A comprehensive guide for the 6 Stages of the Dental Patient Journey and Their Applications by pH Marketing.
A customer journey is a common business concept that has been around for ages. However, though popular, not that many businesses use this concept when developing their business strategies, especially small businesses.
The definition of “customer journey” can be inferred from its name. It’s a journey of a customer through the whole buying process, from before knowing a particular brand to after purchasing. In each stage of the customer journey, customers will have different needs, pain points, and require different approaches from the businesses.
Using the “customer journey” concept provides three significant benefits:
- It allows you to focus all of your business efforts on the customers.
- Allows you to have relevant conversations with your customers.
- It helps improve the customer experience through each step of the buying stages.
A fascinating thing about the customer journey is that it is different for each product, service, or industry. A person buying an iPhone will go through various stages of mind compared to a person going to the dentist. Therefore, it is essential to identify the correct customer journey for your businesses.
Dental Patient Journey
In dentistry, we like to call the customer cycle a “patient journey” instead. There are various research methods that dentists could use to create a patient journey map for your practice, as the journey is going to be unique for each dental office.
However, to help dentists visualize the possible stages in your dental patient journey, we are going to break down the 6 stages in this article. Additionally, we will also recommend some business strategies that dentists could apply for each stage. It is important to note that a patient might move between stages, both forward and backward. For example, a patient who has scheduled a meeting with your practice might change his mind and go back to do more Google search.
The 6 stages of the dental patient journey are:
This is Chris. He will represent a typical dental patient.
The awareness stage is the beginning of the dental patient journey. Everything starts here. In this stage, Chris starts to have a problem with his teeth that requires him to see a dentist. However, Chris doesn’t know which dental practice to choose, so he conducts several types of research.
Competition usually starts right here for practices. Therefore, dentists must identify how patients typically search for dental offices and put marketing efforts on those channels. Most of the time, patients will learn about your practice through search engines, such as Google and Bing, and social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Therefore, a robust online presence is especially important in the awareness stage. Alternatively, patients might learn about your services by seeing your ads in magazines, flyers, or postcards.
The goal in this phase is to drive brand awareness and use marketing strategies to capture patients’ interest, reaching them on the right channels with relevant, personalized messages. On social media, dentists need to identify which social media platforms the patients are using so that they can reach them correctly and offer early-stage messages. On the other hand, dentists must also learn about the search habits of patients when they conduct Google or Bing searches, then providing relevant content and optimizing their websites to rank for relevant searched keywords.
Additionally, dental patients might gain awareness about your practice through referrals, such as word-of-mouth. They may ask their friends and families for references when problems arise.
In this second stage of the dental patient journey, you have successfully captured Chris’s attention, and he is ready to learn more about your practice. Chris goes through your websites to see what you have to offer. He reads your online reviews, credential, and searches for pictures of your office. He also visits your social media channels to learn about your practice. If unsure about anything, Chris will contact you through phone or email to ask questions.
For most businesses, while the awareness phase is most likely to cost the most money, the engagement phase is the hardest and requires the most effort. Why? It’s where the real competition starts. It isn’t that hard to get people to know about your brand. But it’s tough to win them over and bring them to the next stage. Most of the time, a patient will engage with multiple dental offices. 1,000 potential patients might know about a dental office, but only 10 will visit them. On the other hand, another dental office might be known by only 100 people, but get visited from 20.
If your practice fails to keep patients engaged, they might choose another dental office or move back to the awareness stage where they continue to do more research. In this stage, your goal is to listen to the patients’ needs and behaviors and then engage with them with appropriate messages. For example, you could show what you have to offer on your website or offer special discounts through social media to push potential patients into new patients. Additionally, it is important to note that the engagement stage might last for a very long time. Thus, try to provide useful content to maintain a connection with potential patients and keep them engaged. Blogging is not a bad option.
In this stage, Chris is convinced that your dental practice is the most suitable practice for him to get his problem solved. And he is ready to book an appointment with you.
This stage is undoubtedly the most simple stage to manage for dentists in the dental patient journey. However, there are still some possible pitfalls. Firstly, offices need to make appointments scheduling convenient and straightforward, both online or in-person. Additionally, it is vital to train the receptionists so that the process could be performed adequately. Secondly, dental offices need to offer constant support at all times, as some patients might face difficulty going through the booking process.
For this stage, Chris comes to your office to receive the services that you provide.
Even though it sounds simple, the service stage has a very high chance to abruptly stop your dental patient cycle from moving to the next final two stages, which are loyalty and advocacy. Why? Because it’s primarily in this stage that patients decide whether or not they want to stick with your practice in the long run. If they are unhappy with any part of the service received, your chance to bring them back is slim. Therefore, a comprehensive customer service strategy is needed.
Primarily, besides providing excellent dental treatments, dental offices need to perfect the waiting room experience. For instance, the waiting areas need to have furniture, televisions, magazines, and wi-fi. Moreover, dentists could improve patient satisfaction by implementing strategies to reduce wait time. Also, try to remember who your patients are and explain clearly to patients how each treatment could improve their oral health.
In this stage, Chris decides that he is happy with his treatment, and he will come back to your office in the future if problems arise.
For many dental practices, while converting a potential patient into a new one is considered to be a success, creating trusting, long-term relationships with patients is the better strategy to grow and earn more revenue. A good customer retention strategy allows you to improve your patient base over time while keeping your advertising cost the same. Moreover, building a large patient base will enable you to target current patients with new offers.
To keep patients happy, dental offices should at least follow-up with them after treatments and office a type of membership program. Additionally, remember to continue providing them valuable content and messages on social media and websites to retain the relationship. Lastly, practices should have a team to solve customer service issues quickly. Even if you face some forms of criticism, have your team deal with them professionally to minimize the impact and retain the relationship with your patients.
In this final stage of the dental patient journey, Chris shares how excellent your practice is to his friends and families, bringing you many new patients in the future.
If you manage to bring patients to the sixth stage, you will receive substantial value offered by not just themselves, but their networks, expanding your reach and brand. To reach the final stage, practices must continue to engage with patients and offer special offers. Additionally, you can pay appreciation to your brand advocates by offering them special discounts and promotions.
What’s next step after having the dental patient journey?
So that is all we want to share about today’s topic. Like we’ve said, dental practices need to clearly establish a patient journey and implement specific strategies to push them forward, with advocacy being the ultimate goal. Dentists could find many different templates of customer journey online. Additionally, we recommend dentists to include touch-points on the journey in order to understand the different channels that patients interact with your practice.
Building a patient journey is, however, only a part of developing a patient persona, a topic of which we will cover in detail in the future.
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