Three Internal Marketing Tools
Today’s consumers have overwhelmingly responded to offers of no-interest payment plans for discretionary purchases. In my April 2006 article, No-Interest Patient Financing: It Works, I shared with you that no-interest plans are now the “gold standard” for financing dental services and more than 80% of patients choose no-interest payment plans over extended payment plans. In fact, offering no-interest payment plans to all of your patients is one of the easiest methods to significantly increase treatment plan acceptance and grow your practice’s bottom-line.
The traditional 12-month no-interest payment plans are so popular that several patient-finance companies now offer plans up to 24 months with no interest and no money down. The additional months of no-interest payments increase treatment acceptance when presenting fees of larger comprehensive and fee-for-service treatment plans because the monthly payments are more manageable. For example, a $6,000 treatment fee with a 24-month no-interest payment plan is only $250 per month: a very affordable payment for your patient compared with a 12-month no-interest payment plan of $500 per month. (Table)
When offering no-interest payment plans, the next step is to implement these three marketing tools to dramatically increase treatment plan acceptance. After all, we all know from experience that pulling your patient-finance company’s brochure out of the bottom drawer as the patient is walking out the door is a missed opportunity for treatment acceptance.
MARKETING TOOL NO. 1
A welcome letter lets your patients know up front what your acceptable payment methods are when they check in at your registration desk. Many practices are trending away from managed-care dental services to fee-for-service. Patient financing makes it possible for more patients to achieve the dental health and cosmetic services they desire. Several patient-finance companies provide a template for this welcome letter and may even offer to customize it with your practice’s information. Simply attach your welcome letter to the clipboard with the other paperwork when the patient checks in.
The letter should communicate all acceptable payment methods, state your policy with filing insurance on their behalf, and include the offer of attractive no-interest payment plans. Some practices instruct the patient to complete the credit application on the back side of the welcome letter if they wish to pay for services with a no-interest payment plan. Staff members have shared with me that this works well for both the patient and the staff because it takes less than a minute for the staff to fax the application and a credit response is generally returned before the patient meets with the dentist. If both you and the patient know up front they have a secure line of credit to pay for your services, it helps remove the chief barrier to accepting treatment—price.
MARKETING TOOL NO. 2
Patient brochures should be placed in both your reception area and your financial coordinator’s office to communicate the availability of affordable payment plans. If they are concerned about payment for dental services, your patients will likely pick up the brochure while waiting for their consultation. Your financial counselor should have patient brochures within arm’s reach when a patient wants to learn more about payment options during the fee presentation.
Be sure to ask your patient-finance company if it will customize your brochure stands with your logo and message. It is another method to visually communicate the fact that your practice offers affordable payment options.
MARKETING TOOL NO. 3
It is easier for patients to make a commitment to accept treatment and choose a payment plan when they have a worksheet with all of the payment options in front of them instead of verbally communicating fees and multiple payment choices. From a patient’s perspective, think about how confusing it would be if you were a patient and had to mentally process multiple payment options offered verbally.
An “options” worksheet acts as a presentation script for your financial counselor. He or she will be able to engage the patient into a thoughtful decision process of determining which payment option best fits their budget. Your options worksheet should also include an offer of a preferred-payment courtesy for cash or check if you presently offer a cash discount.
Again, ask your patient-finance company if it offers this worksheet. It is even more valuable if your financial counselor is able to generate a customized worksheet online for each patient so that he/she does not have to manually compute the monthly payments with a calculator. A printed options worksheet provides a professional presentation versus a worksheet with the options completed by handwriting the payments on the form.
When choosing a patient-finance company, remember that the service fee is not the only important factor. Look for a company that offers these free value-added marketing tools to significantly increase treatment plan acceptance and grow your bottom line. Other important considerations are instant online credit applications and activity reports, exceptional customer service, and attractive 12-, 18-, and 24-month no-interest payment plans with generous credit lines starting at $5,000 with every approval.