Name something that we use freely every day, but if used incorrectly can cost us dearly? Did I make it too easy? The answer, of course, is the mighty word. Indeed, some of the most powerful weapons in the world are words. We use them in our thoughts, when we speak, and in written form. As sharp as a knife and as accurate as a marksman, our words speak volumes and can build up or tear down relationships instantly. Nathaniel Hawthorne perhaps said it best, “Words: So innocent and powerless as they are as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Does your team know how to combine words for the good of your practice?
Communicating or “combining words” is an essential part of our everyday duties. Good communication skills help to build practices and transform an ordinary dental appointment into an extraordinary visit with friends. How simple would it be to change “Dr. Wonderful’s office, may I help you?” to “Thank you for calling Dr. Wonderful’s office, this is Lisa, how may I help you?” Or what if instead of telling a patient “Your balance due is $100,” we told them, “Ms. Patient, today Dr. Wonderful did an exam and X-ray and your total is $100. How will you be taking care of that today?” These small yet simple changes make a big difference in how the patient perceives our approachability and friendliness.
Let’s go a step further and remove the negativity from our words. What if instead of saying, “No, we don’t take your insurance,” we said, “At Dr. Wonderful’s office, we will be glad to file with your dental benefit company. Let me get some information from you so that we can verify your coverage and call you back with a benefit breakdown.” By taking the “no” out of the answer, we can now move forward with collecting the patient’s information and telephone number. After verifying their dental coverage, we will call them back and deliver on our promise. This amazingly easy task builds a level of trust that helps solidify the patient’s loyalty to our practice.
Please note also that I removed the word “insurance” from this conversation. It is important that patients learn that dental benefits are just that benefits. It is not an insurance policy as they know it. Benefits and limitations set forth by employers and plan administrators are not easily understood by the average patient. This is another area in which we can use good communication skills to help patients better understand their coverage. Instead of telling them to get their policy book and read it, perhaps we should be inviting them to bring their coverage books to our office. Then we can help them understand their dental benefit package. This will take a little more of our time but, once again, the benefit to the patient is priceless and the benefit to the practice is a loyal patient who returns and refers others to the practice.
Words. They are an integral part of our day. We use them to communicate with everyone around us, but we should never use our words in a way that would cause harm to or in any way disengage our patient/practice relationships. While words are indeed a powerful weapon that can destroy much, they are also the one thing that can bring us what is needed most for a successful dental practice returning patients. Never underestimate the power of the mighty word!