Hinman Dental Meeting: Tips for High-Impact Communication

Lois Banta, CEO and founder of Banta Consulting, provided dentists at the 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting with leadership advice in her continuing education session, “High Impact Communication.” Make patients feel like they are in control of their own destiny, she said. To best communicate with patients, “don’t ask them. Inform them.” A practice must be positive, confident, and factual. Offering verbal and written communication methods is the optimal way to connect with patients.

Lois Banta, CEO and Founder of Banta Consulting, delivered tips on better communication at the 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting. One of the keys when talking to patients, she said, is to inform them, not ask them.

“There is a cause and effect to everything you do in dental practice and everything comes back to how you communicate with the patient.” So maintains Lois Banta.

This was Banata’s message during her continuing education session, “High Imapct Communication,” on Wednesday, March 23 at the 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting.

The CEO and Founder of Banta Consulting based in Grain Valley, Missouri, Banta says, “The field of dental coaching found me. I jumped into the deep end of the pool and started my company 21 year ago. And I still love it.”

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Banta believes that “the secret to a having a growing and thriving dental practice is to make sure to set systems and protocols for communications skills so as to predict success. There’s a lot of talk about corporate dentistry taking over the world and that private practice dentistry will go away. But I see a happy medium for everyone. In many ways we’ve become fear based — there’s too much anxiety that patients won’t want what we have to offer them. It’s important to create positive opportunities. Dentists just have to choose that route.”

Above all, Banta explains, when dealing with patients, “don’t ask them; inform them.” Patients must be made to feel in control of their destiny — either when they are scheduling an appointment, or making a payment, or even in handling a point of confusion or concern regarding a proposed treatment plan, Banta said.

She says that an important rule of thumb, consistent with every dental practice, is to “never ask patients yes or no questions.” For example, she says “don’t say to patients ‘Do you want to make your payment today?’ Instead ask: ‘How do you want to handle today’s payment, cash, check or bank card?’ And don’t ask, ‘Do want to schedule your next appointment?’ Say, ‘Let’s go ahead and schedule your next appointment.’ This puts the practice in a position to better determine what the patient wants — because they tell you what they want.”

Banta calls this “an action-oriented approach done in very positive and compassionate way.”

When communicating with patients, a dental practice must remember three important things, Banta explained: “Be positive, be confident in the purpose of your message, and be matter of fact.” She says that most problems occur because practices don’t preplan a dialogue and ask questions the wrong way.” For example, she says, “If it doesn’t occur to you to ask for a payment, then it won’t occur to a patient to pay their bill.”

And effective communication affects all areas of the practice, Banta explains. “It isn’t necessary just for the administrative team, it’s vital for the clinical team too. Both must guide the patient. When you offer more options, it lets the patient feel as though they are in charge when, in fact, those are the options that work best for the practice.”

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This method works even when reaching out to patients on the phone, Banta explains. “It’s best to say they are overdue for appointment and you are calling to schedule a new one. You don’t ask them if they want to schedule an appointment or are they interested in making an appointment. You inform them and offer quick options.”

Banta says a practice works when it helps the patient identify and receive the best quality care. “Even when handling objections, it’s best to try and anticipate those concerns,” she says. “So it doesn’t become an adversarial situation, ask the patient what concerns they may have about a treatment plan. If the patient has some questions, you’re making it okay to ask those questions. Some patients aren’t confident enough to know what questions to ask so you must fill in the blanks for them.”

When scheduling a new patient, Banta says, it’s always wise to share with them what they can anticipate during the visit. “This is when it’s important to offer verbal and written communication because you don’t how a patient listens and you shouldn’t try and predict,” Banta explained. “And the two messages must mirror each other because some patients listen with their eyes and some listen with their ears. This way presents an opportunity to help the patient listen visually and audibly.”

Discover more Dentist’s Money Digest® Hinman Dental Meeting coverage here.