It’s a fact: millennials are now the single biggest generation in both Canada and the U.S. There are over 83.1 million American millennials and about 10 million to the north.
So, why aren’t you seeing more of them in your practice?
You’re not alone if you’ve had difficulty bringing this generation of potential patients on board. Sure, you’ll see them in for the occasional extraction or filling...but when it’s time for a regular cleaning, millennials aren’t inclined to call back.
It’s not that Gen Y doesn’t want or need dental care ‒ but they often require a different tact than you’d take to recruit and retain your usual patients.
Why Gen Y Isn’t Always An Easy Win
In a recent article for HygieneTown, RDH Katrina Sanders lays out a few of the things that make the millennial generation (people born between 1983 and 1997) different when it comes to their approach to dental care.
- First, many millennials experienced divorce in their families growing up. Because of this, they tend to wait longer to marry and have children (if they do at all.)
- Older millennials took on significant student loans and graduated at the height of the Great Recession, leading many to unstable career and financial situations. Many work part-time, multiple jobs or flexible hours.
- Millennials also saw their parents and grandparents, many of whom committed decades of service to their employers, suffer job loss during the Recession.
What does this all mean for you as a dental professional? Well, as Sanders explains, these tendencies affect Gen Y’s attitude about going to the dentist. Understanding these traits can go a long way in helping you attract more millennial patients and keep them coming back after the initial treatment!
1. Involve Millennials in Their Dental Care
Back in university or hygiene school, you might’ve learned to look at a patient’s involvement in their healthcare through scales like the Health Belief Model or Dental IQ.
But millennials don’t always fit the book.
Although they are often highly educated and concerned about their health, millennials are also notorious for scrutinizing the ins and outs of anything they spend their money on. They need to truly believe in what they’re ‘buying’, even when it comes to oral healthcare.
Involving these patients through a co-discovery process helps by making them part of the solution to their own dental needs.
2. Make Booking Appointments a Breeze
You’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial who doesn’t carry a smartphone, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get in touch with these patients by phone. Why?
Truth is, phone calls are becoming a thing of the past. One survey showed that 80% of Generation Y would be willing to trade the ability to place phone calls for an unlimited data plan.
Further, 61% said they would consider switching dentists just for the ability to book appointments quickly.
In other words, it no longer makes sense to conduct your bookings solely over the phone! Millennials are busy, and so they’re not as willing to spend time tracking down your number or waiting on hold.
If you’re still only taking appointments by phone it’s time to start looking at ways to let patients book online.
3. Stay Open Later
Speaking of busy...research has shown that millennials place a lot of value on extended evening and weekend hours. In fact, nearly 40% say they’d keep coming back to a dentist who can offer those extended hours.
Unfortunately, many millennials simply don’t consider regular dental checkups or teeth cleanings worth missing a day of work. Taking time off is tricky when you’ve got multiple employers and family obligations packed into one schedule.
Any practice that can offer weekend or evening appointments has a huge advantage when it comes to winning over this generation of patients.
4. Offer Financing Options
For better or worse, millennials are willing to shop around for a dentist, especially when they’re on a tight budget. As Sanders illustrates in her HygieneTown piece, most
millennials will respond to a proposed dental treatment in one of three ways:
- Agree to have the treatment, but request several monthly payments broken up over an extended period.
- Look for another dentist that can provide the same treatment at a discount.
- Ask you to dull the pain, but not cure the problem.
Fact is, fewer millennials have insurance coverage than previous generations, and we know that those without insurance are more likely to avoid getting proper dental care due to cost. But if you can offer an alternative to paying out-of-pocket, it will win over millennials who are likely to become long-term patients and a great referral source.
5. Keep In Touch
But it’s not always an aversion to phone calls or dental bills that keeps millennials out of the chair.
Between a growing career, a young family and a world of constant distraction, sometimes dental care just falls off the radar.
This is where it helps to reach out to patients outside office hours. To start, following up after the appointment by text or email is an incredibly simple way to make a connection and remind them you care. You can continue fostering that connection via social media, sharing blogs, videos and resources.
Remember: millennials aren’t your enemy! They have all the same needs as your other patients, and they’re a valuable source of business ‒ especially as the older ones are settling down and starting families. A bit of flexibility on your part can go a long way in winning them over as dental patients.