What NOT to Say
As part of the consultant’s in-office evaluation, “eavesdropping” on the day-to-day activities of the business team is included – at no additional cost, may I add!
We try to blend in with the wallpaper and charts, and stay out of the way as much as possible in an attempt to allow them to do their jobs in their customary friendly manner. By lunchtime, the practice owner wanders up to the area that we are working in, asking “How are things going?” Listed below are a few of the statements that we hear, as well as a more user-friendly way of saying the same thing:
“If we have a cancellation, I will call you.”
“I am calling to confirm your appointment.”
“Please call us at 555-4567 if you need to cancel your appointment.”
Reason: Why do you want to encourage your patients to cancel, and even offer your phone number to do so?
“Let’s go ahead and make your 6-month appointment. You can always call and cancel if you can’t make it.”
Reason: Why do you want to “clog up” your appointment book with appointments that will not be kept, and at the same time, encourage your patients to cancel, as if it is okay to do so?
“Mrs. Jones, you are past due for your recall appointment. You wouldn’t want to schedule, would you?”
Reason: The first approach is accusatory and causes the patient to be defensive. When implying that it was your error, the patient will not start making excuses as to why they haven’t called. Also, when indicating that the doctor is concerned, it places more merit on the call.
“Mrs. Jones, your name is on my past due list. Would you like to make an appointment?”
Reason: When asking “would you like to make an appointment?” you are asking a “yes or no” question. It makes it too easy for the patient to say “no.” In addition, indicating that their name is on a “list” is impersonal.
“I will be happy to put you on my cancellation list”
Reason: A “cancellation list” indicates that you have a lot of patients that cancel. So many that you have a list of them. Must be okay to cancel! Also, when you do have a change in your schedule and you call Mrs. Jones, you can say, “Mrs. Jones, you asked that I call if we have a change in our schedule. We will be happy to see you this afternoon at 3:00.”
Keep in mind, also, that the easiest way to fill a last-minute opening other than moving up an existing appointment for the day is to call the patients on your “priority list.” If you are scheduling a patient more than a week in advance, ask if they would like to be on your priority list.
“Your co-pay for today is $79.32.”
Reason: “Co-pay” indicates the amount you pay when you visit your physician and it is all that you pay, as your insurance pays the remainder. “Portion or investment” is more user-friendly and by rounding the amount, it appears that you don’t really know exactly what the insurance is going to pay, as this is an “estimated” amount. It is also important to reiterate to the patient what they are paying for in terms that they understand.
“Mrs. Jones, your appointment was at 10:00. Where are you?”
This is also the same statement that you would use when the patient comes flying in the front door, pours over the front counter and expresses to you how many red lights they had to stop for! Avoid saying “Its okay.” Since it’s not, simply say, “We were worried about you. We are glad to see that you are okay.”
It is hard to break long-term habits regarding how to respond to situations. Step outside your comfort zone, change your dialogue and be more “patient-friendly.”
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