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Episode #343: The 3 Rs for Future Practice Growth, with Sandy Pardue

the best practices show podcast Oct 08, 2021

  Every practice should have a great recall system. And the problem isn't that dentists don't have great recall systems — it’s that they think they have one, when they actually don't! If you are one of these dentists, today’s guest has a ton of great advice. Kirk Behrendt brings in Sandy Pardue from Classic Practice Resources to teach you three simple things to help you improve your practice. She will teach you recipes for the 3 Rs you need: a recall system, retention, and reactivation. To learn how to implement these Rs and develop the best recall system, listen to Episode 343 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

You need the 3 Rs: a good recall system, retention, and reactivation.

A good recall system includes calls, texts, emails, and snail mail — something for everyone.

The majority of broken appointments were people that were prescheduled.

Not every patient deserves to be prescheduled.

There's nothing in the practice more important than filling the schedule.

Don't run from your upset patients, run to them.

Practices that value relationships will retain more patients.

Retention goals for every practice owner is about 83%.

Patients coming in every 18 months is a healthy retention number.

January, February, March, and April are the best months to start reactivation.

Patients absent from the practice for 13 months or longer is a reactivation prospect.


“Retention in dentistry is not good. It’s actually, in many practices, only 50% to 60%. And that's very low.”  (04:40—04:49)

“165,000 dentists in the United States of America, and some of them are getting three new patients a month, and some are getting 130. So, let's just say that 165,000 dentists got 10 new patients a month. That is a lot of people changing dentists every month. We have a huge problem in dentistry. Now, we put what we’re going through with COVID-19 in the mix. Patients, if they haven't been in touch with the practice, and maybe the practice has dropped out some of their vital systems, they're going to be looking for a new dental home. And that's what happens in dentistry whenever you stop communicating with people, or they don't feel comfortable calling because a long time has passed. So, it’s important to have those systems in place that keep them coming back.” (04:59—05:56)

“Every practice should have a good recall system. A problem is that they think they have a recall system, but they don't. And what I mean is, as I go into practices — I've worked with over 600 dental practices — one of the first things we’ll ask is, ‘What is your retention?’ And they're like, ‘What do you mean?’ Well, they don't know. And the second thing I'm going to ask is, ‘Can I see your recall recipe in writing?’ And they look, ‘We don't have that.’ So, what that means is, they never really developed a recall system.” (06:12—06:55)

“What happens is, [practices] get a third-party company that helps with text messaging and emails. And now, they have just said, ‘Okay, they're going to handle it.’ That's not good. And then, they say, ‘Oh, yeah. Well, we use this company.’ And you guys that are listening have all heard of them, and they're all great companies. But here’s the problem. When I ask the practice, ‘What is that third-party company communicating?’ they rarely know. And if I ask how often, they rarely know. And the fact is, they have no recall system, which I like to call a “recipe.” (06:58—07:41)

“The only thing that will give you consistent results — because any practice owners, they're familiar with having a day that's like, $1,000, and then a $5,000 day, and we might shoot up to $7,000, and every day is a surprise. The only way you'll ever have predictability in your practice, ever, is through consistent actions by your team.” (08:55—09:21)

“If you're just starting and you don't have [a third-party software to find retention], it’s okay. You don't have to go get that service. What you could do is as simple as this: in the beginning of the month, you could look and say, ‘Oh, okay. We have 230 people that are due for recall,’ and then somebody writes that down. And then, at the end of the month, you want to see how many people are due for recall in that same date range, and you go, ‘Oh, okay. We have 150 that are still due. That's not good.’ So, now, you start to know, ‘We need to work on our recall system. Something is missing.’” (11:00—11:34)

“A good recall system has phone calls, texting, emails. And guess what? It has another component, which is, every once in a while, old-fashioned snail mail, because you have different personalities, different age groups. You've got all these things going on in people’s lives, and you've got to do something that's going to fit every one of them.” (12:47—13:12)

“A majority of hygiene broken appointments were people that were prescheduled. So, always know, the more control you have — the practice, not the patient — the more predictability and the higher your productions is going to be.” (14:13—14:31)

“Not every patient deserves to be prescheduled. Do you really think the guy that has broken three appointments to get there can be relied on to come in six months? I don't think so. I believe that 80% of your patients can be prescheduled and should be prescheduled. There’s about 20% that should not be prescheduled, that you can't depend on them. They're not responsible.” (14:34—15:11)

“For those prescheduled people, I see that that postcard sent three weeks before, yeah, that works. It gives them the option if they can't come to go ahead and call the office. When we call people and email them too much and too often, it is a turnoff. It becomes spam. You seem desperate.” (16:24—16:48)

“It’s always better to send those prescheduled hygiene cards three weeks away, and then three days before, send an email. And if they don't confirm from that, two days before, send the text. And then, if they don't confirm from that, the day before, they get a call. And some patients will always get a call the day before because you can't trust them. And your time is precious. That's one thing about the schedule. There's nothing in the practice, an action, more important than filling the schedule. It is the most important thing.” (17:03—17:38)

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, yeah. If those patients can't keep the appointment and we have to keep reminding them, we don't want them as patients.’ Well, I think that's ridiculous because we’re not an Elton John concert. We’re in an industry where less than half the people go every year to the dentist. I mean, it’s not that easy. So, we have to help the patients. It’s very important that we do our part in getting the patient there.” (17:57—18:29)

“The ADA reports only like 38% of adults go to the dentist every year. Now, they put it in different age groups. There's one age group at 48% and one at 38%. So, that’s less than half, any way you want to look at it. Less than half the people ever born have been to the dentist. So, you can't write people off.” (19:54—20:15)

