by Lois Banta
You know the old saying -- you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. Truer words were never spoken, especially in the customer service-oriented environment of a dental practice.
What you may not be aware of is that when a patient calls the office for the first time, that is the first impression the person has regarding if he or she will feel well-cared for, if excellent dentistry is being performed, and if the practice will be open, accommodating, and caring. Patients judge the quality of care by how the practice treats them when they call the office and when they come in for their appointments. It has NOTHING to do with how good the dentistry is. Patients don't know how perfect a crown margin is or whether all of the calculus was removed. They judge how they are greeted, and if the team members and dentist were caring, cordial, and addressed their questions.
They tell everyone around them, "He is the best dentist in town; I won't go anywhere else" when you are pleasant, smiling, and act like you care about them. They tell all their friends and family when they have a great experience. They also tell their friends and family when they have a bad experience, and guess what they say? "He is the worst dentist in town; he kept me waiting; it hurt; and I wouldn't go back to them if they paid ME."
The good news is that by paying careful attention to creating a "wow" experience every time, the patient won't feel unappreciated, and thus will leave the practice happy. A few easy-to-implement strategies can make or break a patient's decision to stay or leave the practice.
1. Smile -- It has been proven that a sincere smile changes the tone of a person's voice on the phone, and patients can tell if you have a positive attitude. A sincere smile is evidence that you care about another person and want the person to have a good experience.
2. Listen completely -- Don't interrupt patients. The most important part of their question could come at the end of their sentence. Clarify a patient's question to ensure you listened. Ask leading questions, such as "Sounds like you have concerns about how this will fit into your budget," or "So you're concerned about the potential pain of this procedure?"
3. Don't ask yes or no questions.
a. Don't say -- Do you want to schedule that appointment now?
b. Do say -- Let's go ahead and schedule your appointment.
c. Don't say -- Do you have any questions?
d. Do say -- What questions can I answer for you?
4. Always offer two options.
a. "How did you want to handle payment today? Cash, check, or credit card? We also offer payment through our outside financing partner, CareCredit."
b. "Let's go ahead and schedule your next appointment. The next two appointments we have available are Tuesday at 10 or Thursday at 8. Which would you prefer?"
5. Give a tour of the office for new patients. This gives them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the practice.
6. Say please and thank you. "Thank you for calling Dr. XYZ's office. This is Lois. How may I help you?" Additionally, if the patient calls to complain about their statement, thank them for calling. It defuses a potentially angry situation and the patient cannot get madder at you when you thank them for calling.
7. Make sure everyone is consistent with the verbal skills, strategies, and systems in the office. It confuses patients when things aren't consistent.
Lois Banta is CEO and founder of Banta Consulting, Inc., established in 2000. Ms. Banta is also the owner and CEO of the Speaking Consulting Network. Banta Consulting specializes in all aspects of dental practice management. Ms. Banta has over 37 years of dental experience. To contact her for a personal consultation or to invite her to speak to your organization, call 816-847-2055, write 33010 NE Pink Hill Rd, Grain Valley, MO 64029, email [email protected], or visit her website at www.bantaconsulting.com.
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