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4 ways to make the best first impression possible


You might know the basics of first impressions, but are you doing everything you can to make patients feel welcome?

There’s no doubt that a great first impression has a variety of benefits including higher case acceptance, increased patient retention, more referrals and happier patients. But as the saying goes: you only get one chance to make it.

Most people don’t have a formula for creating a great first impression and it’s often the case that staff members, who are generally nice and pleasant, are more focused on their jobs than prioritizing a first impression. But if it can add a boost to your practice, making a great first impression should become a top priority. 

The basics of great first impressions

You have probably heard that to make a great first impression you should smile, shake hands, make eye contact and listen more than you talk. These are all a great start, but there’s a lot more that you can do.

The most powerful factor in creating a great first impression is to be likable. Front desk staff are so highly focused on completing tasks, answering phones or scheduling appointments that the greeting that they give to a patient may be pleasant, but it’s not warm or welcoming. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t nice. It’s that they the lackluster greeting gives patients the perception that they aren’t likable. The same is true for doctors.

Related article: 8 ways to make your waiting room “the place to be”

Current research is now showing that likability is the single most important factor in creating a great first impression. So how do you get others to see your likeability?

1. Give a genuine compliment

Take the time to stop and give a compliment that lets the patient know that they are important. As I have often heard, “Everybody wants to be important and everybody is their own number one fan.” Take advantage of every opportunity to focus on patients and make them feel special.

2. Get patients talking about themselves

Research shows that 40 percent of people’s conversations are about themselves, their experiences, what they think and how they feel. People don’t simply say that they went to a movie. They tell you all about it, if they liked it, how it made them feel. This is normal and natural psychology.

Talking with patients about what’s going on with them creates an opportunity to build a great first impression with a new patient and build fantastic relationships with current patients. The more you can get another person talking about themselves, the better they like you. Asking questions is a simple way to prompt people to talk about themselves.

3. Make the word “want” a standard part of your vocabulary

People constantly talk about what they need, what they have to do, why they have to do it and that they don’t want to do it. Instead, use language like “I want to tell you about the great opportunity you have…” The reason for changing for language like “have to” to language like “want to” is because it displays more energy, enthusiasm and positivity. People are attracted to positive people.

Related article: What is the first impression your new dental patient has of you?

4. Have a great story

People love to hear stories that help them understand who you are and why you are likable. A fun story about something that happened to you, something that did not go as well as you might like or some other humanizing story helps to create a great first impression.


When trying to making a great impression, the basics of greeting people such as smiling, shaking hands, listening and making eye contact are still important. But if you want to be more intentional about connecting with everyone that walks through your door, the four steps above will virtually guarantee that more people will like you and be loyal patients to your practice.

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