We cannot overemphasize how important it is to provide a positive patient experience.
When it comes to patient experience, the relationship is everything.
This time-tested adage is still spot-on: “First impressions are the most lasting.”
Your staff should strive to create a positive, memorable experience even before the patient visits your dental practice.
When a new patient calls in to get information about your services or even to see if your clinic accepts their dental insurance, here are some of our suggestions on how your receptionist should handle this call:
* Learn more about the patient
Rather than settle for the usual 5-minute exchange of information, you should take a little time to learn more about the new patient.
- Ask them how they heard about your practice
- Find out how they’re doing and what they’re looking for
- Learn what’s important to them!
Engaging your patients with “small talk” builds trust and demonstrates that you care.
* Be attentive and enthusiastic
While gathering a patient’s information and the conventional details, ensure that you achieve a light, pleasant tone.
- Personalize the conversation by calling the patient by their name (e.g., Mr. Lee)
- Talk to them in a welcoming and friendly tone
- End the call with: “We are looking forward to meeting you …. OR We are excited to meet you on….”
Demonstrating how excited your team is to have them as a new patient will help the new patient to feel welcome.
* Build value for the practice
Every interaction with a patient is an opportunity to create additional value.
- Explain to new patients how your practice is different from the others.
- Assure them that they’ve found the right place.
These few customer service tips can supercharge your new patient experience.
For in-depth resources, check out our Premium Dental Practice Training courses.
- Conveying a Welcoming, Professional Image
- Ensuring An Excellent New Patient Experience, and
- Providing Exceptional Customer Service
Do you and your staff interact exactly the same way with all of your patients? If so, then your dental practice is missing out on opportunities to improve connections with patients and boost treatment acceptance rates. Also, a 2016 study conducted at the University of New Mexico Dental School indicated that “determination of patient personality type results in better patient communication and consequently better oral health.”
As you’re no doubt aware, there are many different communication and personality style inventories out there. The foundation concepts for the study just mentioned and for our dental office courses are derived from the DISC personality type theory developed by William Marston.
So, how do you go about leveraging personality/communication styles? The first step is an awareness of different communication styles. Some patients enjoy a chatty, high-energy approach. Others are quiet types who prefer a calm, subdued approach. Some patients want all of the facts and details about their dental care and proposed treatments. Other types of patients just want you to cut to the chase and give them the big picture.
When there’s a mismatch between the dental clinic staff’s approach and the approach that’s desired by the patient, the result is typically patient frustration and dissatisfaction. I know I don’t need to spell out for you the impact this can have on patient satisfaction and retention, not to mention treatment acceptance.
We recommend that all of your staff receive training that will enable them to identify both patients’ communication styles and their own style. That way they can customize their interactions to bolster patient comfort and receptivity and establishment of rapport.
Another area in which communication styles are useful is dental office management. If you’re interacting with staff in a uniform way and you’re assigning tasks without factoring in communication style, your office is probably not operating optimally. Communication styles can help predict what will motivate or discourage different types of individuals. They can also give you insights into the roles, tasks and projects that are most appropriate for individual dental office staff members. Teamwork also tends to improve when employees are aware of each other’s communication style. They’re typically more empathetic and tolerant of their colleagues. Most employees are also energized by training related to communication styles. Our four micro-courses provide this useful training through engaging, interactive activities that are specifically targeted to dental practices.
Take advantage of our free registration to access the course :Introduction to Leveraging Communication Styles. Click here to register for freeRead More
Weave a commitment to customer service into the fabric of your organizational culture
I recently read an article in Forbes magazine on customer service. The article notes that “Customer service is not a department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by every employee – from the CEO to the most recently hired.” We couldn’t agree more. All employees in your dental clinic should understand the importance of customer service and patient experience to the success of the clinic—and ultimately their job security.
You can increase your chances of customer service success by hiring people with the right attitude.
Why almost half of new hires don’t work out
Leadership IQ conducted a study on new hires across different companies and identified the areas in which new employees fell short. They found that 89% of the areas in which the new employees were deficient were related soft skills—coach-ability, emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament. So, screening for those skills is critical, particularly in a small organization.
Screening for customer service skills
You may think that if a job candidate is enthusiastic, warm, and friendly that they will necessarily be great with customer service. This is not necessarily the case. Though all of those qualities are good to have, the individual also needs to able to listen to and tune in to each customer to get a sense of what approach will work best for that person. To get a sense of that, you may want to ask questions such as the following:
- Tell me about a time you had to deal with an unhappy customer (or patient).
