Customer Service in a Competitive Industry
To understand the current state of dentistry, and why competition is rising for dentists, it’s useful to look at some recent statistics and projections.
- In the US, the number of dentists per person is increasing. It’s projected that the number of dentists for every 100,000 people will jump to 67 by 2040; up from 60.7 in 2020.
- Dentists are continuously getting younger. Between 2013 and 2016, 40% of dentists were 55 and older. This figure decreased to 37% in 2020 and is projected to further drop to one-third by 2040.
- More women are becoming dentists. In 2020, 35% of dentists were female, and this figure is projected to reach almost 50% by 2040.
These figures indicate not only are there more dentists on the way, but a much more diverse cohort, too. All of this amounts to increases in competition and puts pressure on established clinics to stand out. With more options available, dental offices will necessarily be competing to hold onto customers.
Therefore, customer care, particularly in the form of convenience and engagement, has never been more important. Personalised services and direct attention are becoming expected, and in such an increasingly competitive environment, industries of every kind are struggling to provide these to their customers and to stay relevant in a world of increasing customer expectations.
One way that companies are engaging with customers on their own terms is by implementing SMS services. Surveys have shown that customers overwhelmingly prefer SMS to email as their main communication channels with businesses. This particular survey showed that:
- 55% of Customers want to use SMS communications for appointment reminders
- 51% prefer SMS for prescription refills
- 53% choose SMS over email for service outage notifications
- Appointment-based businesses can increase their revenue by up to 20% with appropriately targeted appointment reminders
In all of these categories, no more than 35% of people chose email as their preferred means of communication. This shows that customers have voted heavily in favour of SMS communications when it comes to dealing with businesses, and should be an alarm call to any dental office to keep up with these demands.
SMS services create that level of engagement that customers are looking for in services as intimate as healthcare, and particularly dentistry.
When given a choice, it’s not surprising that people want to feel comfortable and valued before letting someone explore their mouths, and dental office texting may be the key to helping them with that, at least in a dental office setting.
Why Use Text Messaging as a Dental Office?
Texting as a dental office can serve a number of purposes, many of which we’ll go into in the next section. For the basics of it, a powerful text message service can provide dental offices with streamlined communications with patients on a platform of their preference.
Using texting, dental offices have the capacity to:
- Send appointment reminders – this is one of the most common ways patients prefer to receive appointment reminders. The proliferation of smartphones means text messages are readily available, even easier to monitor, and view than emails, and reminding people of their appointments can cut down significantly on the 10% of appointments that fall through.
- Reach customers with targeted marketing – the same medium is great for sending out special deals, or personalised offers. Whether company-wide or targeted, your marketing can go out to precisely the people you want it to, and arrive in their SMS, rather than the spam folder of their email account.
- Request referrals or reviews – after a good service, an SMS is a good way to nudge someone for a review on your site, and can include a direct link to do so, or, in some text services, can be done via the SMS itself. It’s also a great way to offer discounts or promotions for referrals.
- Provide 2-way communication – SMS messaging doesn’t have to be one-sided. There are options for customer services, appointment requests, and the chance for patients to ask questions by sending an SMS back in your direction. Of all the applications, 2-way communication offers the strongest means of boosting engagement.
So, engagement is a significant positive effect of simply adding an SMS text service to your communication channels. One thing that comes from texting is the nature of the communications may change. While email can be semi-informal, it’s a lot closer to a letter than a text message is. This means there are more options to present a personality, as long as it’s balanced against keeping a professional and competent front.
With the measured use of shorthand or emojis, a text can navigate that boundary between friendliness and professionalism very elegantly, and this helps people associate your practice with a human front, rather than as a faceless business entity.
Let’s go into some finer details of how these systems can work for your office.
More Detailed Applications of Dental Office Text Messaging
Using an SMS platform for healthcare providers, like the one at Cloud ContactAI, you can cover everything from appointment scheduling to test results and a lot more.
Mass messaging allows you to engage with patients all at once, where necessary, filling the role of bulk emails, but with the added engagement of SMS.
Messages can be timed to suit your needs. Appointment reminders can be set minutes, hours, days, or even months ahead, as can marketing media, in alignment with your specific strategies.
As mentioned, the 2-way channel allows you to have back-and-forth communications with patients to address their specific needs and interact with them personally.
You can import your contacts, set up and use template messages, partition your customer bases by custom profiles and add personalised tags to messages to give a sincere touch to your communications.
The utility of SMS-based communications is increasing all the time, and while email is still a relevant medium of outreach to over one-third of patients, it’s clear that SMS needs to be adopted to keep up with patient demands and stay relevant.
The dentistry market is evolving, and with it, the demographics that represent dentists as professionals. Never before have there been more dentists per person, or a more diverse group of people representing the discipline. This suggests significant increases in competition, and to keep up, businesses need to start listening to their customers’ wants.
Those customers have voted loud and clear on their preferred means of communication with businesses and it is up to the competitive dentist office to stay on top of these communications by implementing dental office text messaging services. These services can be extended from simple appointment reminders to full-on marketing campaigns, internal communications, and 2-way customer service chats with patients.
SMS represents the new way of engaging with customers, and could ultimately be responsible for whether a dentist’s office survives or is lost to the competition in the coming years.
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