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Patient Prism's Dental Industry Blog

Here you'll find hundreds of articles and video interviews with dental industry experts on the topics of DSO and practice growth, dental software, call-tracking technology, patient experience and artificial intelligence fueling the dental industries ability to treat more patients and change lives.

Your employees are the face of your healthcare business, and patients rely on them for assistance anytime they require it. Regardless of the size or specialty of your dental practice, how your front desk staff interacts with patients will determine whether or not patients return to you. One bad customer service experience has the potential to undo years of hard work in attracting and retaining patients–not to mention the hit to your online reputation and bottom line.

The best combination is exceptional patient care and outstanding customer service. Customer service is so vital that even the finest quality care will fail to retain patients if it is not effectively supported. Consider the following statistics: 

  • A single poor customer service experience causes 65% of patients to cut ties with healthcare providers.
  • A typical patient tells at least 15 people about a bad customer service experience.
  • When polled, 62% of patients say the knowledge of a front-desk executive was critical to their positive experience.
  • For 72% of patients, having to repeat their complaints to more than one front office administrator is a sign of poor customer service.

(Source: The Help Scout:)

guide

Tip 1: Patients need a guide

When patients arrive at the front desk, they often feel lost in a sea of information, worries, uncomfortable emotions, and questions just starting to rise to the surface. The instant they hesitate to speak, frown, tense up, tear up, or find it difficult to smile, they need TLC. 

Softly ask questions to start a quiet conversation about what is bothering them, and professionally, compassionately respond. If you ignore their needs, they will not move forward with the care they need or will seek a different dental home. 

Most often the reason behind their discomfort is one or more of the following common human responses:

  • Fear of dental procedures
  • Embarrassment about their oral health
  • Inexperience navigating dental care
  • Worry about the cost of care

Sometimes they want to understand better why treatment is needed or the cost of treatment. Sometimes, they are whelmed with concern that a recommended treatment will be only one in a series of future costly treatments to solve their oral health issues. 

Short staffing has made it more difficult for dental practices to provide the personalized attention they intend to give their patients but it is more important than ever to guide patients through the rough waves of anxiety and information fog. Guidance is one of the most important roles of the front-desk staff…to assure the patient is feeling “cared about” and “cared for.” The more information, kindness, and respect you give patients, while discussing their concerns and options, assures them that you and the entire “care team” are there “for them”--the individual patient. Trust grows.

 

Tip 2: Smile as you handle patient’s demands

This training tip appears to be straight out of a textbook. It may seem evident that service must be provided with a smile, but how often are your employees able to do so? Unhelpful and rude employees turn off patients. Hire for emotional intelligence and do not tolerate incivility, gossip, brooding, or apathy.

 

Tip 3: Show your patients that you care about them

Check that your front-desk staff understands the notion of "genuine care." Nothing generates more brand ambassadors and long-term connections than a dental office of workers who care about their patients as individuals and show it. Ensure that your employees are adequately trained to greet patients and engage in meaningful conversations. The essential skill of listening is linked to this "caring" attitude. Teach your employees to listen to the patient's concerns and respond appropriately.

 

Tip 4: Always maintain a professional and polite tone

Difficult conversations occur occasionally. Perhaps, a patient is concerned they were misbilled or an insurance claim has not been processed. Perhaps, a patient had to wait in the reception area longer than normal and feels peeved. Perhaps a patient insists on a specific appointment time or is upset that your hygienist cannot fit them soon. Sometimes a conversation is going well and then you try to hurry it up to get back to your work and the patient feels disappointed or worse yet disrespected. 

An apathetic, frustrated, impatient, or defensive attitude perceived by a patient–even just once, can injure the provider-patient relationship and practice reputation. Customer service training should include what it means to be service-oriented with patient needs coming first, listening skills, conversation management skills, and tips for how to manage difficult conversations. 

Your Tone of Voice Matters More Than You Realize

 

Constant feedback and reminders to be attentive and polite, compassionate, and understanding are also training on the go. Keep giving feedback and reminders. A positive way to do this is by recognizing and applauding best behaviors as they occur. “I know that was a difficult conversation. You handled it well! I know I can always count on you to give patients the attention they need.”  

 

Tip 5: Keep a positive attitude by resetting emotions between patients

There will be times when patients are upset because their dentistry failed, and there will be times when patients don’t accept what is in their best interest. Whether a patient is angry or a front desk team member is frustrated, the front desk must strive to be positive and encouraging. A training topic can be the importance of pushing the reset button between patients, breathing deeply and relaxing, then focusing on the next special person who presents themself. By constantly returning to the bright side of emotions, front desk receptionists will have the greatest positive influence on patients and fellow team members. They’ll also be happier themselves!

