January is dentistry’s busiest and best month for new patient acquisition. How your front desk handles new patient calls during the next few weeks can make or break your year. Knowing exactly what to say to callers as well as how and when to say it can mean the difference between hanging-up in frustration and adding thousands of dollars in new production to your bottom line. I hope you can join me and my special guest Laura Hatch, founder of Front Office Rocks, on January 12th for a special live webinar where you’ll learn how to take advantage of January’s exciting growth opportunities year round. In this all-new free presentation, Laura and I will share proven strategies that will help your practice create the kind of warm and caring first impression – both on the phone and in the office – that lays a great foundation for a long-lasting patient relationship. Recognized as one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry, Laura is an expert at helping practices improve their day-to-day operations and create the ultimate customer service experience. In less than an hour we’ll cover everything from scripts for handling “shopper” calls about fees to tips on the best way a front desk can welcome new patients. It’s going to be great. We hope you can make it. Register now.
There is a long-held belief among dental consultants that we must never give prices over the phone when a patient asks. Instead, we’ve created an elaborate way of not answering the question, and trying to get the patient in. I know, because in my first book, Everything is Marketing, I gave exactly that same advice.
Well, times are changing. People are very used to being able to find the price, and the cheapest price, for almost anything. Right there in their hand is a smartphone that can find the cheapest TV, car, dinner or hotel.
The problem in dentistry is compounded by the fact that fees vary so much from practice to practice, and UCF’s are radically different depending on what city or town you’re in. And I know some dentists in Beverly Hills who charge a separate fee to put on a temporary (which is why they don’t want to get a CEREC–there’s goes that extra income!)
What’s a patient to do? Especially since the whole dental insurance coverage issue is just as confusing to them, and hard for them to understand that it’s not health insurance at all, but some variation of a discount plan on basic care.
I still believe that when a patient is asking what a crown costs, they are really asking if they can trust you not to overcharge them, since they can’t come in and start pulling charts to figure out if you’re a good clinician or not. (Even if they knew what to look for, HIPPA wouldn’t allow it!) So they don’t know what else to ask, so they ask for prices. And many front desk team members will just give up the cost right away, without establishing any value or clarifying that costs depend on diagnosis. And that’s not good either.
Now, some patients live on a very tight budget. Quite a few of them, actually. So cost is a huge factor when it comes to dentistry and accepting treatment. I don’t really have to tell you that. And not everyone values dentistry the same way that you and I do. Some people just want to be able to chew or get out of pain.
And I also understand that most of you don’t want patients who are looking for the cheapest dentist. You don’t want to be that, and you don’t want people to expect that. But somehow, you’ve got to still get them to come into the practice and find out what a remarkable experience you give them, so that they start to believe you are worth the cost.
There is no simple answer here, but a large part of the solution is to have someone very skilled working at your reception, who knows how to listen, how to empathize, and how to effectively create a great first impression of the practice, and persuade someone to come in to experience it for themselves.
And then it comes down to the words. In many cases, rather than being totally evasive, you can give a range of what something would cost, depending on their individual condition. And it’s still critical to explain to people that it’s impossible to diagnose over the phone. But a root canal is a root canal, and 9 times out of 10 you are going to charge exactly the same amount each time you do it. So they know you’re being evasive when you don’t just tell them, and that doesn’t build trust.
In short, your front desk person has to be comfortable talking about cost, while making sure to build value over the phone, and inviting the patient to come in and see for themselves. If she is confident that she is working for a dentist who does high quality work in a comfortable environment at a reasonable price, then she is going to project that over the phone, and the patient will sense it. And then, talk about the range of what a treatment would cost, and also make clear that an initial exam is free or a very low cost.
Of course, you won’t get everyone in. That’s the reality. And not every patient is a good fit for the practice. But you can improve your odds. And I’ve become convinced that we need to not only get comfortable talking about fees over the phone, but we need to get good at it.
I’m going to dive much deeper into this whole question of maximizing the front desk results in my next webinar, with special guest Laura Hatch, who has helped create the front desk environment that built two multi-million dollar practices, and who know teaches those skills in her fantastic video course, Front Office Rocks. The webinar is Friday, January 12th at 11am Pacific time. You can register by clicking here, and even if you can’t make it, as long as you register you’ll be sent a recording of the webinar.
