One of the big questions that I always am asked is how do I get my staff to talk to my patients, and what should they be talking to them about?
Let’s start by discussing what your staff should NOT be talking to patients about.
Your team members should never be “oversharing” with patients any procedural matter in the dental office that has not run to plan.Most of the time, the patient will be unaware that your office has encountered an unexpected moment during the day. So having a team member blurt out a comment that is not necessary is totally inappropriate.Your patients do not need to know that your dental lab was late, or that your postman has bad breath.
Team member weaknesses.
Your patients DO NOT need to be told that team members have failings.Any weaknesses in your team need to be kept in house and do not need to be shared with your customers.It is up to you as a team to support and strengthen each other with internal trainings and encouragements.Letting patients know that:“Oh, she’s always dropping things.”
“She never sets up trays correctly.”
do not add value to the patients’ perceptions of the dental office.
Your team members should never discuss other patients with your patients.When they do, the patient being spoken to will think:“If this is what they say about THIS patient behind her back, imagine what they are saying about ME when I’m not here!”It’s a no win, LOSE-LOSE situation.
Never say anything about anyone behind their back.
And there’s absolutely no place for GOSSIP anywhere. Let alone inside a dental office.
Doctor’s Private Life.
The team needs to know what they can discuss with patients about the doctor and what they need to leave to the doctor to discuss.Again, it’s the question about offering up unasked for information that has no relevance to anybody and is at best only gossip.Comments about the doctor’s cars, houses, vacations, private schools, can make some patients feel that they are paying for those things directly.Of course your logical and rational patients will know that their dental fees pay for a lot more things within the business.
If your team are asked questions of a “fishing expedition” nature, then your office needs to have specific protocols in place that allow team members to direct those questions towards.
Team members should avoid talking about themselves and their activities and their own opinions.
Better still, team members should always be inquiring about the patient and the patients’ thoughts and experiences and travels.People do love to talk about themselves.It is their favourite subject.
Getting your patient to talk about themselves, and asking the patients questions along the way will always have the patient feeling at ease and relaxed prior to their dental treatment.
People who act INTERESTED in other people will be thought of [by those people] as being INTERESTING.
Isn’t that fascinating?
Finally, it is economic suicide to discuss sex, or politics, or religion EVER with your customers.
I’ve written many times about the purposes of being in business for yourself.
The alternative to not being in business is to be employed in someone else’s business.
In both instances, whether you are an employee or you are a business owner, the business needs customers and the business needs to keep those customers happy.
On rare occasions I have seen businesses with an endless supply of new customers coming to it that the business does not really need to be looking after its customer service side of the business.
Those businesses are called post offices and monopolies.
Customer service is the key.
By building great processes and systems within your business, you can allow your business to build and build an ever increasing base of loyal and devoted customers who are happy to buy from you, buy what you recommend, and buy frequently from you and refer their friends and family to become your customers as well.
Whether you are a business owner or an employee in a business these should be your key driving motivators in relation to everything that you do in that business.
We must at all times be focused on keeping each and every customer satisfied so that they stay, pay, and refer.
Every action we take in the business must be focused on achieving these outcomes.
When we have an outcome that is at odds with our goal then we create a customer who is at best confused, can be disappointed, is often dissatisfied, and is at worst hostile and angry.
None of these are good outcomes for our business.
Everything we do in our business for our business and for our customers must be to create a clarity in the eyes and minds of our customers as to what we are doing FOR THEM and why we are doing it FOR THEM and why it is so important FOR THEM and what will happen TO THEM if they do not carry through with our treatment recommendations in the time frame needed FOR THEM.
Motivated loyal customers of our business become our disciples and our evangelists in the community as to what we are doing FOR THEM and why there is nobody better FOR THEM and THEIR friends and family to see than you.
When we have a significant representation in the community then we have truly created a worthwhile business.
And that business then has the power to provide profits to its business owners, which are often spent in the local community.
That business then is a desirable business to be sold at some point in the future.
That business has the ability to employ members of the community in that business.
And that business creates business opportunities for other local businesses that it trades with.
There are many benefits to a community that result from the creation of successful businesses.
I often get asked about the best way of making patients come back for their recall appointments.
It’s an interesting conundrum, and the fact that the question is framed this way to me indicates that the asker of the question is really not understanding what the purpose of the so-called “recall” appointment is.
Let me explain.
Patients will return to your dental office for their next appointment for their reasons and not yours.
So, by putting them on a “six-month recall” programme, all you are doing is putting them on your plan, not their plan.
They won’t come back if it’s all about you and not about them.
You need to give them a valid reason to return.
It has to be a reason that has validity to your patient.
You need to clearly enunciate to the patient what will happen to them if they do not return when you tell them to.
You see, patients think that dental treatment is like cleaning up the garage.
And that is, yes, sure it’s messy in there, but if I close the door and put off the clean-up until a few weeks later, nothing much is going to change.