 

A free infographic for your dental practice team to learn WOW customer service

 

Tip 6: Make an effort to truly know your patients

A dental or medical practice that remembers its patients adds a personal touch. Every employee, from doctors to support staff, should remember the names of patients they have regular contact with. On their arrival and at the start of each interaction, your front desk should use the patient’s name, inquire about their well-being, and assure the patient that they’ll shortly be escorted to the dental chair. A great protocol is offering a bottle of water to all patients when they arrive. For new patients, the receptionist should introduce herself and indicate where to find the restroom. 

When possible, receptionists can spend a brief minute chatting with arriving patients…perhaps, ask about the patient’s drive, mention the weather, or ask how long the patient has lived in the community…simple things like that. Getting to know patients a bit at a time will naturally flow. 

Patients appreciate getting to know some personal things about individual dental team members as well. Large high-touch dental practices have a front desk staff member give new patients a tour of the office, and in the course of the tour, they introduce new patients to others who are not with another patient at the time. For example, “This is Amelia. She’ll tell you about payment and financing options and explain our in-house, patient discount plan. She’s lived here for years and knows a lot about the community.”

 

Tip 7: Always be helpful

In small dental practices, it is common for dental assistants to answer the phone when needed, and a helpful spirit is always present. But in large dental practices, employees tend to keep to themselves within their departments, staying focused on their own tasks. 

Front desk training should include the types of situations in which front office team members are expected to be helpful to clinical team members, for example, during patient handoffs, scheduling, and communicating messages and deliveries that arrive from outside the office. These are all situations when having the service mindset to help one another benefits everyone associated with the practice and the practice bottom line.

 

Tip 8: Go the extra mile to learn about dentistry and how to best answer patient questions

Not only do you want to train your front-desk employees to know everything there is to know about their department, their role, and what they are accountable for personally, you want to. encourage them to learn about other departments and dentistry. 

Role-playing helps new front desk employees get up to speed fast. How to answer frequently asked questions about procedures, fees, financing, and insurance should be modeled, and practice policies about answering these questions should be fully explained as part of new employee orientation. 

Coach your front desk to ask for assistance from you if they do not know how to best answer a question. If the question is asked over the phone, they can say, “I’m relatively new here but I want to help you, and I’d like to get the best answer I can for you. Would you mind if I ask my supervisor [or the dentist] for the answer and give you a call back in a little while?” 

 

Tip 9: Respond quickly

Customer service training must include quick and prompt responses. Make sure that callers are on hold for only a short time. Patient Prism’s artificial intelligence, live call coaches, and Client Success Team have assessed millions of recorded new patient phone calls. We know that many on-hold callers will hang up after 30 seconds and call another dental office. If you are short-staffed and know this will be an issue, having an entertaining on-hold recording is helpful. For example, a recording could start with the message that the receptionist will be right back to them and then contain information about office hours, current “specials,” and a periodically changed “Did you know?” dental tip–all presented in an upbeat tone of voice.

Nothing is more frustrating for a patient than waiting days for an email or phone call to be returned. Establish a customer service policy requiring a callback to be made within the hour that a message is left. If an existing patient requests an update on their insurance claim or when their new crowns will arrive from the lab, let them know you will make every attempt to get them an update within 24 or 48 hours. If you are unable to get the information within the time you stated, leave them a message that you are still working on getting the information.

In the case of a new patient call or text, respond ASAP! The sooner you get back to them, the more they know you genuinely care about them and want them as your patient. If you do not respond within an hour or the same half-day, they may go on to call another dental office. This is one of the problems Patient Prism is designed to solve. Patient Prism assesses each new patient call and sends an alert with actionable intelligence within two minutes, so you can call back and win back prospective patients within minutes. The typical Patient Prism client converts 30% of the patients they call back. Imagine the new patient revenue your practice could accrue by capturing 30% more of the patients you want.

 

Tip 10: Carefully choose your customer support training

Have you ever gone to customer service training only to discover that the trainer is unqualified to teach anyone anything about customer service other than how not to do things? 

Dental coaches provide customer service training expertise you may not have yourself. If you're doing the training in-house, be sure you are well prepared. 

Note: The Patient Prism platform assists with phone reception training. One of the goals of the Patient Prism call-tracking platform is to provide constant feedback notes about incoming calls that fail to schedule the caller for an appointment. To improve customer service and increase the conversion of high-value patients over the phone, the platform includes Patient Prism Academy. The academy has hundreds of short training videos featuring 100 of dentistry’s best-known coaches. Your front desk can do self-initiated training by viewing one to five-minute video segments whenever they have time throughout the day. The short videos cover a vast range of topics, situations, how-to tips, and samples of what receptionists might effectively say in various situations.

 

Closing Thought

Today’s patients seek healthcare providers who can provide the best of both worlds–excellent patient care and fast customer service. Good customer service may not be enough to outcompete other dental practices in your community for a finite number of high-value patients. Strive for exceptionally great care and service that is quickly responsive and attentive to the needs and desires of each patient.

 

More Articles About Customer Experience:

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