6.21.11 Issue #485 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Pick Me! Pick Me! Are You a First Choice for the New Patient?
by Sally McKenzie CEO

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Remember the days when you were a child in school and the class lined up for a game of kickball or baseball? Virtually every kid in line sweated the process, hoping that s/he wouldn’t be picked last. None of us enjoys rejection.

If you think about it, every time a prospective new patient calls your office, you and your staff are in the line-up for consideration to be on their health care team. The patient is picking the “players,” and you can only hope that your practice will get a chance at bat. Maybe they will try out the practice to see if you’re a good match. Perhaps they will keep you on the “roster” for a while, at least until you and your team start missing key plays. Typically, those “key plays” are often the seemingly insignificant issues or common day-to-day challenges that many busy dental offices don’t give thought to addressing.

New patients present a host of opportunities for dental teams to score big wins - and big losses. Consider these common strikes against the new patient/practice relationship.

Strike One! No One Answers the Phone
There are still many practices that simply do not answer the phone over the lunch hour. The recorded message to callers is: “The office hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 5 p.m. The office is closed between noon and 1 p.m.”  For new patients calling during the lunch hour, which may be the only time they have to take care of personal business, they cannot even schedule an appointment. Staff in these offices will respond with, “The patients just leave a message and we call them back as soon as we can.” But the fact is that new patients in particular want to talk to a real person right now. If you’re not answering, I guarantee another practice that wants new patients is, and that is the next phone call the prospective patient makes. Stagger the lunch breaks to ensure that someone is answering the phone during regular business hours.

Strike Two! What Office is This?

I continue to be stunned at the number of dental offices that still answer the phone, “Doctor’s office.” The caller has absolutely no idea whose “doctor’s office” this is. They have to ask, “Is this Dr. Humphrey’s office?” It’s simply rude to make the caller ask the question. Not to mention this extra step is a time waster for both parties. The team should be trained to follow a script when answering the phone similar to the following: “Thank you for calling Dr. Humphrey’s office. This is Ellen, how may I help you?The phone is the front door to the practice. Are you slamming yours shut?

Strike Three! Punitive Policies and Procedures
It is often the same offices with poor telephone procedures that also commonly put the patient on the defensive and make scheduling the most difficult. The caller must endure a litany of questions, rules, and qualifiers, typically along these lines: “Do you have insurance? Doctor requires full payment of any balance not covered by insurance the day of your visit. When did you want to come in because we are booking six months out for hygiene appointments and four weeks out for doctor visits? When you come in for your appointment you must arrive on time. Doctor has a strict ‘on time’ policy. If you arrive more than 10 minutes late, we will need to reschedule your appointment. And if you need to cancel your appointment, we require 48 hours notice.”

Clearly, this approach to new patients has nothing to do with being accommodating, welcoming, or conveying any sense of appreciation to the prospective patient for choosing this office. In situations like this, oftentimes the person handling these calls is very regimented, task oriented, and is not well suited to be the first point of contact in dental practices. If you cannot reassign this employee, sign them up for customer service and telephone training immediately.

After all, consider how you would respond if you were the new patient. Would you feel that this is the type of practice that values your business? No, and neither do the vast majority of prospective patients that have tried your office and left.

Next week, are your new patients “one visit wonders?”

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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