September 2011

I got a feeling … “that tonight’s gonna be a good night…”

Doesn’t that line from the Black Eyed Peas song make you feel good? What about …. “I’m walkin’ on sunshine … woooah…” If you’re my age, that has to make you smile!

Here are a few easy tips to put more feeling into your patient interactions at the front desk which may help increase your appointment scheduling success. At Patient News we’re only face-to-face with clients at trade shows or occasional in-office meetings. We do all of our business by phone and Internet, so the importance of voice inflection, being present, and focusing on the caller and smiling while we’re on the phone have all been central to our frontline training program. But sometimes when you do something all the time and it becomes second nature, you can slip and you need that little reminder to bring a particular component back into focus.

That’s why continuing education is so important, not just for the big tasks we’re taking care of, but also the little things that make a big impression on clients and prospects (and each other).

Last week when I attended our account management team training course that covered voice inflection and how tone impacts our success online, it brought back the importance of properly handling phone and online interactions. (You know … It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it). They had us do a few fun (and a little embarrassing) role plays to show how much what you’re feeling when you speak impacts what you’re saying. Any frontline team can gain benefit from this exercise, in fact, we can all learn how our mood is impacting others and how we can easily adjust to create a much more positive interaction for the other person (whether it’s in person or not). We’re in the dental industry so we all know that we’re supposed to smile when we’re on the phone. But the course took it one step further by asking us to put “feeling” behind the smile.

We all know this is true. If you’ve been around in business for any length of time you’ll remember the little fuzzy guy that was stuck to your phone to make you smile when you answered it. As dentists, you’ll probably be even more emphatic about the impact of a smile and how people can “hear” it. But for frontline folks that are trying to book a new-patient appointment or reactivate an existing patient, when they take it further than just putting on a smile, it can have a big impact. The trainer asked us to say things as if we were bored, flirtatious, angry, sexy, excited… Try this at your next morning huddle as a group … “we need a volunteer…” As if you are bored, say the following words (out loud)…
- Good morning. Dr. Smith’s practice.
- Yes, we have one-hour whitening.
- We can fit you in at 2:00.

Now, think of something that makes you feel really good. What gets you going and makes you happy? Mountain biking? Skiing? Watching your favorite team win a championship? Transforming a patient’s smile that had lost hope for one? Running to hug your child after time spent apart? Riding a roller coaster?

Now we need another volunteer! As if you’re really happy and excited, say the following words aloud…
- Good morning. Dr. Smith’s practice.
- Yes, we have one-hour whitening.
- We can fit you in at 2:00.

Start by making sure you have a warm welcome script for everyone to use who answers your phone. You want the new patient to know you’re happy they called your practice – this will start your relationship with them on a positive note. When someone answers the phone with enthusiasm and brightness, it can’t help but lift the callers’ spirits and overall enjoyment. People remember what happens first and last, so also script your closing comment. Again, amp up your enthusiasm. It will instill confidence and a positive first impression with the new patient. Always say thank you and add a simple “looking forward to meeting you when you come in on … You’re going to love our practice” message (but not in your bored voice).

Beyond scripting, how can you stay in that “happy” zone all day when you’re dealing with crying children, complaining patients, late patients, impatient patients, collections, maintaining the schedule, checking patients in and checking patients out, reminder calls – your colleagues and their various moods? Here’s a saying that I like to remind myself of: We can’t control what happens to us, we can only control how we react to it. Stay positive.

Put a mirror at the phone so when answering, you can see yourself smiling. Place personal pictures and things that make you feel good where you can see them while on the phone. Run the role play exercise as a group, have a few laughs, and then work together as a team to make sure your practice is not only positive for patients, but also for your entire team.

If you’d like more information about generating more new patient calls, please call our expert team any time for a free consultation at 888.377.2404. We are available from 8:30am-6:00pm EST Monday-Friday. Patient News is here to help you Acquire, Retain, & Grow!