“I think some schools teach dentists that everybody wants to jump in their chair. And no practice has patients lined up around the building waiting to get in. It’s not reality. And so, don't write your patients off. People sit with the phone in their lap for hours, or even think about making an appointment for weeks and months before they do it because of their fear of the dentist, or not understanding what will happen if they don't go. That's the reality of it, and practices need to spend more time communicating and educating.” (20:20—20:59)

“Ideally, everybody comes in every six months. But it’s not the reality. I'd say 18 months [is a healthy retention number].” (21:15—21:21)

“There are all kinds of things that can happen. They could be a good patient, and then somebody upset them. You could have had a new hygienist that upset them, and they stopped coming. Who’s calling them and trying to get them back? All that is part of retention.” (21:59—22:13)

“Say two years passes, and [a patient] breaks a tooth. If you've been sending emails or sending recall cards, or holiday cards, or birthday cards, they now think, ‘Oh, okay. Well, yeah, they still consider me as a patient.’ But if you cut off all communication after a year, guess what? They're 100% going to go to a different practice.” (22:45—23:10)

“For me, anybody that hasn’t been in the practice for 13 months or longer is a reactivation prospect, so to speak. They need to be reactivated back into the practice.” (25:37—25:50)

“What you have to think about with reactivation is, there are a couple ways you can do it. You could get on the phone. And that's the hardest part, because most dental team members do not have the ability to handle the objections that patients have, unless they’ve had special training. They don't know, when somebody starts complaining or putting off. And patients, they lie about why they can't come back. They tell little stories. So, you've got to have somebody really good on the phone when you're reactivating.” (26:06—26:37)

“Another way is, you could use your third-party company to send mass emails. But again, 28% of those are opened, and the rest are not.” (26:45—26:54)

“Any marketing campaign comes in threes, if you've ever noticed. You can get your mail out of the mailbox, you see a postcard about a vacuum cleaner. That's one I got recently. And then, next month, you get another one. And then, you get another one. So, I noticed that 20 years ago and I thought, ‘Let's try that for reactivating patients.’ It works.” (26:57—27:23)

“People might think, ‘Cards? It’s not cool to send cards anymore. You've got to send email and texts.’ I'm telling you, you'll get 9% to 19% of your patients back with this particular [recall system] — 9% to 19% without a phone call.” (28:15—28:31)

“You're going to start communicating with [your reactivation patients]. And you need a card. Our color is highlighter green. It’s a very ugly color. And you could put your business card on your front, your office name on the front. And then, you send this out to your patients. But there's something very important about this card. On the reverse side, you'll have a message that you miss seeing them in the practice. And then, underneath your return address, you want to make sure you include, “Return Service Requested.” Because when you put “Return Service Requested” on that card, you know what you're going to get? You're going to now get their new address. So, that's another reason why I like to send cards to patients that prescheduled six months ago. You're saving time, but maybe they moved away. And because you put that return service requested on the card, now you get the card back and go, ‘Oh, good. We’re saving time for the whole family, and they’ve moved away.’” (29:02—30:16)

“I think a goal for every practice owner is to retain about 83%. If you can retain 80%, you're doing really well.” (30:57—31:07)

“Another thing is that I'm pretty sure patients leave because of some kind of upset. Now, some practices, I've heard them say, ‘Oh, we don't care about that.’ Well, I'm going to say run to your upset patients, not from them. And those practices that really get how important relationships are within the practice, they will do this, and they will retain more people.” (32:03—32:27)

“If you're listening to this in the months of January, February, March, and April, those are the best months to do your reactivation project. If you're listening to us in August, you can start now. If you're listening to us in September, October, November, December, don't start yet. Those months aren’t the best to start.” (33:49—34:08)

“You can have people and they can be good, or you can have people that are fantastic. And your life, your office life is going to be easier when you have people that are trained and can take the stress off of you, and that can do their jobs and do them right.” (37:55—38:16)


2:20 Sandy’s background.

4:00 Why this is an important conversation.

5:57 The three Rs: recall.

8:30 Why having the system in writing is important.

10:22 What to expect in a healthy recall system.

13:13 When do you schedule future patient appointments?

16:11 Filling the schedule is the most important thing.

18:37 The three Rs: retention.

21:01 What is an active patient and healthy retention number?

23:12 Improve your retention.

25:11 The three Rs: reactivation.

30:34 What percentage of patients get displaced per year?

32:02 Patients leave because of an upset.

33:16 Best months to start reactivation.

34:10 Get your systems in place.

34:55 Will you have too many patients by implementing the 3 Rs?

37:17 The importance of training your team.

39:35 Last thoughts on the 3 Rs.

41:02 Sandy’s contact information.

Reach Out to Sandy:

Sandy’s email: [email protected]

Sandy’s website: https://classicpractice.com/

Sandy’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sandy.pardue.35

Dental Gumbo Facebook: https://d.facebook.com/groups/230393997523359

Sandy’s social media: @sandyspardue

Sandy Pardue Bio:

Sandy Pardue, Senior Consultant and Lecturer, specializes in growing practices and de-stressing practice owners for over 25 years. She is one of the industry’s leading authorities on team training, organization systems, processes, and most importantly, RESULTS. Her years of consulting and speaking experience gives her a unique advantage and understanding of what it takes to motivate teams and create organized, productive practices with less stress for the practice owner.

Sandy and her husband have one daughter. She takes pleasure in gardening, traveling, and also enjoys preparing regional Louisiana cuisine. She spends a lot of her spare time in dental chat rooms, advising dentists about their practices and creating new systems and solutions for the dental industry.



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