When I talk to dental practices about some of their patient issues, the most common factor in all of their problems with patients always comes back to a distinct lack of communication.
And this lack of communication is usually caused by dental office employees having a reluctance to “pick up the phone” and call the patient. Instead of doing this, there is an unhealthy reliance by staff on other media for communication with our valued patients.
The Telephone is your best friend.
Contrary to popular belief, the telephone, and human to human interaction, is still alive and far from being dead.
Though social media and other online methods are in the trend, when all fails, people will still go back to making a phone call.
Look at this logically.
When your patients need an appointment with you, what is their number one method for making that appointment?
Do they write you a letter?
Do they send you an SMS?
Do they send an email?
Do they go to your Facebook page and send you a message?
I’d suggest that 99% of your patients who want to make an unscheduled appointment with your office do so by calling on the phone.
And if that’s the case, then why is it that dental office staff are hesitant when it comes to communicating with those same patients in exactly the same way?
Let’s take a look at the patients who we need to phone:
1. Patients with incomplete treatment who do not have an appointment.
The best way to schedule these people is face to face.
If you cannot talk to them face to face, then the second best way to talk to them one on one is using the telephone.
Sending them an SMS text message is limp.
Sending them a letter is even more lame.
I’ve been in dental offices where something called “reactivation letters” are sent and that’s it.
The staff believe that sending a letter is all they have to do.
I’ve heard staff say:
“Well, we can’t MAKE them make an appointment.”
I’m sorry, but as health care professionals, and that means staff too, it is our duty to do everything in our power to ensure that these patients receive the diagnosed treatment they need.
Because the cost of neglect for them is always going to be greater than the cost of treatment.
And dental conditions always get worse with time.
So, firstly, no patient should ever leave our office without a future appointment, but when they do, they must be followed up BY TELEPHONE.
2. Patients with overdue hygiene requirements who do not have an appointment.
The same goes for these patients.
If their hygiene visits are overdue, no form of written communication will motivate them to suddenly call our office for an appointment in the same way that a telephone call will.
Don’t send out “Reminder cards”.
These are useless and a total waste of time and money.
Save a tree, and save money.
Pick up the phone.
The Telephone is your best friend.
The reason that the telephone is the best means of communication is simply this:
When you are on the phone with the patient you have the opportunity to respond to their questions and solve their problems.
An email and an SMS and a letter cannot talk back.
They just lie there…
A team member on the phone can create urgency and concern and can respond.
The result of your communication with the patient by phone is that they will schedule their necessary appointment.
Even if your written communication does inspire the overdue patient to pick up the phone, the result is that they are on the phone, so why not just use the phone in the first place?
[Or better still, create sufficient urgency and concern when the patient is in your office, that they make their next appointment then and there, and KEEP IT!!]
“But David, my staff are scared of the phone…”
I hear this often.
The good news is that the fear of the phone is false and can be overcome by learning better ways of communicating and better things to say.
And both of these can be taught and learned.
In the same way that no baby was born with a golf club in its hand, no baby was born speaking, or bearing a telephone either.
Speaking confidently, and use of the phone, are both learnable skills.
The reason why some dental staff are masters of the phone is because they have chosen to be.
The success of a dental practice is reliant on having good people with great communication skills and great phone skills.
You can be the best dentist in the world but if your practice is bleeding patients because of poor phone skills and poor communications, [and poor systems], then your life will not be as rewarding as it should be.
Don’t let your schedule suffer because of poor phone skills.
And don’t allow your business to suffer because of poor phone skills….
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