A dental taste test

March 21, 2012

Has this ever happened to you? The other day I was watching TV and eating some pistachios, and before I knew it, I had eaten nearly half the bag. I realized that if I didn’t stop I might not be hungry for dinner, so I decided to have one last nut. I fished one out, cracked the shell, bit down and immediately my mouth was filled with a harsh, bitter flavor. I realized the nut I had grabbed was burnt and overdone, and the taste was so bad I had to run to the kitchen just to rinse my mouth. After that, I didn’t even want to look at the bag of pistachios.

Has this ever happened to you? The other day I was watching TV and eating some pistachios, and before I knew it, I had eaten nearly half the bag. I realized that if I didn’t stop I might not be hungry for dinner, so I decided to have one last nut. I fished one out, cracked the shell, bit down and immediately my mouth was filled with a harsh, bitter flavor. I realized the nut I had grabbed was burnt and overdone, and the taste was so bad I had to run to the kitchen just to rinse my mouth. After that, I didn’t even want to look at the bag of pistachios. I had completely lost my hunger for them. My snacking satisfaction had disappeared within seconds, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Later that night, I realized my pistachio experience isn’t much different than the experience many patients have at the dentist. They’re treated well and are given great service all throughout their appointment, only to have the entire positive experience blown at the very end by one bad moment-be it a distracted front desk, mishandled billing or even simply not being shown the way back to the waiting room.

Remember, the last taste is the one that stays with you. While rushing patients out of your operatory or leaving them waiting at the appointment desk may seem like small, forgivable mishaps, they often can have a lasting effect on the perception your patients have of you and your office. You can do everything right and perform great dentistry, but if your patients have a bad experience as they’re leaving your practice, everything positive you’ve done up to that point won’t matter. They’ll leave your office thinking they received poor service and believing they don’t matter to you or your staff.

Avoid the urge to rush

It’s simple human instinct to want to rap things up quickly. We live busy lives and if your practice is doing well, your schedule is probably packed a little too tightly. The urge to rush someone out of the chair so you can seat the next patient is only natural. Likewise, with how busy your front desk can get and how important it is to greet patients as they arrive and answer the phone within a few rings, it’s not surprising departing patients often find themselves waiting to pay their bill or schedule their next appointment. Your business depends on turning patients over and oftentimes turning them over very quickly. It’s understandable why service may slip a little at the end-but understandable or not, it’s bad for your business and for your reputation.

Introduce the closer

To address this, pay close attention to how your office handles patients at the very end of their appointment. Think about the impression you’re leaving them with. If you find it’s not a pleasant one, try making some simple changes. When a patient’s treatment is complete, walk that patient from the chair to your front desk. Once there, personally introduce him or her to whoever will be handling their billing, saying something like, “This is Jill and she’ll be handling your payment today. Please let her know if you have any questions.” Ideally, Jill would be ready to go with the patient’s bill, but if she’s busy with another patient or on the phone, a smile and some reassurance that she’ll be right there will send the message she’s aware of the patient’s need and will help that patient as soon as she’s able.

Act by acknowledging

One of the most common mistakes made at the front desk is failing to acknowledge waiting patients until the receptionist is ready to help them. There’s never a good reason to do this and it communicates an extremely negative message to your patients. Personally handing your patients off to your front desk will help ensure all patients are greeted and served as promptly as possible. It will make them feel like they were taken care of during every stage of their appointment, and as a result, they’ll leave your office feeling like they’re important to every member of your team.
That’s a great taste to leave them with, and one that will last.

For more internal marketing tips visit goaskfred.com or preview the patient communication products available on patientactivator.com.

About the author

Fred Joyal is CEO of 1-800-DENTIST and author of Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth. He can be reached at goaskfred.com.