1. Work on your soft skills.
Dentists typically know how to prep a tooth and render quality dental care.
But often, their skill sets come up short in communicating the need for the patient’s treatment. How do you improve communication?
Try focusing on these soft skills:
- Engage the patient with eye contact. Nothing communicates “I care about you” more than looking at another person in the eyes. Dentistry is an intimate affair. You need to understand and embrace this.
- Be an active listener. Patients expect that when they meet with their Doctor, there will come a moment that their concerns are truly heard. Listen before you speak. Ask open-ended questions that lead to unraveling the patient’s true concerns.
- Create value. If you expect the patient to consent for treatment, then the treatment’s value must be clearly conveyed.
- You create value in your examination explaining the benefit and the “ugly” if the treatment is not rendered.
2. Same-day treatment.
Why? Because unfortunately, most new patients do not return. Per the American Dental Association, the average new patient retention is 41%. The average general dentist keeps only four out of ten new patients beyond their first appointment. The average practice has $500K to $1M in unscheduled treatment plans. Why do patients not return? Patients have a variety of excuses, but only 3 exist: Time, Fear, or Money. These concerns need to be addressed to gain same-day treatment. Allow enough time in your schedule for new patients, so you have the time! Patients will often make the time if they understand your office policy for accommodation. Your front office needs to be experts in financing and presentation.
Providing a definitive diagnosis is also key. Too many options mean the patient must review, consult, consider, etc. This means they will not be deciding today. A definitive diagnosis clearly communicating your professional recommendation will help the patient decide today.
3. Be a leader of your team
In the dental office, a great time to show leadership is in the office meeting. If you choose to take the advice from Steve Jobs at Apple (why wouldn’t you?), weekly office meetings are the time and place to talk about everything going on in the practice. In these settings, tremendous teamwork from the top filters down. Teamwork is dependent upon others doing their part and trusting that they will come through. And doing it well. And bringing it all together in a product. In our context, the product is elective dentistry.
4. Commit to Cosmetic Dentistry
There is an inherent patient demand for cosmetics in every practice. You need to communicate your services to your patients, and your staff will see that you are committed to this significant area of your practice. Your waiting room should “shout out” We do Cosmetic Dentistry!” by utilizing a “Look Book” and Counter cards. Include a Cosmetic Dentistry Questionnaire with all your new patients and recall patient’s documents. When you perform your examinations, utilizing whatever visual aids are available, we make sure the patient understands the treatment plan to improve their smile.
5. Understand and follow through with your existing recall patients
Your existing patients are your greatest asset and the best source for new patients as well. Keep them coming back by prescheduling your hygiene appointments. Even if the patient is not sure of what is happening 3-6 months from now, it is still best to get them on the books.
When and how you communicate to your recall patients is important- postcards, emails, texts, phone calls, etc. Have a set system in place and mix it up for the best results.
And make it easy for the patient to respond!
Automate your recall system as much as possible- automation software is readily available.