An article by indeed.com suggests that you also ask questions such as:
- Tell me what customer service means to you.
- Tell me about a time you were able to turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one.
Look for responses that show that the candidate understands the importance of customer service and that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the best way to satisfy patients. Also see if they mention being able to keep calm and not take dissatisfaction personally.
Integrate a focus on customer service into your on-boarding process
When we on-board new employees*, most of us tend to focus exclusively on getting the new team member up to speed on routine day-to-day tasks and learning new software. We should also be communicating a significant emphasis on customer service. Provide your new dental staff member with a written description of your mission, values, and standards for customer service. Let staff know that patient satisfaction ratings are reviewed as part of the employee evaluation process.
Train your dental clinic staff in customer service
Training can play a key role in equipping your staff to exceptional customer service.
Equip staff with scripts that they should tweak to make them their own. Scripts for common dental office reception interactions can help ensure consistent high-quality customer service. But staff shouldn’t just read the scripts. They need to make the scripts their own and deliver the messages sounding natural and sincere.
Provide checklist for steps to take to ensure a stellar new patient experience. New patients are like gold. You want everyone on your dental office team to be at the top of their game during those initial patient visits.
Enroll all dental clinic staff in online courses. Customer services courses that review key principles, recommended language, and how to handle common dental office reception situations can be highly effective. Providing access to courses that help them understand different communication styles can also be transformative in improving their rapport with different types of patients.
Are you interested in short, practical, interactive online courses for your dental clinic team? We invite you to explore the following courses below that are designed specifically for dental office staff.
- Conveying a Welcoming, Professional Image
- Providing Exceptional Customer Service
- Ensuring an Excellent New Patient Experience
- Handling Common Patient Interactions Optimally
- Introduction to Leveraging Communication Styles
- HR Skills for Practice Managers: People–Recruitment & On-boarding*
Many health care providers wince when they hear their patients described as customers. But, the bald truth is that dental patients are exactly that–consumers. And they have high expectations. Are you and all of your employees doing everything possible to provide stellar customer service to your patients? If not, a lack of emphasis in this area may be impacting your bottom line. Attracting new patients and retaining existing patients are key components of a dental practice’s financial health. In this increasingly competitive field, you want glowing patient satisfaction ratings.
All dental clinic staff need a customer service orientation
When you think of customer service, do you just consider dental office reception staff? Both clinical and non-clinical staff should be equipped to provide stellar customer service. Every single patient interaction counts.
A good illustration of this need is the following negative online review of a dental clinic I recently saw.
“The hygienist and dental assistant carried on a lively conversation with each other while working in my mouth. They completely ignored me! I felt like I was invisible and just ‘a mouth’ not attached to a human being. I also worried that because they weren’t 100% focused on what the work they were doing and could hurt me or screw something up. Definitely,I won’t be going back there.”
Of course doctor-patient exchanges are crucial as well.
What patients want from their doctor
A Stanford Medicine blog post on bedside manner noted that “A study from Healthgrades and Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) analyzed seven million patient reviews and comments about health care providers. This Patient Sentiment Report found that over 52 percent of patients stated that they wanted their doctor to have at least one of the following qualities: compassion, comfort, patience, personality and bedside manner.”
The chief medical officer for Healthgrades was quoted in a Forbes article as saying that “Patients don’t just want to see a doctor, they want to be seen.” He went on to add that patients who feel that they have a meaningful connection with their doctor are more likely to follow instructions. You can imagine the impact this can have on treatment acceptance.
The power of negative reviews
A review posted by a visitor to the Great Wall of China: “I don’t see the hype in this place. It’s really run down and old … why wouldn’t you update something like this? No USB plug ins or outlets anywhere.” Really? This is the person’s reaction to the Great Wall?! This was cited in a New York Times article that explains that people are “dramatically influenced by negative reviews” despite the fact that those reviews are often not credible. Some are downright ridiculous. But, despite this, human beings tend to pay more attention to the negative reviews.
Dental office reception staff make the first impression
You know the old adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Well, your front office staff are the dental team members who shoulder that responsibility. They have the first phone conversation with patients and are the first to welcome new patients on their arrival to your clinic. You want to make absolutely sure that they are on point. Also, take a look at your front office area through a patient’s eyes. Is it neat, organized, and welcoming?
