Despite Staffing Shortage, Fremont Dental Practice Cuts Costs, Grows Revenue and Improves Customer Experience Using Communication Automation

Female dentist showing her patient X rays
Just one new patient from the Agentz automated assistant represents a 40x ROI for dental practice

Many small businesses are struggling with staffing, including dental practices. A March 2020  American Dental Association poll reveals that more than 70% of practice owners said the “recruitment of administrative staff was extremely or very challenging.” For some of these practices, clinical positions end up doing double duty as administrative staff.

The survey also found that 76% of the 19,000 respondents had “closed their offices to all but emergency patients” during the height of the COVID shutdowns. One such practice, Serene Dental, did the same. 

For Serene, located in Fremont California, being in a state with some of the toughest shutdown regulations, faced them with the challenge of how to still service patients and maintain revenue.

70 percent dental owners

“For us, we felt that we had to find a way to serve our patients as best we could knowing that following COVID restrictions was of paramount importance for the health of our staff and of our patients” said Office Manager, Ghazal Popal. “We made a concerted effort to think about ways we could still run our practice under those conditions.”

Turning to Technology

Popal and her team turned to newer technologies that have since become ubiquitous for many medical practices and other small businesses. Video conferencing services, such as Zoom, enabled practitioners to “see” patients and treat them as if they were in the office. Customer engagement and automation tools (ECATs) helped them communicate with their patients 24×7 using AI-driven, NLP automation.

“The Agentz automated assistant enabled us to continue communicating with patients even when we weren’t in the office,” said Popal. “Patients who visited our website could learn about our COVID protocols and schedule emergency visits. This was such a benefit for us as we were able to acquire new patients who were desperate to find a provider during that time and actually grow our practice.”  

Increased Marketing Budget Pays Dividends

And grow, they did. Despite staffing challenges, Serene Dental was still confident enough to expand their marketing budget by 25% due to the ability of the Agentz automated assistant to handle many of their initial patient interactions.  

Knowing that consumers, in general, prefer the ability to communicate with businesses in the way they prefer – SMS, web, Facebook Messenger, and Google Business messages, Serene Dental was able to use automation to capture more new patients than ever before through these channels. The off hours proved to be especially productive for them. 

Of the average 98 users who engaged with the Agentz automated assistant each month during 2021, 44% were in the off hours. Out of those 98 users, 65, or 66% of them, converted into a lead

“Using the automated assistant removes any need for an expensive call answering service” said Popal. “Patients are more than willing to communicate using automation because it’s faster and actually helps them get the information they need on the spot.”

Automation Produces 24 7

Automation Handles Missed Calls with Great Success

Another feature that Serene Dental appreciates is the missed call handling functionality. If a patient calls the practice but no one is available to answer, the Agentz automated assistant takes over. An SMS message is sent to the caller assuring them that the practice will be in touch with them just as soon as they can. In the meantime, the caller can choose to continue their conversation via text message using automation. For Serene Dental, Agentz handles an average of 173 missed calls each month – many of them after hours. 

Popal shared a patient story illustrating the value of missed call handling to their practice: “We recently acquired a new patient who was calling around trying to find a dentist who could help him with emergency treatment. He called our office but it was after hours so the automated assistant sent him an SMS message. He was able to respond to that and request an emergency appointment which we confirmed for him right away. He showed up for treatment first thing, the next morning, which resulted in some fairly extensive work, well over our average billable amount.

He then left us a great review online about his experience. I remember him telling me that he was grateful how quickly we responded to him when no other practice would. It was that alone that landed us a very satisfied new patient for our practice.”

And this patient is not the only one. Popal was able to share multiple instances of weekend and late night requests coming through that were handled by the automated assistant – many of them emergencies for new patients.

The Value of a New Patient

For dental practices, landing a new patient is everything. Each new patient delivers, on average, 15.7 visits to the practice between personal visits and referrals. Using a conservative average visit value of $381, the lifetime value (or LTV) of each new patient is approximately $5,982.

For Serene, their ROI using Agentz is an astounding 40x LTV gain with just one new patient each month. Popal concurs: “It is possible that some of these patients, if we didn’t have the automated assistant in use, might still get through to us on the phone and schedule their appointment. But, we are able to not only prove the Agentz ROI but also feel the reward in our customer satisfaction levels. Our customers absolutely love that they can reach us this way, anytime, and know they will get a response – either from the automated assistant or we will chime in manually if needed.”

Cost-Saving Patient Deflection

Another great aspect of the automated assistant for Serene Dental is the amount of time they save not having to reply to every patient live. They estimate that they save a full working day each month by having the automated assistant handle customer engagement. Said Popal: “I really can’t imagine going back to a time without automation. Patients love it – they can self-service what they need and feel like they are being communicated with, not ignored.”

Reducing Patient Attrition

For many small businesses like Serene Dental, focusing on customer attrition is key for maintaining and growing revenue. Research from Henry Schein reveals that the average dental practice has an annual patient attrition rate of 17%. Reducing patient attrition provides the opportunity for the most dramatic impact on a practice’s revenue – if attrition is too high, a practice will lose patients faster than they can acquire them. 

The best way to decrease the patient attrition rate is to provide the best experience possible. “Our patients feel special when we reply to them instantly,” says Popal. “It’s so convenient for us to be able to respond to them anytime, from anywhere using a mobile device. If a patient is in pain, we don’t want them to feel ignored and this is much faster than returning a phone call.”

ECAT Technology Becoming a Mainstay

As small businesses migrate towards the use of more automation for things like scheduling and payment collection, customer engagement and communication is a natural progression to help alleviate the pain points around rising support staff salaries and providing the experience that  consumers expect.

Today’s customer ECAT (Engagement & Communication Automation Tool) technology is an integral asset for smoothing customer experience across multiple communication channels in order to engage more customers and drive more revenue.

For some, automation sounds scary or impersonal, but it isn’t. Automation serves to fulfill the needs and expectations of patients who expect this level of communication capability – especially as consumers gravitate more and more to various forms of technology.

Automation Increases Total Patient LTV

For the first four months of 2022, Serene Dental booked 75 new appointments through their Agentz automated assistant representing an approximate $28,575 in revenue generated. These new patients totaled an additional LTV added to the practice of approximately $449k, not taking into account inflation over the next five years.

“I recommend Agentz to anybody. It’s convenient and easy to use and is especially helpful for attracting new patients” said Popal. “If we didn’t have Agentz, running the practice would definitely be more stressful. I’ve come to rely on it since all customer inquiries are in one place whether they come from Google, from our website, from SMS or even Facebook. All dental and medical practices should be using Agentz.”

Ghazal Popal Quote

About Agentz

Agentz’ founding was in providing automation technology for dental practices so that they would never miss another customer. Since then, Agentz has grown to serve small businesses in more than 100 industries. 

The first true, comprehensive ECAT for small business, the Agentz automated assistant is designed for ease of use. The no-code, out of the box experience can be setup and enabled in minutes by the business owner – not hours or weeks by an engineer as with other solutions. 

Agentz is the only solution that provides full multi-channel communication capabilities along with a pre-trained knowledgebase that can answer questions for many common business questions as well as those specific to industries such as within dental, home services, legal, financial and real estate. 

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