Every dental team member deserves a fulfilling career in a highly functional dental practice, customized generational appreciation, and strategically developed intra-team and intra-department communications. These are necessary to make their career easy and enjoyable every day.
By communicating confidence with your team, your patient relationships become effortless to develop and nurture.
First impressions are lasting impressions. Research from New York University indicates that people make eleven major decisions about us in the first seven seconds of a meeting. It is referred to as the 7/11 Rule. These are important aspects of our lives, such as educational and economic levels, credibility, trustworthiness, sophistication, political background, and more! Fast judgments, made in just seven seconds, have a long-term impact.
Also, according to this study, we spend the rest of our time acquiring evidence to prove that our initial impression of that person or event was correct, whether it is or not. Learn more at Neural Circuitry of First Impressions.
The ‘secret sauce” to making a great first impression is to break the patterns of expectations, so your patients engage emotionally.
It’s All About Hospitality
A friendly smile and greeting for every patient. A personal story, family connection, or a referral reference. A topic you are comfortable with puts you and the patient at ease.
We’ve all encountered the receptionist that knows every patient and their family members the moment they enter your office. They remember vacation destinations, birthdays, graduations, and grandchildren! You may have “that” person on your team right now. Never let them go; they are an incredible asset to your practice.
There Are Rarely Second Chances
Because people want to believe their first impression was correct, they rarely give the person or dental practice a second chance. For most people, their first impression sticks.
How can we become more aware of how we are perceived as a dental practice and team?
One way is to watch people’s body language and note their reactions to our spoken words. Actions speak louder than words and can give us great insight into the tone the appointment may have.
Another strategy to make a more positive impression is to have an SOP, a Standard Operating Procedure, of how each situation in the office might play out. If you have communication guidelines for common interactions that occur regularly, you have prepared your team well. You have also given them the confidence and empowerment to handle routine office communications. Understand that we cannot replicate every detail, but team members will be more prepared to react, particularly if they notice that the interaction is not going in a positive direction.
Have an all-team meeting and decide, “What are the ten most common situations we have throughout the day?” Develop a script or a specific protocol of how these interactions should evolve.
The practice should analyze every interaction before, during, and after the appointment. All three aspects allow us to influence the patients’ impression positively. Again, having standardized procedures, processes, and conversations can help people walk through different experience expectations of the patient.
Before And After
As a before-experience example, a new patient calls to schedule an appointment, and they are immediately put on hold, or the office doesn’t answer the call. Instead, they play a message indicating they are with another patient or on another line. The number one aspect of creating a positive experience is taking care of the patient that is in the office. However, no phone call should ever be left ringing or going to voicemail. Make it a practice priority. Either of these situations creates a negative experience. Most patients aren’t going to wait, leave a message, or call back. They will hang up, move on, and your practice has lost a new patient.
People Want Help Now
People want to be taken care of immediately. We have to honor that. The positive aspect of immediate engagement is that we can thank them for calling our office and begin establishing a relationship. We’d love to help them eliminate pain or meet their dental wants and needs. Take the time to express appreciation and acknowledge the confidence they’ve put in us by calling our office for treatment.
Once they are an existing patient in the practice, make a special effort to get to know them personally: family members, where they go on vacation, who their grandkids are, who had a baby, and who’s graduating. Knowing personal details can help create a trusting relationship and loyalty to your practice. Be sure to make notes in the patient’s personal section of their chart, not in the clinical notes! This allows the team to get to know them as well.
Having a collaborative working relationship with all members of your dental team brings joy to the work we all do and excitement about serving our patients in clinical practice.