Doctor, I’d like you to spend a little time eavesdropping over the next week or so. Listen carefully to how members of your team handle day-to-day patient communication. Chances are pretty good that you’ll hear exchanges similar to the following: “Mrs. Jones, would you like to make a payment on your bill today?” “No, just bill me.” Or perhaps, this will be more common in your practice: “Mr. Collins would you like to schedule that crown appointment now?” “No, I’ll give you a call when I’m ready.” Or maybe the typical exchange will be more like this: “Hello Carol, this is Marlene from Dr. Thomas’s office. Will you be able to make your appointment Tuesday?” “No, I’m sorry, I have a conflict. I’ll let you know when my schedule frees up.”
You may hear variations on all of the above, but one thing will be consistent – the negative impact each exchange has on the profitability of your practice.
No to collections. No to an appointment. No to recall. Now what? The dental team runs into resistance from patients every day, and often they have absolutely no idea what to say or how to handle the situation when a patient says “No.” In each scenario, the patient is controlling the outcome whether it’s your collections, your schedule, or your recall system, and the team member has relinquished that control without blinking an eye and often without realizing there’s a better way to handle it. Are you ready to retake control of your practice? If so, it’s time you and your team got on the same page, or more specifically, the same script.
Scripts ensure that when it comes to day-to-day patient communication everyone is saying the same thing. For example, when new patients call the practice, a script helps the team ensure that no matter who takes the call they are prepared to gather necessary information. When it comes to collections, a script enables even those most reticent to request payment from patients to do so more effectively. The schedule has fewer gaping holes because team members understand how to consistently reinforce the value of each visit with the patient.
Patient retention is robust because team members understand how to effectively communicate with past due patients, with those who have unscheduled treatment, and with those who have failed appointments. They know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it because they are prepared. They aren’t in a situation in which they have to think on their feet, but the communication is as natural and comfortable as it would be if they were chatting with the patient over coffee.
The best scripts use words, phrases, and questions that prompt patients to respond the way you want them to respond. Those who are able to use scripts most effectively understand the message they need to convey. They know the information and material thoroughly and are able to adapt the scripts so they come across naturally. What’s more, those teams that use scripts to their full advantage practice, practice, practice and regularly engage in role playing.
Role playing is essential in helping staff with average communication skills raise their level of performance. In addition, it enables the team to determine how to best phrase questions and determine the most appropriate sequence for statements and questions. For example, you would carefully script where you place questions involving insurance or statements regarding the financial policy so as not to send unintended messages to patients.
What ’s more, role playing enables the team to pay close attention to their tone and how their words come across to others. Are they perceived as being warm and caring yet still assertive? Do they come across as timid and easily flustered or manipulated? Or might they come across as abrupt and cold. Listening to responses and coaching each other on how to improve those responses ensures that team members are well-prepared to handle routine patient communication as well as the occasional difficult exchange. Moreover, it enables the doctor to hear how staff would react in specific situations and to redirect that approach if it is inconsistent with practice protocol or policies.
Scripting and role playing empower the team to respond to patients cordially yet effectively and, most importantly, empower the doctor to monitor those day-to-day patient exchanges that have a direct and lasting impact on the success of the practice.
Scripts are now available for Scheduling, Collections and Patient Retention. Go Here.
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