Why customer service training is essential
Our natural default reactive responses to threats have ancient roots. Someone gets angry and we respond with a heated response or try to avoid that person. It’s basically a modern version of the fight or flight response. Training is required to override that automatic response. Targeted training also boosts the confidence of your team members in handling patient interactions.
Would you like to learn more on customer service for dental teams? Check our patient experience courses ready to take your team to a different customer service level or explore our practical, online courses catalog.Read More
Getting patients to accept treatment is a real challenge for most dental practices. Dentists typically explain to patients why specific treatments are needed and are then puzzled when patients don’t move forward with the treatment they should have to maintain their oral health. The reality is that getting patients to commit to treatment takes much more than simply providing a logical explanation of why it’s needed.
You and your team will need to establish strong rapport with patients, really tune in to each patient’s style, and tailor your approach to meet each patient’s needs. To build rapport, you can borrow a few techniques that successful sales professionals have been using for decades. If this seems a bit distasteful to you as a healthcare provider, consider the fact that you’re helping to propel patients toward optimal oral health.
Establish commonalities. When you or your team members establish things you have in common with a patient, the patient feels closer and more connected to you. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use the “Oh, me too!” approach. Here’s an example:
You see that the patient has a Kindle with her.
Dentist: What are you reading?
Patient: A Jo Nesbo book
Dentist: I love his books! Which one are you reading?
Something that can help is to have all dental staff document in patient records any details about the patient’s life (e.g., their kids, hobbies, career) in addition to any medical concerns (e.g., bad dental experiences in the past). That way other staff can leverage that information in the rapport-building process.
Match & mirror body language and tone of voice. People generally relate better to and feel a stronger connection with people who they perceive to be more like them. Matching and mirroring another person’s body language and tone of voice is a long-standing sales technique that strengthens the perception of similarity. If a patient crosses their legs, you do the same. If they fold their hands, you should as well. By copying a patient’s body language, you make patients feel, on a subconscious level, that you’re tuned in and paying attention. You should also adopt a similar speaking pace, volume, and tone of voice. If the patient is fast-talking and bubbly, use the same style.
Match & mirror language. When responding to patient comments, questions, or concerns, repeat the terminology they use. For example, if the patient says, “I have a throbbing pain on the right side of my jaw,” you should respond with, “We want to make sure we eliminate that throbbing pain on the right side of your jaw.”
Avoid overwhelming patients with too much detail or overly technical language. Some patients need and want more details than others. If your patient is an analytical engineer, she’ll likely want a lot of details about a procedure. Be prepared to provide that information. If your patient is a chatty salesperson who isn’t detail-oriented, he’ll likely be bored by details and you may lose him by burying him in too much information. If you’re not sure what the patient wants, ask questions such as, “Would you like me to give you more details about the procedure?” Don’t just yammer away. Also, using overly technical language is not helpful with most patients. So if a patient understands “deeper cleaning”, use that term instead of SRP. Using the more technical term might confuse the patient and disrupt the connection with him.
When the entire dental team has received training in and have mastered techniques that promote treatment acceptance, you’ll definitely see a significant uptick in treatment acceptance rates for your practice. And more of your patients get the treatment they need.
If you are a business owner and you would like to explore affordable training options for your entire team, visit our business solutions page by clicking here.Read More
Getting regular check-ups from the dentist not only is important for one’s health but is also beneficial for preventing tooth decay and other issues that could potentially cause problems down the road. Some patients put off going to the dentist just for those reasons alone. Others hate going because of the time and expense. But did you know, a study found out patients also dislike waiting in that unpleasant reception office?
Waiting rooms and dentist offices are rarely fun places to spend time, but using these tips can help to improve dental patient experiences and inspire more people to make regular visits to the dentist again.
Making a Lasting First Impression
First impressions are important. When patients are walking into the waiting room, have that area reflect the practices attitude toward overall patient comfort. It should be clean, calm and relaxing.
This also reflects on the receptionist’s appearance. In order to establish a lasting and professional impression, receptionists should dress neat and clean, providing patients with a smile that is warm and welcoming.
Calming a Patient’s Worries Over the Phone
Nerves don’t start when the patient arrives. They often worry about going to the dentist before they even pick up the phone to make an appointment. This is why telephone interactions are also important in dental patient experience.
