We were on time, the patient loved us, everything went great right until they arrived at the front desk and said: “I need to talk with my spouse and I will call you back”. You probe a bit more. They say, “I need to think about it.” Once again, another customer votes with their feet as you see the back of their head leaving your office. What went wrong? What could you have done better? Here are the top eight counter intuitive things that flip on that “no” switch quicker than you can say bankruptcy.
- Never cleaning teeth on the first appointment. Just saying, new patients only call your office for one of two things. For a problem with a tooth (emergency), or they want to get their teeth cleaned. Sounds like common sense that any office would want to try and give our new patients more of what they want and less of what they don’t want, right? Apparently not. I am not talking about cleaning a patient that needs scaling and root planing on the first appointment, but a majority of new patients want their teeth cleaned on that appointment and I, for one, vote on trying to do this as often as possible.
- Having the dentist diagnose the patient as the first step for a new patient. Yep, another Captain Obvious strategy here. No one wants to come in and in the first 10 minutes hear the list of the numerous things wrong in their mouth. Most of you can at least agree that we are pretty good at finding things wrong in patient’s mouths. The error in thinking hinges on the fact that at that point in time, you do not have the rapport with the patient to make this a logical first step. Like it or not, patients always will have a sneaky feeling that you, the dentist, have some ulterior motive to telling them they need treatment (on the trust list of consumers, dentists are number 24, just above a used car salesman). The easy strategy here is to simply never do this.
- Thinking that case presentation is when you tell them what’s wrong. Case presentation, as well as our hoped-for acceptance, started with the first phone conversation that your office had with the patient. It then continues with that first meeting at the front desk and moves throughout the office. Get anything wrong in this route to acceptance, and the patient will vote you off the island and move on down the street to the next dentist. Case presentation is the job of every person in the office. To be successful, it has to be staged in a very precise way while embracing the nuances of each patient’s different personality quirks and adapting to arrive at success. A “yes” comes from consistently exceeding our patient’s expectations by partnering with our staff to perfectly stage every interaction with our patients.
- Thinking that patients want what you have to sell. Let me explain. Far too often we move our interests in dentistry onto a very narrow track as an effort to infuse engagement back into our lives. Take a course on anything, and the following Monday we become a hammer and nail. Magically everyone that comes in needs that new service we mastered last weekend. Of course, the staff is watching and wondering what’s going on, but you hyper-focus your treatment around this newest interest. The winners in the business of dentistry will have a wider range of services for their clients, and based on their needs, will be able to meet those needs based on what the patient wants and is willing to pay for.
- Wanting the dentistry more than the patient does. This is subtle and comes from various causes. If the patient ever feels like you want the dentistry more than they do, you are going to see them vote with their feet as this new patient, once again, makes their way out your front door. I can’t say this strongly enough, but getting a “yes” demands that we listen to our patients and give them what they want without compromising our clinical ethics. The problem is that only the patient gets to decide if they trust your office enough to purchase goods and services there. Wanting the dentistry more than the patient does can often come from excitement about the finished product, or even from desperation when you looked at your Profit and Loss Statement. No one wants to be “sold” dentistry, so pause and find out what they want as you tell them what they need. A balance can be struck where needs and wants can both be accomplished.
- You never passed the sniff test. Every patient that walks into your office has a phantom list of needs they want met. Each will compare you to every other office they have ever been in. Add this to the fact that you are dealing with an educated consumer, and most of us will admit that getting the “yes” vote has become more difficult. Maybe you kept them waiting, had a front desk that failed to acknowledge and help them, the hygienist was rushed or rough, they didn’t like the fact that they never got their teeth cleaned, you were not in network even though some large practice management group told you to tell them that you “take all insurances”. The list is endless and dentists are notorious in falling short in giving patients what they want. Forget about exceeding their expectations, showing up has never been enough and no one needs or wants another average dental office.
- You couldn’t fit the dentistry they wanted into their budget. Fact: The average adult cannot afford one $500 out of pocket expense without having to dip into savings. This includes staff, patients, and based on the number of maxed out credit cards I see, even the dentists themselves. Price and the ability to fit this into their budget will always be a consideration. We must become experts at insurance, outside lending institutions, and phasing the treatment to accomplish the wants and needs of the patient. Beyond becoming that expert at the mechanical protocols, we also have to be able to read and understand our patients as we move through the financial discussions that will ultimately lead to a “yes”. Many of us are considered to be “too expensive” by our patients. Not necessarily because we charge more, but that we find more and do a poor job of staging the treatment and how we do financial arrangements.
- Overwhelmed and under impressed. Constantly keeping in touch with how your patients perceive the entire process of becoming a patient in your practice means reading the emotional commitment each patient has to each step in the process of moving towards “yes”. We could line up 100 people on the street and most couldn’t find one defining difference in most of the dentists they have visited. You have to be remarkable or you are invisible.
Getting to yes is a process. If you would like to pull back the curtain and see how it is done, just click this link to find out how you can get 100% Case Acceptance and The Hygiene Factor. This is a blue print to doubling your practice results in 2020. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS