Connecting is the key: Digital technology can help orthodontic practices grow

Editor’s intro: Scott Hansen shows how connecting with your patients on social media keeps you connected and can help increase your practice success.

Scott Hansen discusses how to effectively engage with patients

People choose orthodontic care for many reasons. Parents might want their children to have a winning smile. Adults might be looking for relief from speech difficulties or jaw pain. Because orthodontic treatment can be a significant financial investment, patients expect a higher level of customer service. Patients not only want to make sure they are making the right treatment choice, but they are also concerned about making a wise financial choice.

The stakes of gaining and keeping patients are very high for orthodontic practices because of this financial investment. Strong, effective digital technology is the key to reaching new patients and keeping your current ones satisfied.

Using digital technology, orthodontic practices have a great opportunity to connect with people before they even become patients. Social media marketing and live website chat can offer convenient, yet personal, ways to engage potential patients. They can be some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways your practice can gain new patients and keep current ones satisfied. By using the latest digital technology, orthodontic practices can connect with people at the crucial discovery stage of their customer journey.

Here are some practical ways to use digital technology to help your orthodontic practice grow.

Harness the power of human connection

Human connection can help one ortho-dontic practice stand out from the others. Previous generations have benefited from the human connection of mom-and-pop shops and gas station attendants. Our current generation expects the same level of human connection but in more convenient ways such as digital technology. Practices seeking to gain new patients have the opportunity to connect with potential patients while they are browsing the Internet. Digital technology allows an orthodontic practice to show potential patients the level of service they’ll receive before they even enter the practice’s doors.

Digital ads put the orthodontic practice at the forefront of the customer’s mind while he/she is researching options. Website landing pages can direct patients to the most useful information. Live website chat can take that connection one step further, offering a human touch once the patient has arrived on the orthodontist’s website. Acting as an extension of the practice, a live chat specialist can connect with potential patients 24 hours a day. People spend a lot of time researching online after business hours for their needs. Digital technology such as live website chat offers a personal way to connect with patients no matter the time of day.

Create brand advocates

One of the most overlooked and yet most effective outcomes of effective digital technology is the development of brand advocates — happy patients who tell their friends about your practice. Positive brand advocates can help steer potential patients in your direction. More than 80 percent of people seek out recommendations before making decisions on purchases.1 Brand advocates can help influence people to trust your brand. A positive customer experience is the only way to ensure that brand advocates are made and that they will continue to share with others their favorable experience with your practice.

Make connection convenient for the customer

Face-to-face or phone conversation allows for connection. But potential patients must first reach out to your practice. Digital technology allows potential patients to interact with you whether your practice is open or not. An up-to-date website, active social media feed, and live website chat reaches patients at all hours of the day and night. By striving to have the latest in technology, you’re showing patients how much you care about their experience and making communication convenient for them.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort — the work they must do to get their problem solved — does.”2 What does that mean for orthodontic practices? It means doing whatever it takes to connect with patients in the ways that are most convenient for them by putting their needs first.

Go where the patients are

Many of the decisions we make about products and services are done entirely in the digital space. When people are shopping around for a product or service, they often begin online. While they may have heard about a company from a friend or read about it on a printed piece, learning more about a company happens on the Internet.

Digital technology is perhaps a practice’s most important investment in reaching out to new patients and maintaining happy ones. Orthodontic practices should examine ways they can connect with patients through a variety of digital means. Social media platforms and your website can provide potential patients with general information about your practice, reviews from other patients, and ways to connect further. A live website chat feature further answers patients’ questions in real time while still affording them some level of anonymity.

Use the latest digital technology

We’ve determined patients still want human connection and that making that connection more convenient for them is essential. Now how do you go about doing that in the digital space? For starters, make the latest technology a priority with your practice. Your website and social media presence must be maintained. Information and social media posts must be current. People are constantly connected with technology. If your practice is not doing the same, you may miss the opportunity to connect with them. But when you show patients current and relevant information, you build credibility.

Using the latest technology also means training your staff to do the same. Make sure a few people on your staff know how to update your website. If you choose to use social media, make sure someone is readily available to post regularly and respond to people who interact with your social media pages.

