Scripting: Power communication tool

If it were only about dentistry, running a successful practice would be straightforward.

Roger P. Levin, DDS

Introduction

If it were only about dentistry, running a successful practice would be straightforward. Using the skills you acquired in dental school, honed by experience, you could spend your days performing examinations, providing preventive care, and diagnosing and treating oral health problems. You'd face challenges and moments of uncertainty, but your professional skills would always see you through.

Unfortunately, dentistry is only part of the picture. As a modern practice owner and leader, you must also grapple with other factors, from macroeconomic forces to staff conflict. The range and diversity of demands placed on you can be daunting, and none as much as those affecting interactions and relationships with patients. In a real way, the success of your dental business depends on how well you and your staff members communicate with patients and prospective patients.

Recognizing the critical role that practice-patient communication plays in the success of a dental practice, Levin Group has adapted the technique of scripting to the needs of dental professionals. Developed and proven effective in countless applications in the business world, scripting empowers doctors and their teams to influence patients as never before.

Saying the right words at the right time

In any given interaction between a team member and a patient, the right words will move the relationship toward achieving mutually beneficial goals. Excellent scripting will enhance the value of the practice's services in the minds of patients. It will build trust in the dentist and motivate patients to schedule an appointment (and show up on time), accept treatment, pay the bill, refer friends, and remain loyal for years.

Rather than leaving it up to each staff member to decide what to say and how to say it, scripting gives you control. Based on your understanding of what the practice needs, what it offers, its value to patients, and how to motivate them to do the right things, scripting turns each properly trained team member into an expert spokesperson.

Script construction

To create a script, follow these steps:

1. Define your objective-What do you want the script to accomplish? Do you want it to convey information, gain acceptance of treatment, encourage referrals, collect payment? Start with a specific result in mind and craft a dialogue that will lead to that conclusion.

2. Write a topic sentence-As the first words of the script, this will focus the discussion by defining the subject for the patient. For example, "Mr. Jones, we need to discuss what to do about your chipped tooth."

3. Build value into the conversation-In most cases, the purpose of the script is to persuade a patient to accept your recommendation. The best way to accomplish this is to communicate the value of what you're proposing. For example, "Mr. Smith, many of our patients who whiten their teeth smile more because they feel more confident." Statements like this and power words, "great, wonderful, awesome," increase patients' appreciation of the value of the practice and the care it provides.

4. Summarize the agreement reached-End the discussion with a reminder of the decision. For example, "Mr. Brown, we look forward to seeing you next Wednesday at 2:00 p.m."

Training with scripts

One of the greatest advantages of working with scripts is that they lend themselves extremely well to both informal and formal training using the technique of role-playing. Here's how training should be handled:

• Whether in a group session or one-to-one, you or the office manager should take the trainee through the script. Read it aloud, explain why it's constructed in a certain way, define what results are desired, and show how proper use of the script can increase the likelihood of achieving those results.

• Point out that the script is a guide for shaping a conversation, not something the team member should memorize and recite verbatim. Once she understands the nature and purpose of a script, she should put it into her own words. This is important because if she's comfortable with what she's saying, she can be more persuasive. From a patient standpoint, staff members will be more sincere than if they woodenly recite a written script.

• The best way to learn how to use the script is through role-playing, with the trainer or another staff member playing the role of patient. By going through mock conversations, learning to speak naturally, and addressing various objections that may come up, the trainee will soon be able to approach real conversations with confidence.

• Role-playing sessions can be impromptu or part of training days. They can be used to help team members brush up on scripts not used often. Role-playing is also an excellent training technique for cross-training other team members who may need to fill in from time to time, and of course for training new team members quickly and easily.

Conclusion

The success of your dental practice as a business depends to a very large extent on how well your practice communicates with your patients. The most effective way to upgrade the quality of day-to-day staff-patient interactions and improve the result of these exchanges is to script them. Follow the guidelines in this article and your practice will be well-positioned to move up to the next level of success.

Call (888) 973-0000 to schedule your one-hour no-cost practice diagnosis, a powerful phone call with a certified practice analyst, to assess and improve practice production, only from Levin Group.

Overcoming barriers to working with scripts

Staff members sometimes need to be led when it comes to scripts. There are three situations that call for such guidance from you or the office manager.

Scenario One:

The staff initially opposes scripting

In nearly all cases, team members who've learned how to use scripting end up liking it. However, some practice leaders encounter resistance when introducing the technique. If this is caused by reluctance to make changes, emphasize that scripting has been proven to achieve better results and that converts have become staunch advocates.

If some staff members seem embarrassed about role-playing, think it's silly, or fear that their coworkers will be judgmental, take the lead. Participate in the role-playing and have fun with it to loosen up shy staff members. Read the script like a robot. Play the role of an over-the-top patient. Get the team laughing and then, when they've loosened up, move toward real training activities.

Scenario Two:

Team members drift away from scripting essentials

Scripting works best when it comes naturally to your staff, but there's a fine line between personalization and losing sight of indispensable script elements. Casually observe team members as they interact with patients, listening for key motivational points, power words and benefit statements, and effective reactions to patient objections. If you note a decline in scripted performance, especially if there's a corresponding decline in results, conduct a refresher session to get staff members back on track.

Scenario Three:

You and your team gradually stop using scripts

Changing habits is always difficult. Even if your team embraces scripting enthusiastically and begins using it effectively, don't assume that you've finalized the transition. Passing time and day-to-day pressures can lead team members and you to revert to old ways. Just as you should watch for drift, you should also be on the lookout for outright abandonment of scripting. This may be accompanied by justifications such as "Just this once," or "I don't have time to think about that right now," or "I forget what to say."

Track performance against key practice targets and you'll see proof that scripting works. This being the case, realizing that scripting has fallen by the wayside and then doing nothing about it means that you're willing to settle for less. If you're serious about increasing production and income, enjoying a greater sense of accomplishment, and being able to retire on schedule, renew your commitment to scripting and inspire your team to do the same.

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