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Now that dentists understand that clinical skills alone do not guarantee success, they are seeking ways to quickly upgrade other aspects of practice operations. Subjects such as customer service, case presentation, scheduling, collections and other non-clinical issues command more attention than ever from practice owners.
Personal interactions between staff members and patients are a common denominator in all the areas critical to practice growth in the new dental economy. Whether making a new patient feel welcome, presenting a persuasive case for cosmetic treatment, building the value of appointments, collecting overdue fees efficiently or asking patients for referrals, interpersonal skills are vital.
Scripting will improve staff performance in all these areas, and more.
Some of the most caring and conscientious staff members have difficulty coming up with the right words when interacting with patients. Others may have their own ideas about how to deal with patients - ideas that conflict with the “official” practice principles and policies.
By creating scripts for all routine practice-patient conversations, from answering the phone to thanking patients for referrals, practices can educate staff, improve patient satisfaction and increase practice production and income. To achieve the greatest benefit from scripting, practices should use it in four areas:
Scripting lends itself perfectly to meeting staff training requirements. A simple and direct method of familiarizing team members with management systems-step-by-step-script training is extremely versatile. Suitable for formal training programs that familiarize employees with new (to them) systems and groups of systems, scripting also works well for informal cross-training and refresher sessions.
Consisting of simulated dialogues between patients and team members, scripts serve as the basis for role-playing. The team member who needs to learn how to handle the interaction plays herself, while a co-worker plays the patient. By running through the script repeatedly, staff members grasp its underlying concepts and targets and gradually learn how to make the necessary points - and reach the targets - using their own words. They gain confidence, master the practice’s systems, stay “on message,” and meet higher performance standards.
Most scripts are designed to build and maintain strong, lasting relationships between the patients and the practice. From the very first phone call placed by prospective patients, staff members should work to gain trust in the doctor and practice. With scripts containing brief but clear messaging about professional credentials, how much current patients like the doctor, community outreach, use of the latest technologies, and so on, the team can create bonds that enhance loyalty and confidence.
Once a strong relationship has been established, scripts for other purposes become even more effective. For example, motivating patients to accept multi-tooth or cosmetic treatment is much easier if they already trust the doctor.
If a patient were to ask several staff members the same practice-related question, the answer should be the same every time. It’s disconcerting for patients when team members contradict each other or don’t have the answers they need.
In the course of learning their scripts, team members acquire knowledge about the range of services offered by the practice-what they are, why they are used, how they benefit patients. In the same way, staff members also learn about financing options, policies and other subjects they need to be prepared to discuss with patients.
One of the principles of writing scripts is to use power words, like “great,” “fantastic” and “awesome” to convey and generate excitement. Scripting that includes strong motivational language accented with power words will enable even individuals who are normally reserved to display a positive, enthusiastic attitude and influence patients favorably.
The growing importance of non-clinical aspects of practice operation underlines the value of scripts. In addition to serving as a staff training mainstay, scripting facilitates quick relationship-building, providing consistent information to patients, and making the right kind of impression in every patient-practice interaction.
Editor's Note: To learn more about the impact of team effectiveness on practice production, attend one of Dr. Levin’s upcoming seminars. Pick a convenient date and location at www.levingroup.com/gpseminars. You can also sign up for an email Tip of the Day at www.levingroup.com/tipoftheday.