Education Builds Trust & Earns Big Bucks For Dentists

A recent consumer study reported that the decline in patient trust of their dentist has plummeted severely, and it’s not even close to what dentists think it is. And when I say it’s plummeted, I’m not kidding. What do you think? When we randomly polled around our office staff responded with 70%, 65, 45 … 25% … but no, while 75% of dentists feel that the public holds them in high regard, according to the study, patients don’t even rank a 10% trust level.

In a recent blog, we mentioned the fact that “of dentists who reported declining revenues, only 50% were going to do anything about it.” Just like your own fitness level, for example, it’s simply unrealistic to presume that your business situation is going to change if you don’t do anything about it, particularly when consumer confidence is at an all-time low. It’s nothing new to hear that patients want to avoid the dentist. But combine that with the fact that they do not understand the importance of dental health, don’t place a priority on it, don’t want to spend money on it and have low trust in the industry, it’s difficult to imagine why patients would reach out to your dental practice without the addition of education or any sense of urgency to seek you out – unless, of course, they are in pain.

And experts don’t expect things to change soon.

According to Dental Market Research (DMR), we shouldn’t expect recovery for dental practices until 2012. They cite that the main reason for the drop off in demand for dental services is consumer choice. Everywhere you hear recession, recession, recession, loss of jobs and insurance coverage, and decline in cosmetic services. The fact is, they state, that the majority of households most likely to visit the dentist can afford to pay for dental treatment because, what has happened, they feel, is that these patients are saving more of their income at a rate higher than at any time during the past twenty years. Even so, according to DMR, unfilled appointments, declined treatment, and unrealized billings have resulted from discretionary spending choices – consumers chose to spend less on dentistry.

This is reflective of patient activity all across the country. Many dentists are reporting sliding revenues. Some are reporting that while their new-patient numbers remain steady, their top 3-5 “big” services are down. The ones that are growing are start-ups, and those who are actively marketing.

It’s not all negative – if you take a proactive approach. Consider the lack of dental health information available in mainstream media. If your practice is the one to help patients avoid painful and costly emergency treatment, if you’re the one that’s regularly educating your community about dental health and wellbeing, you will establish yourself as the expert in your field and the one patients turn to first. But it’s not just about getting more people to walk through your door. It’s about bringing in better-quality patients as well, and the DMR report shows that those ideal patients are out there and have the money to pay.

According to Pitney Bowes/Peppers and Rogers Group, direct mail contributes most to establishing a relationship, and consumers value organizations that make an effort to communicate and build a relationship with them through the mail. However, a low-cost flyer or postcard presentation isn’t what builds confidence. Combine that with deeply discounted special offers or misleading advertising lures, and you’ve potentially got the mix that’s contributing to the drop in practitioner trust. At a time when trust is low and people are not making educated choices about discretionary spending on dental services, the importance of educational content in your marketing mix cannot be underestimated. Educated patients are more profitable patients. It’s far better to maintain a high-quality professional approach, build trust over time, and justify the dental spend through education.

Like your past Yellow Pages patients who would book an appointment until they found another practitioner that would help them faster, cheaper, or more conveniently, patients searching on the web are comparative shopping so they’ll find your competition too. They will keep their appointment until they find another provider that’s faster or more convenient. When you proactively solicit the target audience you want with high-quality educational messaging, you’ll obtain the caliber of patient you want and you’ll build deeper and more trusting relationships over time.

Dr. Suvarna in Antioch CA launched her direct mail acquisition campaign with Patient News in the summer of 2010. Her combination new-patient program incorporated a highly personalized and effectively written educational newsletter, establishing her as the expert in her community along with a large-format postcard featuring the same overall look as her newsletter, maintaining brand integrity and generating maximum awareness for her practice. She says “Use Patient News because it’s the only advertising method with concrete results. We’ve definitely had the phones ringing since we joined PNP.”

In one year, Dr. Suvarna realized a 20% increase in revenue and had a 30% increase in patient-of-record numbers.

For information on dental direct marketing, patient education, and generating more practice revenue, please call a PNP Account Executive now to reserve your free 20-minute consultation at a time that is convenient for you. 888.377.2404, or email us at info@patientnews.com. Your call will be answered live Monday to Friday between 8:30am – 6:00pm EST, or it will be returned within one business day.

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