A very good friend of mine, Gary Takacs, is very successful practice consultant, and he is also a partner in a dental practice with Dr. Paul Nielsen in Phoenix, Arizona. He recently told me this story of a patient who was referred to the practice by 1-800-DENTIST.
It was a direct connect from our call center at 9:30am, and the patient was a 44-year-old Hispanic woman. In fact, when the receptionist heard that the caller spoke mostly Spanish, she asked the dentist, who speaks it fluently, if he wanted to get on the phone himself with the patient. So Dr. Nielsen picked up the phone, and the woman told him she had a failed bridge that had been done years ago in Mexico that she now wanted fixed. (Pause here and reflect: how many dentists or receptionists would have rejected this caller at this point, deciding that she had no money because she had dental work done in Mexico?) Dr. Nielsen asked the patient if she would come in that day at 12:30, his lunch hour, and he would look at her. When he examined her, the bridge was literally falling out, so he did some temporary repairs to hold it in place, took impressions for a new bridge which he would deliver four days later, and the woman made a partial payment that afternoon on the $6,000 new bridge. In cash.
Let’s look at the lessons of this:
1. They spoke to the patient in her native tongue. Even if patients speak English as a second language, people prefer to discuss health issues in their native tongue;
2. They got the patient in that day. There was no way she was going to ignore this problem for several days—she would have found another dentist;
3. They didn’t pre-judge the patient.
This is a busy practice; it’s not like they have openings all over the schedule. But they do their absolute best to get new patients in the same day, even if they have to juggle the schedule around or work through lunch. And because Dr. Nielsen didn’t pre-judge the patient, he started a $6,000 case on the first visit. It’s a very easy trap to fall into, believing we can tell over the phone if the patient is “right” for the practice. My philosophy is, get them in and give them a great experience of dentistry, of a caring, friendly group of professionals. Even if they can’t afford the dentistry at that moment, a lot of them are going to want it, and will eventually find a way to afford it. Not all of them, of course, but you can drastically affect what percentage will by your actions. (And this fact, that it’s a percentage game, is the topic of my next blog.)
By the way, this patient has already referred three new patients to the practice. Which is why, in a city where the recession has slammed Phoenix’s economy as bad or worse than most areas of the country, their practice is growing every year. It has a lot to do with Gary’s guidance and advice, but a whole lot more to do with the whole team following that advice.