For many dentists and their hygienists, the term “holiday rush” elevates the heart rate. Depending on the demographics of the community your practice serves, you likely experience a significant influx of bookings in November and December. School-age kids are on break; college students come home to spend various holidays with their families; people get more time off of work; insurance benefits need to be used up before the new year—it’s a recipe for an overwhelming appointment book.
But as with all of the challenges a business presents, the best thing to do is turn this chaotic time into an advantageous one. (And yes, it will probably still be chaotic.)
Dentists, take advantage of that holiday rush! We’re going to tell you how you can thrive (not only survive) during this time and come out on the other end with a better outlook for the year ahead.
#1 Accept the New Patients
For all the reasons above, many people who have been putting off dental work may choose to explore the idea again sometime between November and December. Your phone might be ringing off the hook with existing patients, but you’ll also likely have new patient inquiries. While it might be tempting to simply say that you aren’t taking new patients during that time because things are so hectic, we have other ideas.
First, you could encourage patients to schedule for after the holidays. Instruct your front desk team members to ask if there are any immediate concerns, and if not, request that the new patient schedule for January or February. You could also offer a small discount as a thank you for their patience if they agree to come in at another time.
Second, you could hire more hygienists and/or increase your existing hygienists’ workloads. Of course, you don’t want to do either of these things without analyzing your practice and the circumstances first. If you think you want to hire more hygienists, consider carefully how many new patients you believe you could make and retain by doing so, and weigh the profits against the costs. If you’d like to work your existing hygienists a little harder, be open with them and have discussions about their bandwidth. Don’t just tell them they have to take on more. After all, you don’t want to overwhelm them either! (See our post about overscheduling!) Be sure to communicate that this is likely a temporary push to get more new patients. After you work them in this first time, you can sprinkle their next appointments throughout the year. A nice holiday bonus wouldn’t hurt either! ;)
Pro tip on that last point: Analyze your appointment book to figure out which months of the previous year were the slowest, and tell front desk team members to aim for those when new holiday-time patients are booking their next cleaning at check-out.
#2 Make the Most of the Attention
With more new and returning patients comes more opportunity to market yourself and your offerings! Consider:
Patients will be seeing family more frequently around the time they visit you. You could display a festive brochure or flyer advertising a discount for new patients, and they might just bring it along to hand out with the pie and presents.
People will be in a more hopeful, happy mood. As one year closes out with fun and festivity and the next one looms with optimism for what’s ahead, patients might be more likely to consider costly restorative procedures. Many may also have a renewal of usable insurance benefits come January. Both factors make November and December a great time to catch their eye with a discount on a restorative procedure. To capture the attention of patients without insurance coverage, you could also advertise your dental membership plan with inclusion of a discount on certain restorative procedures when they sign up.
#3 Prepare to Accommodate Financially
Although it is a season of joy, the holidays can also be tight on the wallet! If there is any time a patient might be enticed by a dental membership plan, we think it could be this. If you don’t already have one in your practice, it’s a great idea to establish one before the holidays. With so many patients coming and going, you’ll have a much larger audience for your marketing efforts, which might give your membership program an especially strong start.
You could also, as mentioned above, offer a special discount to anyone who signs up for the dental membership plan. Better yet, instead of creating one that applies year-round, you could limit the investment to specifically take advantage of the holiday rush. Think about something like, “Sign up for our dental membership plan before January 1st and you’ll receive $100 off of any restorative procedure costing $1,500 or more.”
#4 Build Better Connections
In this profession, you certainly always maintain great bedside manner and aim to give your patients the best possible experience. But the holidays open up new possibilities for endearing yourself and your practice to your patients. Most people love this time of year, and showing that you love it too will garner appreciation and fond feelings (and those often translate into loyalty). Here are a few of our favorite ideas for holiday fun at your practice:
- Decorate the waiting room.
- Include a fun little gift in the take-home bags (maybe an ornament with your practice’s name on it).
- On the final days that you’re working leading up to the holiday, wear a festive hat or other accessory when not performing procedures.
- Post holiday greetings on your social media pages.
- Send holiday greetings by way of snail mail, and maybe include a little coupon card as a gift of thanks.
- Play holiday movies on the televisions if you have them.
- Keep a little jar by check-out where patients can enter their name for a holiday surprise.
- Give out all red, green, and blue toothbrushes or chapsticks.
You could also ask your team if they have any ideas for how you can make the patient experience festive during the holiday rush!
Every interaction you have with a patient could be the start of more business, whether because they liked you so much that they have decided to come back for a more expensive procedure or because they will sing your praises to friends and family. The holidays are the perfect time to renew a focus on the experience because there are so many unique ways to kick things up a notch, as we outlined above!
So now, let’s recap …
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and letting it show this holiday rush season, consider taking advantage of the craziness!
- Accept the New Patients
- Make the Most of the Attention
- Prepare to Accommodate Financially
- Build Better Connections
If you can do all or some of that from November to December, we think you’ll find yourself in a highly advantageous position when the new year comes.
Don’t stress. Take the opportunity to be the best!
And if along the way, you find you need help implementing a new dental membership plan, DentalHQ is here for you!