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Do You Wow Your New Patients?

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You know the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is reality and couldn’t be truer in this tough economy when production is down and you have open chair time. Is your front office making a successful first impression when they answer your phone and there is a new patient on the other end of the line?

There are multiple threads on the Dentaltown.com message boards where Townies rave about the Jay Geier technique. They say it has dramatically changed how their front office communicates to new patients. I wanted to know more about this technique so I e-mailed Jay and asked him about his company, The Scheduling Institute. It sounded good so I referred him to our office manager so we could take a look at implementing this program into our dental office to see if his techniques could make a difference in our practice.

According to Jay, more than 90 percent of all dental patients, regardless of their referral source, will call your office before their first appointment. Think about your own buying habits. Much of the money you spend personally and professionally is initiated with a telephone call. What do you do when that call doesn’t feel right? It’s easy to hang up, isn’t it? The last time I checked, we create no production unless a person gets in the chair. In other words, even when we hire someone to market for us, we handle the telephone calls and are ultimately responsible for getting the patient in the chair.

Its sounds simple, but Jay’s research and discoveries are right on in my opinion. He is opening eyes on this subject better than anyone else I know because he’s not just handing your front office a script, but instead implementing strategies through training, monitoring and incentives. The program teaches your dental staff how to handle inbound calls along with the entire patient intake process. The other thing I liked about his program is that it involves the use of tools you already have in your practice, using current staff and current marketing initiatives, and then improving them to give your new patients that great first impression.

The first step to implementing this program in your practice is to have Jay evaluate how your staff currently handles calls to determine if you need his services. We found at our practice there were many ways we needed to improve our first impression! Jay’s excellent staff made “mystery calls” to our office posing as potentially new patients. The calls were recorded, evaluated and then sent to our office on a CD. The front office staff could then listen to the calls along with verbal and written critiquing of the call by the mystery caller. Our initial scores were low in some key areas so we knew we had room for improvement! An example of an area we needed improvement on was taking control of the call. We learned in our training to take control by offering the patient two appointment time choices. This technique, while very simple, proved to be a valuable tool for scheduling new patients!

Our next step was to invite Jay’s trainer to our office for a full day of training. In a nutshell, we learned the new patient phone call is broken down to five components – Greeting, Questions, Transition, Dual Alternative Close, and Data Capture, which we practiced using roll playing techniques until everyone felt comfortable. We also learned how to implement and track our front office staff incentive program which is very motivating and positive for everyone. The training was a success and the front office staff walked away feeling focused and armed with the correct tools to schedule new patient appointments. The training materials include boot camp CDs, training videos, teleseminar topics, staff office manuals and dentist manuals. The goal is to have everyone in your office who answers the phone certified by the Scheduling Institute. At the left (on page 6) is some feedback on the training from my front office staff.

By the way, our mystery calling scores have since gone to a perfect score! Once you’re sure your front office staff is actually getting a large percentage of new patients scheduled how do you treat these new patients that arrive at your practice? Does your staff greet them warmly with, “Welcome to our practice,” and an inviting smile? Does your staff offer them a bottle of water while they are filling out paperwork? Do you have new patient gifts for them when they leave? Doing the “little” things is so important and makes such an impact on that first impression.

Now how do you clinically treat your new patients? Do you schedule them with the doctor first whether it’s for an emergency toothache or a patient wanting to get a cleaning? New patients should never see the hygienist first unless they are under 18 years old. The patient should be scheduled with the doctor for a full set of X-rays and a full exam along with charting all existing restorations. In our office the next step is to have one of our hygienists come in during the appointment, introduce herself and take the probing scores. It makes sense for a hygienist to do the probing since she will be the person doing the work. I have lectured for years on the best way to communicate perio conditions to the patient. I insist the hygienists in my office read all probing scores out loud to the patient starting with brushing surfaces – facial and lingual. They tell the patient they are checking for gum infection on the brushing surfaces. The numbers should be 1 to 3 for healthy gums. Anything higher than 3 might be a sign of infection. Next, they tell the patient they are going to check for gum infection on the flossing surfaces – probing mesial and distal surfaces. Separating the numbers by brushing and flossing surfaces is a great educational tool. Patients know better than anyone that they’re not flossing enough. This makes patients realize more than anything that they do indeed need periodontal therapy because they know they aren’t flossing. So this technique massively improves case acceptance. Based on the hygienist’s findings she is able to recommend a case type to the dentist, as we have a Perio Program in our office that includes five case types. To see the Today’s Dental Perio Program and Case Types visit Dentaltown.com Web site using the following links or click on the Downloads link found on the right hand side navigation bar from any page on the Dentaltown community:

The doctor then goes into the operatory and fully explains the diagnosis with the patient using visual aids for assistance; X-rays are brought up on the monitor in front of the patient and the intraoral camera is used to show the patient areas of concern. The patient needs to fully understand the health of their gum tissue and what treatment will be given to them when seeing the hygienist on their next visit. All of this is again gone over when the patient checks out and schedules their next hygiene visit(s) depending on the diagnosis.

When a new patient has a great first impression, from the first voice he/she hears on the phone to the thorough and professional treatment and attention they are given at their first visit, you have then WOWed them into feeling like this will be their new “dental” home for years to come.

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