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In the new dental economy where consumers are more hesitant to spend money, it is imperative that practices build value for treatment in the minds of new patients. Yet this can be a more difficult process for dentists to master than it appears.
Dentists are highly respected professionals who provide a critical healthcare service. One might think that this alone would be sufficient to create the highest sense of value in the minds of new patients. Unfortunately, it is no longer enough. In our sluggish economy, dentists must take measures that effectively build value. Doing so represents one of the fastest ways to improve practice performance in terms of acquiring new patients, generating referrals from them, gaining greater case acceptance, and improving overall patient satisfaction.
Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If new patients are to perceive value in the practice and the oral health care it provides, the doctor and team must consciously project that value in every interaction these patients have with the office. The following steps will prove helpful in meeting this important objective.
Every time the phone rings in the practice, there may be a prospective new patient on the other end of the line. For this reason, the team member answering the phone must always be prepared to start building value in that initial conversation. Most such calls turn out to be pleasant exchanges and often result in new patients being scheduled. However, much more can be accomplished during this first encounter, especially at a time when more prospective patients may be comparing practices before choosing one. As the first impression given to new patients, this phone call is an outstanding opportunity for creating value. Guided by excellent scripting, the front desk coordinator can project warmth and enthusiasm, build trust in the doctor and team, and reinforce patients’ confidence that they have chosen the right practice.
All too often, when new patients present for their first appointment, they are welcomed by the front desk coordinator, given forms to fill out, and expected to wait until they are taken to a clinical area to meet a hygienist or doctor. In many cases, they do not even meet the doctor until after the hygiene appointment. This process can be significantly improved by transforming it into a meaningful and impressive new patient orientation. Trained with scripts, appropriate team members build value in the course of providing an overview of the practice, the credentials of the doctor and team, the quality of clinical services available, and the practice’s commitment to providing exceptional customer service. If possible, the orientation should include a brief personal introduction to the doctor before the hygiene appointment.
While performing a thorough clinical examination to establish the state of patients’ oral health and needs, the doctor can also lay the foundation for a lasting personal relationship. A few simple questions will bring out a number of facts about patients’ lives, interests and priorities - all information the doctor and practice can reference during future appointments to further the relationship. By shifting from a strictly professional to a professional-and-personal interaction, this approach can dramatically enhance the value of the practice to patients.
These and many other value-creating steps can and should be taken by any practice that has a serious interest in thriving in the new, more challenging dental economy. Value has to be built into every patient contact. Whether it is a new patient’s first hygiene visit or an emergency visit from a lifelong patient, every interaction should be recognized for its value-building potential. How to make the most of all such opportunities should be on the agenda at practices’ monthly staff meetings.
At a time when clinical excellence no longer assures success, dentists can strengthen their practices by taking these and other steps to create value in the minds of patients. The place to begin is with new patients, but the principle applies equally well to all patients. By developing the habits of value creation, practices will build stronger relationships with new and existing patients, enabling the dentist and team to provide both outstanding clinical care and a high level of patient satisfaction.