Communication - between leadership and team, team and patients, and the team with each other - can be a problem in many offices. Employee benefits, practice hours, office policies, informing patients that you will no longer be taking their insurance or that you are taking new insurances, asking for patient referrals, informing patients that they are due for a hygiene appointment or that they still have treatment to be completed…the list goes on.
Patients may also communicate complaints - perhaps about something that was said by your staff, how many notices they get for their appointments or a specific situation that made them unhappy. In these situations, you as the leader have to talk to your team members. Are you and your staff trained to have a successful communication process that ends with a positive outcome?
Communication skills are not always given the focus and training that they deserve. Whether verbal, non-verbal or written, communication is what makes our world go round, and it may be the one thing that stops your office from being the top practice in your area. In dentistry, we depend on our patients to return on a regular basis. What is said, the tone in which it is said, and possibly even the way a letter is worded can change someone’s perception of your practice - even if they are a long time patient.
The most important communication system we have with our patients is the recall system. Whether it’s to have them come in to see the doctor or the hygienist, it is one of the ways we keep the schedule full. It is also one of the most neglected systems in many practices. The recall system is 100% dependent on communication. It keeps your patients on schedule, and if they get off schedule it is also what keeps them walking through the front door and choosing to have treatment done.
With the many ways we have to communicate with patients, the recall system of today is much more sophisticated than it used to be. We now have outside sources, like Sesame Communications, that can help us with our recall system by sending text messages, phone calls, and emails to remind your patients of upcoming appointments. However, you want to make sure you are aware of how the recall system works before you choose to utilize an outside source. Not all recall systems are created equal.
Some outside sources are not set up to do as much as others. Choosing an outside source to help with your recall system can be like hiring another employee (but without as much cost). You want to make sure the entire team is aware of the way the recall system works before it is implemented. With so many different avenues for us to communicate with each other, it‘s important to use the best option for each individual patient.
Communication is critical in all aspects of the dental experience. The entire team is responsible for educating patients about the recall system. This is your way of retaining patients and keeping them in the chair, instead of walking out the back door or getting lost in cyberspace. We need to be conscious of what we say, how we say it, and the tone we say it in when speaking to each other or to patients. The best thing an office can do is to continually practice improving communication skills and providing a positive experience. Be confident, honest, and thorough with all forms - whether it is nonverbal, verbal, or written.
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