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Secrets of a dental mystery patient


Have you ever had a mystery patient at your practice? We look at why they might be just what your practice needs to improve its work ethic.

Have you ever heard of a Mystery Shopper? A person who is hired to come into a store and evaluate every aspect of the experience. They may be looking at:

  • Was the service friendly and helpful?

  • Was the store clean?

  • Was it easy to find what he/she was looking for?

  • Did it cost what he/she expected it to cost?

You get the idea. Now, let’s take a twist on that idea-what if someone was hired to come into YOUR dental practice and evaluate every aspect of their experience? Now take it one step further-what if your raise was dependent on these results?

Read more: 5 things that will make you stand out and get a raise

Scary thought? It shouldn’t be. My philosophy has always been that, if you do it right, there is nothing to fear.

Like mystery shoppers, "Mystery Patients" are looking for problems. These include:

  • Were reading materials interesting and varied?

  • Did the receptionist smile and make you feel welcomed when you arrived?

  • Did your appointment start on time?

  • If the staff person was running late, were you informed of this?

  • Was anyone rude to you while in the office?

  • Did the staff violate HIPAA and talk about another patient in your presence?

  • Did you feel you were listened to and your concerns addressed?

  • Were questions about the bill addressed to your satisfaction?

  • Would you come back to this practice and refer others?

These are a sample of questions that might be asked of a “Mystery Patient” to answer in their report. How does it work? Your office manager or dentist hires a company or individual and keeps the entire transaction secret from the rest of the staff (You know how quickly gossip can spread in your practice).

Then, you explore what information the practice is looking for with the “Mystery Patient” company. The key is the questions that a dental practice wants answered. You need to have a few “Mystery Patients” to really make it worthwhile. Why? Because, human interaction has so many variables.

Read more: 4 ways to improve recall

If your hygienist is having a bad day because of something going on at home, it may be a one-time issue, not an ongoing one. If the dentist is annoyed because there was an emergency early in the day that is making them late for every appointment, it may just be an isolated problem. But, if it happens on a regular basis and a pattern has been established, it needs to be scrutinized in order to resolve the problem. What better way than by hiring a “Mystery Patient”?

You wonder why a dental practice would pay for this service. It’s simple. Customer service is the name of the game. People do business with people who they like and who meet their needs. If someone is dissatisfied with your service, they may or may not tell you. They may or may not come back to you. Of course there are the hot heads who will raise their voice and really let you know the problem. But, there are many people who will just disappear, and you wonder what happened to them. A “Mystery Patient” is preventative customer care. The goal is to identify the problem and fix it.

Read more: The 4 reasons this dental patient left your practice

Am I saying this to make you feel paranoid going to work? Absolutely not! But, would it change how you perform on your job? Let’s be honest. It would make me change my behavior pretty darn quickly. Why? Because when I know that I am being evaluated, it motivates me. I personally want to have a stellar work record and an environment that I am proud to work in. To do so, I need to think that others, not me, are continually evaluating me-whether it is real or not.

What do you think? Have you met a “Mystery Patient” or gotten a report from one? If so, share your thoughts on it, and whether or not you would recommend this idea at your practice. Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com

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