We know, we know. The walk-in patient isn’t always an exciting prospect for dentists. But get past the unexpected addition to your day. Look to the potential they represent. With minimal effort, you can build patient loyalty and turn walk-ins into patients for life.
You did, after all, save the time it would have taken to schedule their appointment and confirm with them. And, on the bright side, they could become a long-term, revenue-producing patient.
But we know that doesn’t always work out that way automatically. So, how do you make it happen?
We have three steps we believe to be key.
Step 1: Make sure they have a great experience.
No patient wants to feel like a problem – even if they're aware of the frustration their dropping in announced could cause. You certainly wouldn’t do this on purpose, but appearing curt, rushed, or flustered by their entrance will give that impression.
If your policies allow walk-ins, then you should have a system in place that makes room for them, figuratively and literally. Chances are, these walk-ins are only walk-ins because of pain or some other acute issue. So ensure your team can accommodate them with as much courtesy and connection as they do patients with scheduled appointments.
When the day has gotten a bit out of hand, apologize for the inconvenience and ask if they’d like to schedule an appointment for the future (assuming it's not an emergency, of course).
Step 2: Care for them as your patient, not an unexpected schedule addition
You might assume that a walk-in patient wants to get in, get what they need, and get out. Indeed, many of them probably do. But we think it’s a good idea to try and feel that out in conversation.
Get to know their dental history and ask whether or not they have any concerns, in the short or long term. These questions open the patient up to the idea that you could help them with more than just the work they need done today. They could have a personal, ongoing relationship with you; you could be their dentist.
That, we’re sure you’ll agree, is the ideal mindset for a patient to be in when leaving their appointment: "That's my dentist."
Step 3: Offer them a new way to pay and keep on top of their dental health.
When you’re nearing the end of their visit, you and your hygienist and your front desk team should mention your dental membership plan. This patient was made for one.
If you don’t have a membership plan yet, learn more about why they’re so great for your practice.
Here’s a quick rundown: Dental membership plans put your patients on a subscription-like payment schedule for preventive care, where they make monthly or annual payments to be members. As members, they get, let’s say, two cleanings, two exams, and a set of x-rays each year, with 10% off additional restorative work. You can decide what is included in your membership plan, but the point is that it separates payments from visits, and it encourages patients to come in more regularly.
This is an ideal solution for you and your walk-in patient.
If they showed up without an appointment, it might be because they are in the midst of a dental emergency (which could require follow-up) or because they find scheduling and remembering appointments overwhelming. Dental membership plans make it all more effortless. Payments are automatic, which serves as its own great care reminder. Not to mention, if your practice uses a software platform like DentalHQ, they will receive perfectly timed reminders via their inbox, too.
On your side of things, dental membership plans are a huge part of building patient loyalty in just one walk-in visit. Once you get them signed up, you now have a new patient enrolled in a membership program. That sounds better than giving them a card and hoping they’ll call for their next cleaning, right? It should. Patients who know they’re going to be automatically charged for a service are much more likely to keep up with the things they need to do to get their money’s worth.
And remember when we talked about spending time fostering a good relationship with your walk-in patients? Well, since dental membership plans save your team time (less hounding patients for payments and tracking down insurance claims), they will have more to give to each and every patient who walks in—appointment or not.
When you ensure that your walk-in patients have a great experience, get the chance to talk about their big-picture dental health, and know about easier ways to pay and keep in touch, you will undoubtedly begin to build patient loyalty in just one visit.
To learn more about how DentalHQ’s unique dental membership plan software can help you, check out our FAQs.
As we here at DentalHQ like to say, “Dental insurance is a problem. We solved it.” So, dive into the details of our membership plans, which, by the way, you can enroll in FOR FREE. We’re serious—there’s zero cost to start.
If you are a dental patient rather than a dentist, and you’ve stumbled upon this blog post only to find a potential answer to all of your problems, find a dentist who offers plans in your area.