3.19.10 Issue #419 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Front Office Communication - Conversational Predicaments

Maintaining a professional demeanor and building rapport can teeter on a delicate balance when speaking to patients on the phone or face to face at the desk. In conversations with front office staff it has been revealed to me what a challenge it is to retain control in a conversation. One seasoned business manager, Carol, was perplexed over what she could have said differently in a conversation with a patient over an unpaid bill. The patient called the dentist at home and complained that she had been treated “rudely” by Carol. Carol admitted that she lost her patience after a long day and was simply trying to do her job by collecting overdue revenue. “Frankly, I don’t remember exactly what I said but if it hurt her feelings then I am sorry for that,” explained Carol. The damage was already done and now Carol felt uneasy when having to make collection calls.

Maintaining a professional demeanor and building rapport can teeter on a delicate balance when speaking to patients on the phone or face to face at the desk. In conversations with front office staff it has been revealed to me what a challenge it is to retain control in a conversation. One seasoned business manager, Carol, was perplexed over what she could have said differently in a conversation with a patient over an unpaid bill. The patient called the dentist at home and complained that she had been treated “rudely” by Carol. Carol admitted that she lost her patience after a long day and was simply trying to do her job by collecting overdue revenue. “Frankly, I don’t remember exactly what I said but if it hurt her feelings then I am sorry for that,” explained Carol. The damage was already done and now Carol felt uneasy when having to make collection calls.

Scripting and practicing what you are going to say is a smart way to approach office communications.  If Carol had followed a script for collection procedures she most likely would have stayed on track and not insulted Mrs. Brown. Before making outbound calls, make sure you have researched the account and know the following:

  • Who is the responsible party on the account?
  • Was there insurance involved in the payment?
  • Was there a payment plan or other financial notes in the chart?
  • Were statements received and was there a due date on the statement?
  • What payment options and timelines are you willing to offer the responsible party?
  • What is your mental state?  Are you ill or tired?  Calling tomorrow and achieving results is better than calling now and making two people uncomfortable.

Other conversational slip-ups common to the dental office are:
Forgetting The Patient’s Name 
Routinely take pictures and place in the patient page in the computer or devise a plan to associate the name and face – “David looks a lot like David Letterman” - or put notes about the patient’s interests, hobbies or family to help jar your memory. Say the patient’s name back to them when you speak and engage listening skills to hear it the first time.

Using Dental Jargon And “Talking Down” To The Patient
The patient must understand dental benefits at their level of understanding before agreeing to have the services performed. Trying to sway the patient with your knowledge and using technical language may look impressive, but it can leave the patient confused and insulted.

Telling Tasteless Jokes
Often the teller thinks they are entertaining but more often than not, they are out of line.  Do not tell any jokes because by nature they are meant to poke fun of someone or some group.

Being Trapped By “Motor Mouth the Tireless Talker”
You don’t want to offend this person because they are clueless of their affect on others.  Devise a rescue plan with the other team members. On signal, have a team member call you on the phone or come up to the desk and say you are needed in the back office. Or, say to the patient, “I’ve taken far too much of your time and I have to call some patients. Perhaps we can talk at your next visit.”

Communication systems for patients and staff are customized to the practice during the Advanced Front Office Training and Office Manager Training at McKenzie Management. There are no two offices that are alike and yet all offices must have clearly defined office communications to achieve positive results and limit those awkward “oops” moments.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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