membership plan really felt the benefit of having such financial security in ways they probably never had before.
While the reliability of a guaranteed monthly income has always been welcomed by those with a plan, many practices have now been describing it as pivotal in making the difference to the business’ survival.
For those with less well-populated plans, this could lead to a renewed focus on growing their membership numbers and increasing their own financial stability.
If this sounds like you, below are some tips that could help to give your plan numbers a boost:
Discuss the plan with every new patient – Have a conversation (don’t just rely on giving them a leaflet as part of a welcome pack) with each new patient about the plan(s) you offer and the benefits to them. Make introducing the plan a standard part of the way you handle new patient enquiries.
Having the ability to spread the cost of dental treatment and avoid lump sums may be especially welcome for some patients right now. Health is also at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, so you might find more patients being receptive to a plan that supports them to improve their dental health.
Encourage existing patients onto the plan – There may well be lots of opportunities to grow your membership within your existing patients who are not yet on the plan. Some of those may be people you have never asked to join the plan before, but even if you have that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask them again.
Providing it has been a decent length of time since you last asked, there is nothing wrong with re-approaching a patient who has previously declined to join your plan. Their situation or feelings about the plan may have changed since then, or perhaps last time you asked they were just in a rush and didn’t want a longer conversation. Don’t assume that just because they said no once, that they will never say yes in the future.
Make sure your team have bought in and are in the know – The more your team knows about and believes in the plan as the best thing for your patients and the practice, the more confidently they will be able to talk about it. Every team member needs to be able to communicate well about the plan, as you never know who the patient will ask for information.
Refresher training on the benefits of the plan, such as how patients on plan are more likely to attend appointments and how it can smooth out the peaks and troughs of running a business, can help to reinvigorate the team’s enthusiasm for encouraging patients to sign up.
Motivate the team with incentives – Set some goals and targets for signing patients onto the plan and have rewards for when they meet them. Having a target to work to and being able to monitor your progress towards it is incredibly motivational.
Practices who are successful at building a strong plan often have a clear target which they make very visible, along with the progress towards it. That can be through posters and charts in the staff room or via updates at team meetings.
Consider moving to membership-only – Setting the plan as your default position means that patients will have to become members if they want to continue attending the practice. As per the third point above, if all the team believes in the plan and the advantages it has both for the patients and the business, this should make it easier when communicating the reasons behind being membership-only.
The recent Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown may actually help to make this kind of transition easier. All practices had to implement new changes to the way they operate and their patient journey, and some also used the opportunity and time to make bigger changes. In this environment, you may actually find your team and your patients are more receptive to new processes and a move to plan-only could be just one more change.
With these five tips to consider, you can begin taking steps to increasing your plan membership and strengthening the financial security of your practice.
Josie Hutchings has been a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, for 20 years and has 25 years’ experience in the dental industry.
Our team of experienced professionals has supported over 1,500 dental practices to transform the profitability of their business through the combination of a well-populated plan and personalised support including marketing, business advice, events and training. If you’re looking for more from your provider, call 01691 684165 or visit change.practiceplan.co.uk