Are You Sabotaging Your Practice?
As a dental consultant, I hear a lot of stories from inside the practice, and am well versed on the many challenges dentists face. But I also hear from patients – both those who are happy with their latest experience and those who are in the market for a new dental home.
Let me tell you about one of the happy patients I recently encountered. Elizabeth is a retail associate who I happened to meet while shopping one Saturday afternoon. Once she found out what I do for a living, she couldn’t wait to tell me about the dentist who finally gave her the beautiful smile she’d always wanted.
For years, this 30-something was embarrassed of her smile but didn’t know what to do about it, and she was too shy to ask. She’d heard about veneers from her friends, but none of the dentists she saw ever offered that treatment as an option. That is, until she met Dr. Thomas.
When she walked into this doctor’s office, she could sense it was different from the practices she’d visited in the past. She told me the team was friendly and helpful, and the doctor actually asked about her oral health goals and listened to her concerns. From there, he talked with her about all the different ways they could work together to fix her smile, not just the ones he thought she could afford. He built a relationship with Elizabeth and earned her trust, which is why she eventually made the decision to invest in veneers – eight on top and eight on the bottom.
Now Elizabeth can’t stop singing this doctor’s praises. She tells anyone who will listen about how he changed her life, and that means not only did Dr. Thomas get the revenue from this large case, he’s still reaping the benefits from all those referrals.
So what does this story have to do with you? Plenty. If you’re not offering patients all their options, you’re actually sabotaging your practice. After all, you can’t expect patients to accept treatment if you don’t present it, and I know so many doctors who only talk to patients about treatment options they think they want or think they can afford, rather than letting their patients decide for themselves.
Most dentists probably wouldn’t have even considered recommending elective treatment that costs upwards of $15,000 to a retail associate. Why waste your time if you know the patient can’t afford it? That’s the thing. You don’t know that. Patients find ways to pay for treatment they really want. Your job is to educate them on all their options so they can make an educated decision, which is exactly what Dr. Thomas did.
It’s simple. When you give patients what they want, they’re more likely to accept treatment – and this starts before they’re even in the chair. Many practices I work with have specific telephone procedures for “managing” potential new patients who call the practice. That might seem like a good idea, but really all it does is create obstacles. These protocols usually include educating patients about any number of practice policies, including payment, insurance and cancellation policies. By the end of the conversation, patients have forgotten why they called.
Instead of going over the house rules, I suggest you train team members to listen to patients, answer their questions and then focus on accommodating their requests, both in person and over the phone.
Here’s an example of what not to do. Let’s say a new patient calls and wants to come in for a cleaning, but is told that can’t happen until the doctor completes a comprehensive exam and takes x-rays. The problem? That’s not what the patient is looking for, and chances are they will opt to make an appointment with another practice that can meet their needs.
Remember, dentistry isn’t one size fits all. If a patient wants to schedule a cleaning, you should be able to see that patient within a week. When patients need clinical work done, get them in even sooner. Bottom line – listen to new patients’ concerns and quickly get them on the schedule, then put a huge focus on customer service and education once you get them in the door.
When patients don’t accept treatment, the rejection can be pretty frustrating. But if you don’t listen to their concerns, learn what their goals are and educate them about the services you provide, they’re going to say “no” more than they say “yes”. Don’t assume you know what patients want. This will only hurt you both in the end. To boost case acceptance, really start listening to your patients and tailoring treatment plans. Even if they don’t accept treatment today, they likely will in the future.
Next week: Use the new patient interview to boost case acceptance
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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