What you say really does matter! Many times it really is what we say, that determines the outcome of our communications with others. Nowhere is this statement truer, than in our interactions with our patients. Do yourself a favor, and record your conversations with patients; when you replay them you might be surprised at what you hear!
We get so caught up in our day to day responsibilities in our dental offices, that at times we are all guilty of listening and responding automatically, and not always in the most productive ways. Below are some examples of how what we say really does make all the difference in our ability to create the results we desire. As you read through these, think about how each one makes you feel.
A patient is on the phone wanting to schedule an appointment…… Instead Of: “Are you a patient here?” Say: “When is the last time you saw Dr. _______________?”
A patient is requesting a 7:00 a.m. appointment……… Instead of: “I don’t have a 7:00 a.m. available for months!” Say: “I would really love to accommodate you, but my first available 7:00 a.m. appointment is 6 months away. What I can do however, is put you on our Quick Call List, that way when a 7:00 a.m. appointment does open up, I can give you a call. How does that sound?”
A patient is cancelling an appointment……………….. Instead of: “Would you like to re-schedule?” Say: “Let’s go ahead and re-schedule you.”
A caller is requesting to speak to the office manager…………….. Instead of: “We don’t have an office manager”. Say: “What is your call in reference to?”
While you are on the line speaking to a patient, your other line rings………………. Instead of: “Hold please!” Say: “May I place you on hold?”
When communicating the request for a patient to pay at the time of service………… Instead of: “You’ll have to pay” Say: “Payment is due at the time services are rendered”.
A patient is on the phone requesting that the Doctor call in a prescription, not for a routine refill on prophylactic antibiotics…..... Instead of: “You’ll have to come in; Dr. Smith doesn’t prescribe over the phone.” Say: “Dr. Smith feels that it would not be in your best interest to prescribe medication before he has thoroughly diagnosed your condition.”
A patient is requesting an appointment on a Friday, when the office is closed……… Instead of: “We don’t work on Fridays!” Say: Dr. Smith reserves Fridays each week for continuing education, to enable him to stay abreast of the latest technologies in patient care.”
A patient walks up to the front desk and says “I have a 10:00 appointment”……… Instead of: “Name please!” Say: “You must be Mary, we’ve been expecting you.” Instead of: “Have a seat!” Say: “I will let Dr. Smith know you are here.”
A clinical team member goes out to the reception room to escort the patient to the clinical area for treatment: Instead of: “Mary Jones!” Say: “Hi Mary, nice to see you! Please come with me.”
The schedule coordinator is attempting to fill an opening in the schedule………… Instead of: “We had a cancellation.” Say: “We had a change in our schedule.”
When calling to confirm an appointment with a patient……… Instead of: “We’re calling to confirm your appointment”. Say: “We’re calling to say we are looking forward to seeing you.”
A patient arrives on time for their appointment, but the Doctor is not ready yet……. Instead of: “Dr. Smith is running behind.” Say: “Dr. Smith had an unexpected interruption in his schedule, and it will be about _____ minutes before he is ready for you. May I offer you something to drink?”
A new patient is calling to schedule an appointment for a “cleaning”……………. Instead of: “We don’t do cleanings on the first visit.” Say: “In order to diagnose the type of cleaning you require, Dr. Smith will see you first for a comprehensive exam.”
A patient is complaining about fees being “too high”…………………………….. Instead of: “That is a lot to pay.” Say: “We are proud of our fees, because they represent the quality of our care.”
Instead of: “That is a lot of money.” Say: “Quality care is an investment in your health, and you deserve the very best.”
A patient is requesting to schedule a major restorative appointment in the late afternoon, but the Doctor prefers to schedule these earlier in the day………….. Instead of: “We don’t do crown and bridge in the afternoon.” Say: “Dr. Smith does crown and bridge procedures early in the day, when our lab technician is available.
A patient is expressing a complaint about the office……….. Instead of: “I know how you feel.” Say: “I understand.”
A patient is being de-briefed following a dental procedure…………………….. Instead of: “If you have any pain afterwards…..” Say: “Most patients don’t experience any discomfort after this procedure.”
When discussing anticipated insurance benefits with a patient………………….. Instead of: “Your insurance will pay……..” Say: “Based on the information we were given by your insurance company, I estimate your portion will be…………………..”
Now, can you see how the first responses in the preceding scenarios impact negatively on each situation? More importantly, can you see how the suggested responses help encourage the person on the other end to cooperate more willingly to accomplish our desired outcome?
I never cease to be amazed at the power of suggestion, no matter what age, gender, or culture we are dealing with. Human beings respond to positive reinforcement, and they shy away from negativity. Let’s learn to work smarter, not harder! The choice is up to you!