Create exceptional customer experiences 24/7

The only way to ensure you don’t miss potential patients or upset existing ones is to offer exceptional customer experiences 24 hours per day. Patients expect round-the-clock support, especially when it comes to their health and well-being. Because they are currently or will be making a significant investment in your practice, they expect their customer experience to match their investment.

The most effective way to provide 24-hour support isn’t by hiring more staff. By incorporating a live chat service as an extension of your practice, you can connect with patients all hours of the day while allowing your current staff to do what they’re best at: providing a great customer experience to patients.

Incorporate online chat

While harnessing several aspects of digital technology is important, an online chat service can take your website and other digital marketing efforts to the next level. Your website can only disseminate information. Customer contact forms simply do not gather enough information. Email is best for mass communication. Social media offers a more personal touch, but it isn’t always in real time. An online chat service offers the real-time, human connection that other forms of digital technology can’t.

Live chat also provides patients with immediate gratification while still allowing the sort of anonymity that has made digital technology attractive. Qualified and trained chat specialists can gather information about patients that other aspects of your digital marketing efforts cannot.

Qualified, professional online chat specialists can connect people browsing your website directly with your office staff. Even when your practice is not open, a chat specialist will be available to address any questions a potential patient might have. With a live chat service on your website, you can offer patients the human connection and convenience they truly value. According to a recent survey, over 80% of customers expect a response within an hour, even after business hours.3 Live chat is the ideal solution to this customer demand. Qualified live chat specialists should have an average response time of 45 seconds.4

Beware of potential pitfalls

While having the latest technology is one of the most important ways your practice can connect with potential and current patients, potential pitfalls still exist. A well-designed website can still miss human connection. Using live website chat can help bridge the gap between a person simply window-shopping on a website and making a connection with a real salesperson. Even then, a customer still has a certain level of anonymity. Transitioning from a live chat specialist to an actual employee at your orthodontic practice can be a challenge.

The live chat specialist and your front desk staff must work together to develop the best possible solution for your practice as well as potential patients. Qualified chat specialists trained in the orthodontic industry can make the transition smooth. Your practice must be willing to provide exceptional service once a potential patient has decided to move beyond the live chat specialist and make that next step with you.

Connect all your digital marketing efforts

Online chat can improve the return on investment of your other digital marketing efforts. If you maintain brand consistency across all channels, patients will trust your brand more. If you customize your chat software to meet your current brand standards, you’ll assure patients they are interacting with someone from your practice.

Live chat software offers so many customization options. You can customize the chat software based on your current digital technology investment. For example, if you pay for Google AdWords, you can customize landing pages and chat boxes to coordinate specifically with the ad. Working with a qualified orthodontic chat specialist team, you can create scripts that best fit your practice.

Putting it all together

Digital technology is essential in growing your orthodontic practice. It can be the first interaction a potential patient has with your brand, and it can be the first place a current customer leaves their opinion about your practice. Digital technology can be the most important step your practice takes in developing the best customer experiences, taking them from great to exceptional.

Connecting with patients starts on social media, and keeping your patients’ records safe starts there as well. Read “The importance of an independent cybersecurity audit in the orthodontic practice” to see how to accomplish all of your digital social media goals while staving off possible cyber-attacks.

Scott Hansen is the founder and CEO of OrthoChats, a leading professionally managed website chat service exclusively for ortho-dontists. The company has grown from one to more than 100 employees since 2016 and is recognized as one of the 100 fastest growing businesses in the country.

  1. Kapadia A. Numbers Don’t Lie: What a 2016 Nielsen Study Revealed About Referrals. Business 2 Community. lie-2016-nielsen-study-revealed-referrals-01477256. Published March 12, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  2. Dixon M, Freeman K, Toman N. Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers. Harvard Business Review. Published July-August 2010. Accessed November 29, 2018.
  3. Toister J. Get ready to respond to customer email within one hour. Toister Performance Solutions, Inc. Published April 14, 2015. Updated April 2018. Accessed November 28, 2019.
  4. Live Chat Benchmark Report 2017. Comm 100. Accessed November 28, 2018.

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