Our role as health care providers is to make sure that the patient understands that time is their enemy, and not their friend.
“And if you don’t get this treatment done when I say, the crack will spread and the tooth could break and you could lose that tooth.”
“And if you don’t get this treatment done when I say, the infection into your bone will spread and the tooth could become looser and you could lose that tooth.”
“And if you don’t get this treatment done when I say, the decay will advance closer to your nerve and you may need a root canal and a crown, rather than only a filling. If it spreads into the nerve there is more chance that you could lose that tooth.”
The same thing is needed with hygiene visits.
Hygiene visits need to be scheduled at the time and not
“We’ll call you in six months’ time and get you back for a recall.”
If you’re allowing patients to leave without an appointment, and without a valid reason to return, you’re risking the fact that a considerable number of those patients will say to themselves:
“Well, you know, nothing’s hurting. I’ll leave it for a while.”
And isn’t that a LOSE-LOSE situation.
When a patient has completed their restorative work or their hygiene visit, they need to have a valid reason explained to them as to why they need to schedule their next hygiene visit then and there.
[Did you notice that I did not call it a “RECALL” visit?]
Try something like this:
“Mrs. Smith. I want to see you in three months’ time to clean your teeth and gums and to specifically check on whether this recession has advanced or whether it has stabilized.”
“Mrs. Smith. I want to see you in three months’ time to clean your teeth and gums and to specifically check on whether this bone loss on the X-ray has advanced or whether it has gotten worse or not.”
“Mrs. Smith. I want to see you in three months’ time to clean your teeth and gums and to specifically check on whether this loose tooth has firmed up, or has become looser.”
With a valid reason to return to your office and the fear of a consequence of loss if they do not heed your message, the patient is left with very little alternative than to return.
To not return would appear to be very foolish indeed.
Like I said, patients will return for their reasons, not yours, so give them logical simple CLEAR. NEXT. STEP. reasons to return to your dental practice.
Explain to them what will happen if the treatment is delayed.
It is your duty to ensure that the patient understands the consequences of delay.
So much so, that the patient always wants to make their next appointment, keep that appointment, and will be happy to come in sooner if an appointment becomes available.
There are several non-negotiable things that your front office staff must always be doing to make your dental office stand out as the PREMIER dental office in your local area.
In fact, if your office does these things consistently and routinely, your dental office will become sought after by people from outside of your local area and they will beat a path to your door.
1. Be Prepared
It’s the good old boy scout motto…. yet nobody acts upon it.“DYB DYB DYB DOB DOB DOB”
Do your best. Do our best.
We have an agenda for the day.
We know who is coming in to see us and at what time.
But we ignore it.
It’s like having someone coming over to your place for dinner and you’re out washing the car or making up a cubby house and swing set for your children.
If you know people are coming, have the place ready, be ready for them at their expected arrival time.
After all, it’s plain common courtesy.
2. Beat the Greet
If we know who is arriving and when, and we already know most of them because we’ve seen them before, then our aim should always be to greet that person by name before they greet us, or before they have to introduce themselves to us.Dale Carnegie said:
“a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the language”
So why not lead from the front foot by greeting your customer with the recognition they deserve.
It’s such a point of difference because everywhere else that they go there is a failure to recognise.
Make their day by knowing who they are and recognising them.
3. Be Interested
At my practice we used to let our arriving patients know:“Won’t be too long. Just take a seat.”
With monotonous regularity.
Until I was at the hairdresser and I heard him greet an arriving customer with the EXACT SAME PHRASE.
And so I knew we had to do better.
And so we changed, and we ENGAGED our arriving customers immediately:
“Hi Gary, great to see you. Thanks for coming in early. I’ll just run down and let Dr Moffet know you’re here. How’s your day been going?”
By ending this greeting with a question about THEM we immediately create rapport and respect with our arriving patient.
People enjoy doing business with people who like them.
We must make efforts to create and build instant rapport.
4. “Make Yourself Comfortable.”
Instead of telling the arriving patient to “take a seat”, motion towards one of your comfortable chairs and use the words:
“Make Yourself Comfortable.”
It’s so much more friendly and pleasant.
And nobody else is saying this to their arriving patients.
5. Suggest a Refreshment.
There is a right way and a wrong way to offer a beverage.The wrong way is to ask our guest if they would like a drink.
Most people don’t want to put you to too much bother, and will say “No” even though you have made the offer.
However, if you were to say:
“Gary, I was just about to make myself a coffee. Can I get you one as well?”
You will find that your patients will indeed accept your invitation more often.
Of course, then, the trick is to JOIN your patient and sit with them in the client lounge with your coffees, until they are needed in the treatment room.
This helps to relax the patient by engaging with them and being interested in them.
If you implement these five key points of difference as Standard Operating Procedures in your dental office you will go a long long way towards creating a significant point of difference for your dental practice.
And that’s a WIN-WIN for you and for your customers.