Turning “Wants” Into Realities
So, you want more new patients. You reason that you’ve done your part. After all, you’ve begged, cajoled, pleaded and in some cases bribed them to come to your practice and yours alone. You have promised in all your marketing that their experience in your practice will be the best ever! And then what happens? They show up in your practice ready to be wowed - but can you deliver?
Delivering the excellent experience that patients expect begins long before they are seated in your treatment chair; it begins when they call your practice to schedule the appointment. If staff are not trained to expertly communicate with prospective as well as current patients, you are losing money. You are losing patients. And you are losing control of your reputation. I guarantee it. Consider the situation we recently encountered in a practice in which the doctor could not understand why his new patient marketing efforts were not delivering more new patients.
“Kelly” the scheduling coordinator believed that the manner in which she was handling patient calls was perfectly fine. After all, no one had told her otherwise. She answered the phone, determined why the person was calling, and did her best to assist them. A typical new patient exchange went something like this: “Doctor’s office, this is Kelly. May I help you?” The prospective patient usually responded: “Yes, I am calling to schedule a teeth cleaning.” Kelly then asked the caller if s/he was an existing patient. When the new patient callers indicated that they were not, Kelly responded with her standard answer: “Sure, no problem. We have a few openings in about five to six months. How does April 15th look for your schedule?”
These telephone exchanges commonly ended with the stunned callers simply saying, “Six months to get an appointment? Okay. Thank you.” Click. And they were gone. Kelly has worked in the practice for nearly a year. She is a competent and personable individual who, in the nicest possible way, consistently sent prospective new patients to other practices. But don’t blame Kelly. The scheduling systems were poor. She was provided no professional training. There were no protocols or scripts in place to guide her. Yet the doctor could not understand why his marketing efforts weren’t paying off with bigger numbers.
Eventually, Kelly received much needed professional training. The practice incorporated carefully developed scripts for various patient exchanges, including new patient calls, and the office revisited its scheduling procedures to accommodate new patients. The next step was determining if the practice delivered the type of experience that marketing efforts promised. It didn’t. When patients arrived they were expected to complete a variety of forms and necessary paperwork, putting a strain on the schedule. Consequently, new patient appointments were often stressful experiences because the doctor and/or hygienist felt rushed.
All new patients should be sent a practice “Welcome Packet” the day they schedule their first appointment. This includes a brief welcome letter from the doctor indicating his/her commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. The letter also emphasizes specific qualities about the practice that set it apart from others, such as the extremely high infection control standards, dentistry for the entire family, painless dentistry techniques, etc. Additionally, the letter should direct patients to the practice website where they can learn more about the practice and the staff and complete necessary forms and paperwork in advance of the appointment. The Welcome Packet also should include a business card, a New Patient Information form, and a map to the practice with the office phone number on it.
Finally, when new patients arrive, they should feel like the most important person in your office. If possible, the treatment coordinator should promptly escort the patient to a consult room where necessary paperwork can be reviewed to ensure everything has been completed, and most importantly, the coordinator can discuss the excellent quality care available in the practice - again according to a well-developed and rehearsed script. Take the new patient on a brief tour of the office, and pay attention to the questions s/he asks and the comments the individual makes. These provide insight into the patient’s own oral health goals, objectives, and possible concerns.
The patient should leave the appointment feeling very positive about the experience and the dental team, and excited about the potential opportunities this new practice offers for them to achieve their dental wants and needs.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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