One of the things that “C type” dentists find difficult to do is to strike up a conversation cold with their patients.
When the dentist walks into the treatment room to greet the waiting patient, be they a new patient or an existing patient, one of the things that the engineer-type dentists finds very hard to do is to Segway into a conversation.
C type dentists just want to get about doing the technical stuff they love to do without doing the touchy-feely stuff.
We know that.
And even for the D type dentists, they really don’t want to get bogged down into all that conversation when all they want to do is be productive.
So what’s the best way for the team to go about this process or handover, pre-treatment, so that the dentist can effectively and efficiently converse with the patient, and at the same time progress into the actual treatment without hitting a War and Peace style roadblock.
As you know, when I practiced, I mastered the two treatment room alternate appointment schedule.
And it all came down to time management and hourly rates calculations.
I cover this topic extensively in my two-day workshop.
Suffice to say, one of the big advantages of being a dentist working out of alternate treatment rooms with two Dental Assistants [one in each room], is that the patient next to be treated can be brought down and be settled well ahead of time.
At the same time, the next patient can also be seated comfortably with a beverage and engaged in meaningful conversation with the Dental Assistant who assumes a concierge style role at this time.
In fact, the role of the Dental Assistant is purely this:
They are to make the patient feel at ease, and to make the patient feel important.
And so the best way for them to do this is to spend time with the patient and engage with them in meaningful conversation.
The Dental assistant is not to be setting up her room *around* the seated patient, or worse still, *behind* the seated patient.
The room set up must be completed before the patient is brought down.
This is so that the next patient is indeed made to feel that they are special, as the Dental Assistant spends face-to-face time with that patient exclusively until the dentist arrives to begin the patient’s treatment.
The next patient must feel that the dentist is coming in to see only them, as if they are his only appointment all day.
Creating this feeling of exclusivity is impossible if the dentist is operating out of only one treatment room.
Apart from the fact that the room must undergo a speed teardown and turnover, there’s no way that the patient can feel an air of relaxation being thrust into that one treatment room situation.
And of course, in the one-chair situation, there’s the taboo topic of the warm seat. Nobody likes to feel, ever, that they’re sitting in a seat that’s warm. A seat that someone else has previously sat on, if you get my imagery.
It’s just one of those unfortunate feelings we’d rather not be reminded of.
So, if the patient is being brought down to the second treatment room well ahead of time, what are the best things for the Dental Assistant to talk to the patient about?
They should always talk to the patient about the patient’s favourite topic:
Everybody loves to talk about themselves.
A skilled Dental employee will have the ability to direct and redirect the conversation with the patient away from any topic of fluff, like the weather, or time, and back to being about the patient.
It’s an art, but it’s an invaluable tool for building trust and rapport with the patient, so that when the dentist enters the treatment room the Dental Assistant can simply introduce the arriving dentist with a Segway into the conversation as follows:
“Good morning Dr Moffet. Joan has just been telling me about her [BLANK]…”
where BLANK is one of the following six subjects:
1. Discuss the patient’s day
For afternoon appointments, ask the patient how their day has been.
For morning appointments, ask the patient if they have a busy day on.
And then simply watch, and listen, as the patient starts talking.
How do we continue on on this topic?
“That sounds interesting…”
“Tell me more…”
2. Discuss the patient’s upcoming events
If the patient is a regular patient of the practice in active regular treatment appointments at this time, there’s a reasonable chance that we’ve been able to find out from them about an event coming up in their near future that they could be looking forward to with some excitement, or with some trepidation.
Information about this event could have been openly discussed by the patient with us on a previous appointment or it may have been mentioned in a passing moment and noted as a piece of Secret Service Information by a team member to be used at a later date.
Either way, patient’s love to discuss impending events.
3. Discuss the patient’s Family situations
Talk to the patient about their family.
Do they have any children?
Do they have adult children?
Do they have grandchildren?
Do they live nearby?
Where do they go to school?
What about their parents?
Or their brothers and sisters?
What do they do for a living?
There are so many topics of conversation to be brought up when exploring the family situations of our patients.
4. Discuss the patient’s Occupation
“Do you work nearby?”
“What do you do?”
“How long have you done that?”
“And before that?”
“Sounds like a tough job…”
“Sounds like you love doing that…”
“What else have you done?”
Patients love to talk about themselves. And what they do for a living is just a small portion of the rich tapestry of the life of our patient.
5. Discuss the patient’s Sporting or Recreational Schedule
If the patient turns up wearing workout clothes, ask them about their fitness regime.
Similarly, look for golf shirts.
If the patient is retired, ask them how they spend their time.
If it’s a Friday, ask them what their plans are for the weekend. When they tell you what they have planned, ask them if they do that often.
You’ll be surprised how much people love to talk about their sports that they play.
Or their hobbies…
6. Discuss any travel Destinations the patient may have been to, or will soon visit, or wants to visit.
Find out where they’ve been.
Find out how the trip was.
Find out where else they’d like to go.
Find out anything else the patient aspires to do.
Everybody has dreams and desires.
And they love to talk about their aspirations.
You can see, with this list of topics, that a good Dental Assistant can easily get a patient talking for hours about their favourite subject, themselves.
So that when the Dentist enters the treatment room, the Dental Assistant can easily introduce the Dentist and say:
“Hello Dr. Moffet. Betty’s just been telling me about her upcoming cruise to New Zealand…”
And I would say:
“Wow Betty. That sounds like fun. When are you off?”
And so it proceeds.
Using these guidelines makes it simple for even your least experienced team members to quickly establish rapport with your patients, and then transfer that rapport and chemistry to you the Dentist at the appropriate times, so that you are guaranteed great chemistry with all of your patients.
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