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5.30.08 Issue #325 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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The First Ten Seconds—Winning Patients’ Confidence

“Exclusive attention to the person who is speaking to you is very important. Nothing else is as flattering as that.” —Charles W. Eliot

The team is on target with a new patient. The initial phone contact was great and the patient was able to get an appointment to be seen within a week. Mary, the Scheduling Coordinator, made the patient feel at home with her pleasing personality and offer of coffee while the patient waited to see the doctor. The Treatment Coordinator connected with the patient and built rapport by asking open-ended questions about what the patient wanted and expected from her/his dental visit and future care. It is now time to meet Dr. Goodtooth.

Tom Hopkins, the bestselling author of How to Master the Art of Selling, states that you have ten seconds to make a stellar first impression. The goal is to be a person whom other people like, trust, and want to listen to. A dental office can be a challenging environment in which to create a lasting positive impression unless attention is given to the experience from the patient’s point of view. Having a bad past experience generates fear in the hearts of potential patients. The Treatment Coordinator can relay the patient’s frame of mind in relation to past experiences that were discovered during the new patient interview; with that information the doctor can meet the patient with a feeling of “I know how this patient wants to be treated.”

When the doctor makes his/her entrance into the treatment room, it is often from behind the patient, who is sitting upright in the treatment chair. It is recommended that the doctor meet the patient in the consultation room or other neutral location and be prepared to:

  • smile, deep and wide and natural and at the same time…
  • make steady, friendly eye contact
  • offer a greeting and a welcome to the practice
  • introduce himself/herself and any other team members present in the room

You have a tremendous influence on those around you, even when you don’t see an explicit reaction or hear comments. One of the keys to becoming a more effective leader is realizing that your patients and your staff notice everything you do—or don’t do. Perhaps you overlook the significance of your words and gestures but I assure you that it is your energy level that determines the enthusiasm in your office. This doesn’t mean you need to be effusive or disingenuous. It does mean that you need to think of how you act and decide to be a positive role model. We all have bad days. When it’s a “dark day,” minimize the damage you impose.

In many dental offices, a patient’s typical first encounter with the dentist goes something like this: The dentist enters the treatment room from behind the patient seated in the treatment chair, picks up the health history chart or looks at the computer screen, and says, “Hi, Pam. I’m Dr. Goodtooth. So nice to meet you.” The dentist then comes around and stands to the side of the chair looking down at the patient. There is no question of who is the authority, if you consider the positions of the patient and the doctor. The patient/doctor relationship has been established and the doctor is in control.

It is better to make the person-to-person connection on neutral ground first because this patient is in a decision-making frame of mind and wants an equal say in treatment choices. Being introduced to the doctor in a business environment, like a consultation room or doctor’s private office, will give the patient more of a feeling of control over choices he/she will make. Those choices include whether they will return for dental services in your practice.

From the notes taken by the Treatment Coordinator, the dentist can build a connection and try to find common ground with the patient. Discussing a past negative dental experience with a patient will show concern that the patient’s feelings and comfort are important to you and that you certainly don’t want the patient to relive a bad experience in your office. Perhaps the patient was referred by an existing patient of record. It is important that the dentist know who that patient is before being introduced to the new patient. This information is often a great ice-breaker. Hopefully, there are personal notes about the referring patient in the computer so you can say, “I will thank Jim for referring you to my practice. He is a great golf enthusiast; do you play golf with him?”

Once the introduction and the patient interview has taken place, the dentist can now direct the clinical team member to escort the patient to the treatment room to begin taking radiographs and photos. After gathering clinical data to do a diagnosis, it is much easier to sit down with that patient and deliver the treatment presentation because the dentist has created a personal connection and has established a comfort level with the patient, who sees the dentist as a “partner” in his/her care rather than a dictator.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at
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