Fear. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Words we’ve all been hearing and feeling a lot lately. Which is why it’s important to address an issue that many of you may be facing right now, and that is fear and anxiety in your patients and staff.
As practices begin to reopen and restrictions are lifted, you may find that patients aren’t flooding back in right away. And you may have staff members reluctant to come back to work. Know that you are not alone. Businesses around the globe are facing these same issues and we’ve compiled a few tips for mitigating this fear and keeping your practice up and running.
#1: Proactively address fears with documented solutions
Be proactive about calming fears and take steps to keep everyone in your practice healthy. For instance, remind your staff how to keep themselves and your patients safe by demonstrating proper disinfecting protocols. Document the processes to ensure staff members can be properly trained and have a process to refer to when needed.
Dr. Jason Brinton, an eye doctor in Missouri, trained his non-clinical staff on some basic, but important skills, like proper hand-washing. “On a Zoom video conference, one of our surgery scrub technicians turned his laptop camera toward the kitchen sink in his apartment and reviewed proper hand washing for our receptionists, call center and back office staff,” he said.
Consider doing something similar with your staff. They work in close proximity to your patients, so they may find this extra training comforting right now. You may also consider hiring a professional cleaning crew to disinfect all areas of the office each day, as well as making any necessary renovations that may be required in your jurisdiction. Proactively implementing measures like these will show your staff and patients that you care.
#2: Communication is key
We can’t stress this one enough – communicate! With your patients, with prospective patients, with your staff. Share with them what you’re doing to keep them safe, what new procedures have been implemented to limit contact and disinfect, and what their options are if they’re experiencing a lot of anxiety. Also, ask for feedback when communicating. You may have a patient who needs a specialized solution (a cancer patient or senior, for instance), but would never want to ask and “put anybody out.”
We all go through different stages, or “zones,” in a crisis. Be open to the fact that your patients and staff are all in different zones at different times, sometimes going through all of them within the same day.
Restrictions being lifted is the first step to getting your patients back, but that alone won’t be enough. When reopening your business post-coronavirus, “customers must feel confident that the businesses they patronize have created a protected environment to which they can safely return.”
Use all of the digital tools in your marketing toolbox to communicate this information: email, your practice website, social media.
If you’re a Smile Marketing Premium client, your Digital Marketing Specialist can help you craft your messages, email your patients, and refine your post-COVID-19 communication strategy.
#3: Plan for all scenarios and learn from others
As Business Insider points out, “Even if you take all necessary safety precautions, it's highly likely you will have some employees who won't want to return to work because they feel unsafe.” Imagine you were to encounter this with one or more employees. How would you handle the situation?
Talk to your small business owner friends, business consultants, and other dentists about how they are preparing for situations like these. Remember – we’re all in uncharted territory here. Collaborate and share ideas so that you are as equipped as possible to keep your staff and patients happy, healthy, and comfortable in your practice.
#4: Get creative
If you find that your schedule is not filling up as quickly as you’d hoped, you may need to think outside the box. It’s been inspiring to see how businesses have pivoted during this time to meet the changing needs of their customers and keep their businesses afloat.
The reluctance to reenter the public could last a while, so if you haven’t already, think of other ways to keep your practice generating income while helping your patients.
How can you help patients virtually? Perhaps virtual consultations for certain symptoms would be a great way to determine whether or not a patient needs to be seen in-person or can self-treat at home.
And if you still find yourself with downtime as patients ease back into “normal” care, take the time to work on your business. Because the dental industry will survive this.
Stay up-to-date on industry happenings, take professional development courses (you and your staff), and make sure your digital marketing strategy is solid so the patients who are ready to come in know where to find you. Is your website overdue for an update? Now’s the time. Could your online review profiles use more 5-star reviews? Reach out to happy patients and ask them to share their experiences online. Efforts like these now will pay off in spades in the long-run.
Here to Support You as Communities Reopen
Just like you support your patients, we’re here to support you. If you’re a Premium client and you need help communicating with your patients or planning your marketing strategy as your community begins to reopen, contact your Digital Marketing Specialist. If you’re not yet a client and you’d like to learn how Smile Marketing can help you communicate with your patients and propel your digital marketing forward, book a strategy session with one of our Digital Marketing Consultants.