Ultimate Patient Service

The first priority every dental practice should establish is to maintain the highest standard of customer (patient) service. I`ve come to this conclusion after polling hundreds of other people while traveling. I ask them what it is that they enjoy most about their dentists and what it was that kept them going back. The overwhelming response credits the pleasant, friendly atmosphere and a comprehensive, easily-understood case treatment.

Linda L. Miles, CSP, CMC

The first priority every dental practice should establish is to maintain the highest standard of customer (patient) service. I`ve come to this conclusion after polling hundreds of other people while traveling. I ask them what it is that they enjoy most about their dentists and what it was that kept them going back. The overwhelming response credits the pleasant, friendly atmosphere and a comprehensive, easily-understood case treatment.

I`ve yet to have anyone tell me that their crown margins or natural-looking bridges are what keeps them going back. They always remember how well they were treated as patients.

Dental patients can be divided into two attitudes. The first views his/her treatment as burdensome and might even opt for dentures instead of restoring and maintaining a healthy smile. The second wants the finest dentistry, a comfortable environment, quality patient service-and this individual might have been saving money for years to have this kind of an experience!

It might take awhile for a patient to know if the quality of dentistry is excellent; however, it takes only seconds to judge the service. The doctor`s responsibility is to enable and ensure that staffmembers have these exceptional service qualities. These skills are responsible for more affirmative decisions in a case presentation. The entire dental-practice staff should be convinced of the benefits of having quality care; one or two in the practice should not carry this responsibility for the entire team.

When analyzing the approach your office should take in establishing ultimate patient service, keep the following concepts in mind:

- Patient income or your fees are not the only reasons patients choose your practice over another.

- Ideal and comprehensive dentistry is more readily accepted when the doctor and staff believe the patient deserves the best. Treatment is an investment, not a luxury.

- Standard patient service is out. Ultimate patient service is in.

Patients reluctant to accept quality care must be met with positive, uncompromising rebuttals. They might include:

"Money doesn`t grow on trees, Mrs. Jones-don`t we all wish it did! However, if we had an abundance of money, we probably wouldn`t appreciate the finer things in life money can buy, such as quality dental care."

"Extracting all your teeth and having dentures may sound like a logical idea today, Mrs. Brown, but our patients who have decided to keep their natural teeth whenever possible report back to us how glad they are to have restored their mouth. As difficult as it seems as the moment, please know that bad news today can be good news for a lifetime."

"I know how you feel-to patch the one that`s broken seems like the best solution, Mrs. Smith. But wouldn`t it be nice to stop having these dental emergencies by maintaining a totally healthy smile? We will make this as comfortable for you financially as we will with your dentistry. We also offer creative financing on approved credit."

"Spending money on dentistry usually is not incorporated into our budgets. Look upon it as an investment that will pay dividends in function and esthetics for years to come."

A great way to judge patient-service qualities when hiring new employees is to take the top three applicants out to lunch for their interview. The manner in which they interact with the wait staff at the restaurant is a good indication of how they will interact with your patients. If they are rude and demanding or take delight in being disrespectful, they are not the ideal candidate for your practice and service reputation.

After interviewing an applicant, fill out the following chart as soon as the applicant leaves your office. It will help you remember each one`s characteristics.

Quality service lasts the lifetime of your practice. Practices that have less than ultimate service will be left to rely on new patient figures alone. To improve your patient-service relations, list 10 ways your practice could enhance its current atmosphere, starting with the first telephone interaction and focusing on each aspect of the patient`s treatment experience.

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The author is an internationally-recognized consultant and speaker on practice and staff development. She is founder and chief executive officer of Miles and Associates in Virginia Beach, VA, and can be reached at 800-922-0866.

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