What can we learn from the “secret shopper” about implant dentistry?

If you’ve heard me speak at a meeting, you know that for about 10 years I’ve started my seminar with a sampling of phone calls ...

BY JoAn Majors

If you’ve heard me speak at a meeting, you know that for about 10 years I’ve started my seminar with a sampling of phone calls from practices represented in the audience. The “secret shopper” results help a team step back and rethink what team members say about implant dentistry, and ultimately, all procedures. Our caller appears less than savvy when it comes to dental implants, and then … the fun begins!

More often than not the one who receives the call does not even establish rapport or create value before offering up a rendition of a dental implant. We get answers ranging from “It’s a titanium rod that is screwed into your bone” to “It’s a metal screw, like a molly bolt, that is inserted into the jawbone.” None of these responses conjure up an image so great that there is a waiting line to get into your practice!

It’s been my experience with team members across the U.S., Canada, and abroad that our simple description (which ranked important enough for its own chapter in my implant book) is seamless and stress-free for the team and patient. This simple description is, “It’s a man-made root.”

I know many are thinking this is too easy. You’re right. We made it complicated before, and this made our patients confused. Here’s regular feedback from practices we train: “The dental implant is a man-made root, gently placed by the surgeon, and the man-made tooth goes on top of it. Does that make sense?”

I tell participants in all my seminars to REMAIN CURIOUS. This allows patients to open up and share. This helps the dental team gather important data that allows you to create rapport and value based on patient input, not your big-brain answers on treatment.

When a patient asks, “What’s an implant?” or “How much is an implant?” why not remain curious and ask more questions so you can discover the patient’s values. Studies show that, if you ask a question vs. spouting out a textbook answer, you get further in a conversation. How about, “Will you share with me what you know about implants?” or “What kind of implant do you need?”

Curiosity will allow you to get to what the person really wants to know. Most patients do not know what to ask. If you give them big words or unflattering terms, it may be such a turn off that the doctor may never get a chance to show off those great clinical skills. After all, what good is all the training if no one chooses the treatment?

During a recent team training session at the Misch International Implant Institute, we secret shopped at 35 practices. It was a real surprise to the doctors who invested in their clinical skills only to learn that they had missed opportunities due to the information given to a mere shopper. Many offices actually gave the caller information that created the very obstacle they had to overcome!

Of the 35 offices called:

  • 21 gave their name; 14 did not even give their name
  • Only three asked the caller’s name
  • 19 mentioned the long or lengthy process (time)
  • 14 mentioned sedation (fear)
  • 22 mentioned pricing might be an issue (money)
  • 19 asked about insurance (money)
  • 29 used unflattering terms such as Titanium (21) Rod/Screw (23) Bone work (15) Metal Post (11)

Here’s the bottom line. If you’re a general practice where you place or restore and work with a trusted surgeon, you should create and maintain long-term relationships with patients. Offering outside financing with CareCredit can take the sting out of money questions.

We suggest, after an enthusiastic greeting, that a phone conversation should go something like this: “Again, my name is JoAn, and your name is?” Patient: “Ms. Shopper.” “Well, Ms. Shopper, let me first say, you called the right place! I’m happy to answer your questions. But first, do you mind sharing with me what you already know about implants?”

What an opening to engage a potential patient! Create rapport by knowing and calling the patient by name. Engineers, CPAs, and a few others actually want details, and some callers are bottom line. But the majority of personality styles don’t know what they don’t know. Be curious and gain rapport to learn what they value; then you can create value based on theirs.

Until next time, here’s a quote to contemplate from the book Open the Door to Your Purpose in Implant Dentistry, “… the solution is never too complicated when you are in our care.”

See you on the road.

JoAn Majors is a registered dental assistant, published author, and professional speaker. In addition to her speaking, she has the team training faculty position for the Misch International Implant Institute. For more information on her books or seminars, or to have Majors speak to your group, visit www.joanmajors.com or call (866) 51-CHOICE. The time is now; the choice is yours!

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