Creating the New Patient Experience--Part II
New Patient Calls Could Mean $200,000
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
Like it or not, new patients are often quick to draw conclusions about the practitioner’s interactions with the dental team. Since first impressions are lasting ones, this fact can actually be advantageous. A patient’s initial visit provides an excellent opportunity to properly introduce him or her to the practice and to impress the patient with outstanding customer service. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity will help to create patient loyalty and will add long-term value to any practice.
Levin Group has found that documented systems, including the use of scripts, help practices gain the most out of patient contact opportunities. Systems and scripts help instill consistent quality throughout the entire customer service process. In other words, the patient’s experience is maximized every step along the way.
Great Customer Service Equals Greater Profit
High-quality customer service translates into greater production and increased profit for the practice. The difference in how new patients are handled can literally mean an additional $200,000 or more per year in practice revenue.
- New patients account for 40% of all doctor production in the practice.
- New patients generally contribute significantly higher-dollar cases to dental practices than existing patients.
- New patients ten to refer more new patients than current patients.
One easy way to turn the new patients into a great patient is to implement a simple, quality-oriented system for handling new patient initial phone calls.
The New Patient Phone Call
When a new patient calls the office, an upbeat, motivated, and enthusiastic front desk coordinator should answer the phone with a smile. They should greet the new patient using the same basic script every time. This means that each time a new patient calls the office, he or she will receive the same high level of customer service. To maintain consistency, all team members should be trained to follow the script, with no exceptions. The script will not only ensure that the front desk coordinator covers all of the key points, it will also encourage active listening.
Once the patient indicates an interest in visiting the practice, a second, “welcoming” script should be used. The script should include phrases such as, “I am delighted that you called our practice”, and “We always enjoy meeting new people”, designed to make the new patient feel more comfortable and confident in his or her choice of dental practice. The front desk coordinator should request basic information from the new patient, then inform the patient about the practice using an “introductory” script. This script should start with “Let me tell you a little bit about our practice…” This key phrase and an explanation (lasting no longer than 30 seconds) will inform and impress the new patient.
The patient will feel that he or she has the information needed to comfortably start down a path towards dental health. The introductory script is also designed to help increase confidence in the practice. The confidence created by the front desk coordinator plays a key role in a patient’s future case acceptance decision-making process. The front desk coordinator should gather all necessary information to ensure that the practice is fully prepared to welcome and treat the new patient. This may involve an inquiry about dental insurance with questions such as, “Will you be using any dental insurance so that we may be fully prepared for you?” The goal is to help the practice be more properly prepared for both managing financial arrangements and efficiently processing claims.
Patients often fear that a visit to a dental practice will be costly and painful. Instilling confidence in the practice’s procedures and processes, particularly with regard to insurance benefits, puts the patient’s mind at ease. This will further help a patient to more readily accept various treatment recommendations.
When scheduling the first new patient appointment, remind the staff that this appointment should occur within 7 to 10 days from the initial call. This time frame reduces the chance that the patient will lose motivation and change his or her mind about keeping the appointment. The front desk coordinator should inform the new patient that a confirmation call will be provided as a custom courtesy service 48 hours before the appointment. Unfortunately, most practices do not utilize confirmation calls and miss a great opportunity to make a great impression on their new patient. Positioning the calls as a service helps new patients understand their value and the clinician’s concern with their oral health.
Explaining an appointment confirmation call should generally mirror the following: “Mr. Jones, as a service to you, I will be making a courtesy call to you approximately 48 hours before your dental appointment. I will be delighted to contact you at the phone number that’s most convenient for you and take this opportunity to address any questions you may have regarding the appointment.” The front desk staff should gather both home and cell phone numbers. Levin Group has found that people today are more likely to respond to their cell phones than their home phones. Studies indicate that 81% of all confirmation calls are left on voice mail systems and that more than 80% of all offices do not request a return call from patients to confirm their appointments.
Finally, rewelcome the new patient to the practice. Let the patient know that the staff is looking forward to meeting him or her, and provide directions and location information. Before concluding the call, as new patients whether they have any other questions with a script such as, “Are there any other questions that I may answer for you at this time?” Then reconfirm the time and date of their appointment with a script such as, “Great, Mr. Jones. Then we are looking forward to seeing you on Thursday at 3 pm.”
There is only one chance to make a great first impression. Making the most of the initial patient contact will go a long way toward turning an ordinary new patient into an extraordinary practice relationship. A practice built on healthy patient relationships will directly increase the practice’s profit and productivity. Systemizing and scripting the initial new patient phone call is a great method for introducing a new patient to the practice and its services, and will make a great first impression—every time.
*Founder and CEO, Levin Group, Baltimore, Maryland.