When bringing new faces to your office first impressions can mean the difference between a loyal patient and a one-time visitor who leaves a bad review. Whether it’s over the phone or when someone walks into your dental office, the first few seconds are key. It’s been proven that within a tenth of a second new patients will decide whether you are knowledgeable and trustworthy based on your facial expression alone. Making sure that they are greeted within the first few seconds shows that your office cares about them being there and you are organized and efficient.
First impressions need to be sincere and timely. Likewise, how you answer the phone dictates how the patient will interpret the conversation. If you are smiling when you answer the phone, it can help demonstrate that your office is welcoming and a safe space where they will be heard.
Communicating Without Words
One of the most important elements of sales and customer service is using every form of communication. Roughly only 7 percent of what is communicated is understood through language. Another 38 percent of communication is through music — or more accurately how you hear something. Lastly, 57 percent of communication is entirely through body language. As mentioned above, smiling when answering the phone is a way to communicate bodily language without sharing a physical space.
Navigating the world of insurance payers can be a maze. You know this realm far better than your patients, which makes you their ultimate resource. When you are explaining their bill be clear in what you are saying. Tell them directly about what services you offer and what their insurance will cover. Take time to ask context questions and investigate why they are calling.
Asking questions to find the real reason why they left their last dentist lets you get ahead of a potential future problem. One that could lead them away from your practice. This may take some digging; the words someone uses can conceal the patient's real concerns. If they haven’t been to the dentist in a while, it might be because their last experience cost them more than they expected or the staff was rude. Use affirming questions to find the hidden layer behind they say.
Being direct isn’t rude, it’s actually the best form of kindness. When speaking with a new patient, be upfront about the next steps of their treatment. Let them know what it will cost and how you will advocate for them with the insurance payer. It is important to note that in the medical and dental fields, there are strict standards about what you can and can’t say to a patient. Violation of those laws can open the door to legal ramifications.
When communicating with anyone — not just a new patient — it’s a good practice to use terms they understand. Listen to the way they describe pain and reflect those words back to them. This shows that you care about their clarity and by proxy, their health.
The biggest lesson here is to make sure you and the patient are on the same page when they leave the office. This will help maintain trust between you. Although your office knows what is best for a patient’s dental care, making a verbal contract about the next steps helps the patient feel in control and respected. Make sure to follow up in a timely manner. They are coming to your office for appointments on time, so ensure you are respecting them as well.
Be Unique, Be You
No matter what you do, don’t try to be someone you are not. It comes off as insincere and can damage a relationship before it has even begun. Be personable, the imperfections of your diction or mannerisms might make you more relatable. Last but not least, the golden rule is always the best guideline. A little goes a long way when it comes to making a new patient feel at home.