Relationships are the bridges that lead us to success, build trust, and loyalty. Practice high-quality communication first, followed by our technical excellence for patients to understand their needs. Communication consistency is the key.
Unclear communication impacts relationships among team members, referring doctors, and vendors that we interact with regularly. By building communication bridges we grow our practice. If we customize our language, and how we speak to our patients and each other, we will encounter fewer misunderstandings, less stress, and improve productivity. Customizing our language is achieved by standardizing and practicing scripts and guidelines collaboratively developed by the team.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Many practices deliver information the same way to every patient. This can lead to confusion and/or resistance. I frequently challenge teams to customize their language to meet the patients’ expectations. 99% of the time they have never thought of changing their delivery style.
Clarify with each patient their communication preferences.
Consider adding questions to your health history template, such as:
- “What is your preferred method of communication?
- “Would you like me to text, email, or call you?”
A more senior generational patient will want a phone call because they enjoy speaking to people and they may not have advanced knowledge of technology. Gen X is all about efficiency and generally prefer texting. Gen Y/Millennials and Gen Z demand texting. They do not look at their email or check their voicemail. If you’re sending appointment reminders via email, you’re probably not getting a good response from younger generations. Nor is it creating a positive experience for them. For more generational guidelines click here.
Putting It All Into Practice
Building relationships is step one in educating and training the entire team.
When referring to the entire team, that includes the dentist. Too often, dentists send their team to an educational event, and they don’t participate. “The entire team” is all-inclusive.
All-team collaboration and learning builds a stable foundation that leads to increased engagement, productivity, and team wellness.
Each team member is responsible for understanding all of the procedures that your practice provides. We should be comfortable explaining and supporting every treatment opportunity we offer to our patients. Each department typically learns its own processes and procedures but doesn’t have an overall view of the practice menu of services. By developing guidelines for speaking the same language to patients, in reference to procedures, we will maximize the treatment case acceptance.
At your Morning Stand-up or Huddle, before you start seeing patients for the day, recognize specific needs of the scheduled patients. For example, “ Mr. Rogers is coming in at 11 am. We will need room #3 for treatment because he uses a wheelchair. He usually requires one or two bathroom breaks and has some special needs which are highlighted in his chart” Meeting the patient where they are and speaking the right generational language will positively impact their dental journey experience. Remember, relationships are the bridges that lead us to success.
Communication Consistency Is Key
Everybody should answer questions the same way all day, every day. That goes back to having guidelines. We know most of the questions the patients are going to ask:
- How much is it going to cost?
- How much does my insurance cover?
- What are my other options?
- Do you have payment options?
- Is this treatment really necessary?
- Can I wait to start the treatment?
As a team, we can come up with many different communications that we use regularly. Add onto this list at an all-team meeting and fabricate team answers for each question to guide the conversation. These scripts allow us to provide consistent information to our patients. They are less likely to misunderstand or ‘test’ the team. If they ask a hygienist the same question that they ask an administrative assistant and get different answers, you’ve lost the patient’s trust. They probably will not schedule their next appointment until they understand the treatment better.
My Concern for You
If we don’t establish a relationship with the patient, they will not move forward with accepting the treatment plan. They may not refer patients because they aren’t as comfortable as they’d like to be in your practice. They don’t market your practice. They don’t contribute to your business growth or production.
If the patient says “NO”, the team should investigate why they are hesitant to commit to our practice and procedure recommendations.
- What went wrong?
- What was the first impression this patient had of us?
- Did the patient have a negative experience?
Ask intentional questions and practice active listening to move the patient from “NO” to “YES”.
Want more communication tips?
Watch the short video below.