In a post-pandemic world of increasingly virtual interactions, dental health care is still as in-person as ever. Treat that as an advantage—and reap the rewards.
By KAY HUFF, RDA
GARTNER, A $5.5 billion (annual revenue) consultancy that provides business insights to top companies, has found that two-thirds of consumer brands successfully compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. That’s far more than those who compete on price or
features, according to its 2018 study.
The same consumers who place the highest value on great experiences become patients the instant they walk through your doors. They don’t leave their expectations behind or shift them dramatically when they come to visit you. Therefore,
with the cost of treatment rising for dental health care providers, and insurance reimbursements falling, it’s more important than ever to put patient experiences at the forefront of your marketing, new patient acquisition and patient retention efforts.
Dental practices have an advantage in this area, even in today’s post-pandemic world of “hybrid” customer experiences. The reason? Dental practices have maintained the same basic ratio of in-person and virtual contacts. True, “virtual” now means more than just the telephone; it encompasses texts, social media chats and virtual consultations. Yet despite these changes, you still get far more face-to-face time with patients than consumer brands do. And the same skills that help you excel at creating memorable in-person experiences can be extended to the phone, social media and, well, FaceTime (if your practice uses it).
With all that in mind, it never hurts to refresh ourselves on the basics of stellar patient interactions. Despite your best efforts, it’s easy to start taking shortcuts unintentionally—especially in today’s world of dental team member shortages. Let’s take a quick look at some best practices of which we should all remain mindful, and ask whether we’re still taking time for them.
Meeting, greeting and seating patients. Welcome every patient—by name—because you recognize them from the photo in your PM software; it makes people feel special. If there’s a wait time, be upfront and tell patients, but make sure it’s never more than 10 minutes. Create a positive environment, with upbeat programming on your television and aromas that invoke calm. Make it standard for all team members to introduce themselves, and one another, by name.
Performing PIT stops. Preventing misunderstandings is much easier than correcting them. Always “inform before you perform” any procedure. There are three specific pieces of information that need to be clearly communicated to patients about their dental appointments: procedure, investment and time. We call this “PIT” for short. These policies and systems are fundamental to building a relationship of mutual respect with your patients. The clinical and front office teams are held accountable for verifying the PIT stop has occurred before a patient leaves the office. For example, the clinical team walks patients to the front desk, verifies the procedure and time with patients for the next visit and tells them the front office team member will go over their personal investment for the next visit.
Making care calls. Building and maintaining relationships is what keeps patients returning for years. Many practices go the extra mile by placing care calls. These enable the practice to maintain relationships with patients even after they have left the office. Ask about their visit. What did they feel went well? Where could you improve? Share with them your excitement about being able to meet their needs.
Dental practices are lucky. Interactions are becoming more impersonal, but we get to connect face-to-face with human beings in highly meaningful ways. Regularly checking in with ourselves and reviewing best practices make those interactions more satisfying and rewarding for everyone involved.
KAY HUFF, RDA is the Practice Solutions Ambassador for Benco Dental, bringing more than 40 years’ experience as a professional coach specializing in business systems, team motivation, leadership and profitability. She is one of Dentistry Today’s Leaders in CE and Dental Consulting. Contact her at email@example.com.