Email Communication System for Dental Practices
Most of us spend a large part of our day composing and reading emails. In light of that, many of us have developed a communication “style” that becomes recognizable to the people we routinely communicate with via email. Some are very formal with a proper salutation and close, while others just start typing and don’t close. Many people want the short and sweet version, not the long wordy one – especially in a business setting. If you aren’t aware of the content and intent of your communication, messages can become confusing to others.
Technology today is requiring many patients to access your website and be able to contact your practice via email to set up appointments and get relevant information. The email communication between multiple providers involved in a patient’s care has become standard for the majority of practices. Being able to send referrals, pre and post-operative reports, biopsy reports and digital images immediately instead of relying on “snail mail” not only has improved the timeliness, but also the accuracy of record exchanges.
To write effective emails in a dental practice setting, first ask yourself if you should be using email or if it’s better to pick up the phone. If a patient has contacted you via email and requested a specific time to be scheduled that doesn’t work for you, would it be prudent to email back with other available times, or to call? Since email is usually not synchronous, it would be better to call.
Many people avoid the phone because it is just not as convenient as email, but customer/patient service may be hindered in the process. There is often the assumption that someone has received and read your email, when in reality they haven’t. In one practice, a patient had indicated on her intake form that she wanted to be reminded of her appointments by email only. When she did not respond with a confirmation email answer, it was assumed she would show for her appointment. She did not show up. When she was called, she apologized and said she doesn’t always check her email.
Representing the dental practice is just as important via email as it is on the telephone. Emails are a reflection of your professionalism, as they are from the doctor and the practice. Well-written emails that are concise and to the point, polite, and instruct the patient as to what is expected of them are important to building rapport. Absent from email is assessment of vocal tone, body language, and facial expressions – necessary components for “reading” a person’s intent. Your choice of words, sentence length, punctuation and capitalization can be misinterpreted without visual and auditory cues.
For instance, the following email demonstrates how a person may think this person is angry:
Compared to this email:
Hi Mr. Brown,
When you don’t use a professional salutation or close, it shows lack of respect and professional attention. The use of all capitals can signify anger or “yelling” in text and should be avoided.
When sending several related points or instructions to a patient, use bullets points and write the paragraphs in small, well organized units to make it easier to read and understand. It is wise to always maintain a professional demeanor by avoiding jargon, slang and inappropriate abbreviations like FMX or PFM, as the patient does not know what the initials stand for.
Proofread your emails carefully before hitting the send button. Make sure to review the following:
1. Ask yourself, is it better to phone this person? Is the information complicated?
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