To help patients feel comfortable about talking about their dental problems, phone etiquette is important. The greeting should be clear, concise and friendly. Ideally, phones should be answered away from the front desk to allow the receptionist to focus on the present patient.
Being Friendly to Patients and Other Staff Members
Patients in the office should be welcomed with a positive interaction, eye contact, and a nice smile to build client relationships and trust. Patients who trust their receptionists feel at ease and are more likely to enjoy their check up and look forward to coming back. Receptionists relationships amongst themselves should also be clear and have consistent systems put in place to ensure positive patient experiences that lead to cooperative and collaborative relationships. Another important key to improving dental patient experience is how the staff and receptionists communicate with each other.
Speaking Properly to Patients
Receptionists tend not to use “medical terms” with patients who have questions or are just receiving information from the clinical team.
As such, receptionists should be able to understand the information that was given to the patient by the clinical team and be able to reinforce that information. It’s easier for the patient to understand and is also beneficial in helping to create client relationships, trust, and the right impressions.
The importance of improving dental patient experience is not only crucial for first-time patients, but it is also very significant in improving that experience with patients who have had bad interactions in the past with other dentists or with patients who just have a fear of being at a dentist office.
Whatever the dismay might be, it is essential to keep the same amount of awareness and care for each patient and continue to work towards a greater dental patient experience.Read More
Feeling the pinch of competition? Looking for ways to increase revenue for your dental clinic? You might think that recruiting new patients is the best possible way to boost production. Think again. Your current patient base is actually a treasure trove of potential income—if you can increase your rate of dental treatment acceptance. If you’re like most dental clinics, your current conversion rate is low.
Oral health providers often feel frustrated and a bit perplexed by patient failure to accept treatment. It seems so illogical that patients would choose not to have cavities filled or opt for bridges when they could have implants.
Examine the implicit messages you’re conveying to patients. Part of the problem may stem from the messages you convey to patients. For example, “it’s just a small cavity; we can keep an eye on it.” Patients translate that as, “oh, treatment is optional.”
Accept that your patients are customers. Though, as a dental professional, you may find the characterization of your patients as “customers” a tad distasteful, that is, in fact, what they are. The reality is that dental services are competing for consumer dollars with other possible purchases like flat screen T.V.s, family vacations, and new furniture.
So, what are some additional strategies for getting your dental patients to say “yes”?
Shift dental team attitudes and behaviors. First take a look at the current attitudes and behaviors in your clinic. When patients are reluctant to commit to treatment, do you and other dental clinic colleagues just think, “Well, that’s the end of that!”? If so, you’re passing up a rich vein to mine and leaving a sizable amount of potential income on the table. In many cases, you’re also doing a big disservice to your patients, who aren’t getting the treatment they need to maintain optimal oral health.
Re-frame patient resistance as opportunity vs. conflict. Let’s look at what else is preventing dental offices from leveraging this valuable opportunity. One obstacle is that dental office staff, including treatment coordinators, often feel uncomfortable pushing back against patient reluctance to move forward with treatment. They see it as conflict, which, like most people, they want to avoid. That perspective needs to be re-framed as an opening to help patients get what they want and need. Staff can employ targeted strategies to overcome patient objections and propel them toward dental treatment acceptance in supportive, non-confrontational ways.
Solidify rapport with patients. Another challenge is that fostering acceptance is part of a multi-faceted, multi-pronged process, rather than one quick solution. For example, dental clinic staff need to first lay a foundation by applying specific techniques to establish solid rapport with patients.
Train your dental staff. The biggest hurdle, though, is lack of training in the approaches that result in patient commitment to treatment. There are tried-and-true techniques that have been used by sales professionals for decades—to great effect. These can also bring about dramatic results in your treatment conversion rates.
“It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.”
Our clients have been surprised by the remarkable results from dental team training in these proven strategies. They report increases in post-training treatment acceptance rates ranging from 30 to 60%. We recommend that you start collecting data on your current treatment acceptance now, so that you have an idea of your baseline. The next logical step is to provide staff training. Treatment coordinators are an obvious choice for participation. But, with the right training, dental hygienists, who typically spend more time with patients than anyone else, can also be instrumental in supporting treatment acceptance. Explore our practical, results-oriented multi-course series on promoting treatment acceptance by clicking here.
If you’re a business owner and you’d like to explore affordable training options for your entire team, visit our business solutions page by clicking here.Read More