It’s going to be extremely valuable for anyone building a practice, so don’t miss this one!
With the ever-increasing influence of social media affecting every business, it is more important than ever to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to the perception by your patients that you care about them. They need to feel that you care about them more than money, more than efficiency, more than your own sense of importance.
And understand that the opposite of caring is indifference. Think about how quickly and easily you perceive when someone is being uncaring or indifferent to you? How little did you like it? And did you post somewhere about it? Did you feel compelled to tell someone? Or did you just not use that service anymore?
It doesn’t matter if you’re not feeling particularly caring that day or toward that patient (and I’m talking about everyone on the dental team, not just dentist). What matters is that they perceive that you care. Which means maybe you have to act like you care, even if you don’t feel like it. Because that’s the job.
This blog was inspired by a recent post by Seth Godin, whom I normally find extremely insightful, but this post was more akin to wisdom, and relates directly to creating a remarkable patient experience (my favorite theme!), so I’m going to quote it in its entirety here for you:
The Toxic Antidote to Goodwill,
by Seth Godin
Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.
It only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it’s gone. Not only that, but the lost connection can easily lead to lawsuits.
Doctor, the surgery seems to have gone wrong!
It’s not my fault. I did a perfect job. Tough luck.
Architect, the floor is sagging, the beams were put in the wrong direction!
I don’t care. There’s a three-year statute of limitations, and even then, it wasn’t my job to ensure that the work met the plans.
Airline, my two-year-old can’t sit in a row by herself, and the agent on the phone said you’d work it so we could sit together!
It’s not my fault. If you don’t want to get on the plane, don’t get on the plane.
In all three cases, there are significant operational barriers to magically fixing the problem. But that’s not where the breakdown happened. It happened because a human being decided to not care. Not care and not express anything that felt like caring.
A human being, perhaps intimidated by lawyers, or tired after a hard day, or the victim of a bureaucracy (all valid reasons) then made the stupid decision to not care.
By not caring, by not expressing any empathy, this individual denied themselves their own humanity. By putting up a brick wall, they isolate themselves. Not only do they destroy any hope for word of mouth, they heap disrespect on someone else. By working so hard to not engage (in the vain hope that this will somehow keep them clean), they end up in the mud, never again to receive the benefit of the doubt.
What kind of day or week or career is that? To live in a lucite bubble, keeping track only of individuals defeated and revenue generated?
It turns out that while people like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be seen and to be cared about.
Of course you should use these fraught moments to reinforce connections and build word of mouth. Of course you should realize that in fact people like us get asked to recommend airlines and doctors and architects all the time, but now, we will never ever recommend you to anyone, in fact, we’ll go out of our way to keep people from choosing you.
But the real reason you should extend yourself in these moments when it all falls apart is that this is how you will measure yourself over time. What did you do when you had a chance to connect and to care?
Sometimes the only option is to reach deep into ourselves to offer up caring even when we feel we are too busy, too annoyed, too frustrated or too frazzled. But this is when it makes all the difference. And if it’s just a performance, so be it. Because what happens almost every time is that other person responds positively, warmly, humanly. And suddenly you feel yourself genuinely caring. And find a way to solve the issue.
If you were lucky, you had a chance to hear Gary Takacs and I do a webinar on how to radically reduce no-shows in your practice. My marketing team enjoyed it so much that they thought it would be good to boil the points down to a tip sheet. If you’re interested in laying your hands–or at least eyeballs–on the aforementioned sheet, click here!
To see the whole webinar and a whole slew of other great resources, sign up at our Futuredontics page here.
I’m very excited about my upcoming webinar on June 14th. It’s with Dr. Anissa Holmes who, along with being named one of the top 25 women in dentistry, also has 50,000–yes, 50,000–fans of her Facebook page. I am in awe of this, and we’re going to dig deep into how she managed this.
She’s also going to talk about how to effectively advertise on Facebook, how she generates 50 new patients a month from Facebook alone, and even how to use Facebook to fill last-minute cancellations. We are going to pack your brain with social media wisdom, so don’t miss it!
That’s Wednesday, June 14th, at 11am PST, 2pm EST. Register by clicking here. As always, even if you miss the webinar, if you register you will get a link to the recorded version emailed to you. You may just want to watch it twice!!