Are You Sabotaging Your Practice?
As a dental consultant, I hear a lot of stories from inside the practice, and am well versed on the many challenges dentists face. But I also hear from patients – both those who are happy with their latest experience and those who are in the market for a new dental home.
Let me tell you about one of the happy patients I recently encountered. Elizabeth is a retail associate who I happened to meet while shopping one Saturday afternoon. Once she found out what I do for a living, she couldn’t wait to tell me about the dentist who finally gave her the beautiful smile she’d always wanted.
For years, this 30-something was embarrassed of her smile but didn’t know what to do about it, and she was too shy to ask. She’d heard about veneers from her friends, but none of the dentists she saw ever offered that treatment as an option. That is, until she met Dr. Thomas.
When she walked into this doctor’s office, she could sense it was different from the practices she’d visited in the past. She told me the team was friendly and helpful, and the doctor actually asked about her oral health goals and listened to her concerns. From there, he talked with her about all the different ways they could work together to fix her smile, not just the ones he thought she could afford. He built a relationship with Elizabeth and earned her trust, which is why she eventually made the decision to invest in veneers – eight on top and eight on the bottom.
Now Elizabeth can’t stop singing this doctor’s praises. She tells anyone who will listen about how he changed her life, and that means not only did Dr. Thomas get the revenue from this large case, he’s still reaping the benefits from all those referrals.
So what does this story have to do with you? Plenty. If you’re not offering patients all their options, you’re actually sabotaging your practice. After all, you can’t expect patients to accept treatment if you don’t present it, and I know so many doctors who only talk to patients about treatment options they think they want or think they can afford, rather than letting their patients decide for themselves.
Most dentists probably wouldn’t have even considered recommending elective treatment that costs upwards of $15,000 to a retail associate. Why waste your time if you know the patient can’t afford it? That’s the thing. You don’t know that. Patients find ways to pay for treatment they really want. Your job is to educate them on all their options so they can make an educated decision, which is exactly what Dr. Thomas did.
It’s simple. When you give patients what they want, they’re more likely to accept treatment – and this starts before they’re even in the chair. Many practices I work with have specific telephone procedures for “managing” potential new patients who call the practice. That might seem like a good idea, but really all it does is create obstacles. These protocols usually include educating patients about any number of practice policies, including payment, insurance and cancellation policies. By the end of the conversation, patients have forgotten why they called.
Instead of going over the house rules, I suggest you train team members to listen to patients, answer their questions and then focus on accommodating their requests, both in person and over the phone.
Here’s an example of what not to do. Let’s say a new patient calls and wants to come in for a cleaning, but is told that can’t happen until the doctor completes a comprehensive exam and takes x-rays. The problem? That’s not what the patient is looking for, and chances are they will opt to make an appointment with another practice that can meet their needs.
Remember, dentistry isn’t one size fits all. If a patient wants to schedule a cleaning, you should be able to see that patient within a week. When patients need clinical work done, get them in even sooner. Bottom line – listen to new patients’ concerns and quickly get them on the schedule, then put a huge focus on customer service and education once you get them in the door.
When patients don’t accept treatment, the rejection can be pretty frustrating. But if you don’t listen to their concerns, learn what their goals are and educate them about the services you provide, they’re going to say “no” more than they say “yes”. Don’t assume you know what patients want. This will only hurt you both in the end. To boost case acceptance, really start listening to your patients and tailoring treatment plans. Even if they don’t accept treatment today, they likely will in the future.
Next week: Use the new patient interview to boost case acceptance
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Your Customer Service Patient-Friendly?
Front Office Training Course #FO466
“Dr. Diesel” (names have been changed) wanted some specific training in customer service for his new Business Coordinator, Gloria. Gloria had a background working in retail before dental practices and she was friendly, but Dr. Diesel wasn’t seeing enough effort being put towards connecting with patients and scheduling appointments.
Dr. Diesel had written down a few excerpts from conversations that he overheard Gloria having on the phone and at the desk. He was deeply concerned that patients were not being encouraged to appoint, and perhaps they were receiving the message that the practice was too busy for them.
Some remarks overheard:
1. “No I can’t promise that we can take care of your toothache today but Dr. Diesel will look at it and give you a treatment plan.”
During the training session with Gloria, we discussed the difference between customer service at a retail business versus customer service in a dental practice. Even though dentistry involves the purchase of services and treatment products, the approach to patients versus customers must be understood for the more sensitive and intimate nature that it is.
Dental customer service is more than waiting on the patient. It includes trying your best to make sure the customer/patient is satisfied with their encounter. Addressing their chief concern(s) about what made them call for an appointment is critical to making them a loyal patient. For remark #1 above, the scripted response would be:
1. “We will be happy to take care of your toothache today. Dr. Diesel will examine the area and take necessary digital radiographs to determine the location and cause of your toothache. We will do what we can to address the pain so you will feel comfortable again.”
Dental customer service is listening to customers and helping to resolve their issues, so they remain happy and loyal. For remark #2 above, the scripted response would be:
2. “Yes, we accept all PPO types of dental policies. What I can do for you after we schedule an appointment is call your insurance company and get the information to determine what your coverage is for this office. This is routine and is called insurance verification. I will then call you with the information.”
Dental customer service is being friendly and helpful to customers by doing your best to solve their dental concerns. For remark #3 above, the proper response would be:
3. “Yes, I think it may be possible to get your crown back from the lab before you leave for vacation. I will need to call our lab technician to see if he can complete the crown in time for us to seat it comfortably for you. Do you mind waiting a few minutes while I phone him?”
When you are interacting with patients, avoid using the word “no.” This word shuts the door on continuing communication because it is often all the patient hears and remembers. While you are dispensing information, try to learn about the patient by asking questions such as “How did you hear about the practice? Are you new to the neighborhood?” etc.
Every interaction with patients or potential patients, whether on the phone or in person, is an opportunity to exceed expectations. The process must begin as soon as possible. Before new patients present to the office, front desk team members should:
• Mail or email practice forms before the first appointment
Want to learn more about building your practice with more new patients and great customer service? Call McKenzie Management today for a customized Business Training Course that will address the concerns you have for your practice growth and success.
McKenzie Newsletter Information:
To unsubscribe: To discontinue receiving the Sally McKenzie management newsletter,
click on the link at the very bottom of this page for instant removal,
To report technical problems with this newsletter or to request technical help,
please send a descriptive email to: email@example.com
To request services, products or general inquires about The McKenzie Company activities
please send a descriptive email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to have any of your dental practice concerns answered personally by Sally McKenzie,
please send a descriptive email to her at: email@example.com
Copyrights 1980-Present The McKenzie Company - All Rights Reserved.