Patient Experience |6 min read

Make an Unforgettable First Impression

Real World Insights from AADOM Authors - Kelly Lynch

“You will never get a second chance to make a first impression!” – Will Rogers

We can all agree that a ringing telephone is the lifeblood of any dental practice. The worry starts when we realize the phone isn’t ringing! We need and want that telephone to ring, and it should always be greeted as an opportunity, never an annoyance. But that’s easier said than done sometimes.

Let’s face it, days get busy as we often juggle many projects simultaneously. With the daily tasks piling up and the clock ticking away, we find ourselves wishing the phone would just stop ringing for an hour.

Some may know this trick; it will sound silly to others, but it works. Place a small mirror next to each telephone in your office to make the best first impression when answering the phone. This small mirror plays a vital role in creating an unforgettable first impression. When that telephone rings, check yourself, take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and SMILE! Now you are ready to greet the caller with the absolute best version of yourself, and they will immediately hear the smile in your voice.

Remember, all tasks take a backseat to what is happening on the telephone.

The first impression of the dental practice is in the hands of the employee that you have assigned to answer the telephone! This is a critical position, as this person can make or break the relationship with your caller. This team member exudes confidence and clarity of the practice vision and projects positivity on every call.

How you answer the phone can set your office apart immediately!

“Hello, thank you for CHOOSING Sunshine Smiles; this is Kelly. Can I help you?”
“Hello, thank you for CHOOSING Sunshine Smiles; this is Kelly; with whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”

How often do you hear amazing phone greetings like these? Have you already determined you called the right place? WOW! You can help me?

Think about this for a moment. How many dental offices are located within one or two miles of your dental practice? Two, five, ten, more than that? For some reason, this potential new patient has CHOSEN to call YOUR office! For your patients of record, each time they call your office, this greeting reminds them that they chose you and you are always there to help them. Your website, Google reviews, and your reputation in the community are key factors that drive patients to call your practice.

Thanking the new patient for choosing you is the first step to setting you apart from the practices around you.

Be prepared to say “yes” as much as possible. If your office can’t help with the patient’s need, offer them alternatives in your area. A list of offices providing services you may not lets that caller know you care. They may remember how you took the time to help them and become a wonderful new patient in the future, or, better yet, share the experience with their friends.

Having a specific NEW PATIENT RESEARCH FORM on brightly colored paper lets the team know you are with a new patient and you are not to be interrupted. Can you also get the caller’s information and enter it directly into your software? Yes, however, entering their information digitally won’t alert your team you are with a potential new patient. This may sound antiquated in a world of technology and striving to become paperless. The new patient research form assures them that any team member who takes a call will obtain the same information from each patient every time. This consistency will avoid problems that may arise in the future.

The form not only gathers information such as name, address, phone number, date of birth, and insurance information; this tool allows you to gather information specific to the patient’s needs and comfort. Why did they choose to call you? Where did they hear about you? Why did they leave their last office? What can you do to make their visits comfortable? What is MOST important to them for their dental health?

Remember when I talked about being super busy all day long? Getting this information down on paper, blocking a reservation in your schedule, and then entering the information once you hang up is one way to keep your thoughts in order and the details correct.

After answering all the patient’s questions, make sure you have appointment times ready to offer. A good rule of thumb to keep the energy high and the patient hot for the appointment is to get them into your practice within 48 hours. These new patient blocks should be in your practice management schedule with the doctor or a hygienist. Each office is unique in how they onboard new patients. Regardless of how they enter the practice, be sure to have times available.

In all practices, especially smaller dental offices, team cross-training is critical to keeping the patient flow running smoothly. Having the proper training and the ability to check a patient out, collect payment and schedule the next re-care appointment are all functions that anyone on the team should be able to perform. When more team members can perform these functions, those talking with new patients can dedicate their full attention to them. This is also extremely helpful when the administration team members work with patients, review treatment plans and finances, or schedule restorative care. The ability of everyone to care for the patients and keep the flow running smoothly shows the professionalism of the practice that is unique from the other practices in your area.

When a new patient enters the practice, stand up, look them in the eye, smile, and welcome them with a warm handshake. With COVID pretty much behind us, the ability to perform these small gestures will put them immediately at ease. Patients of record deserve the same personalized greeting. Look them in the eye, smile, welcome them to their appointment, and tell them how happy you are to see them. Don’t let daily “tasks” get in the way of consistently providing exceptional customer service. Keep this in mind; they chose to return!

These simple steps apply to every team member, every time, for every patient! Make your welcome mean something to them. Your office is about to embark on a long-term relationship, and authenticity will help secure your ability to earn their trust. Establishing this emotional relationship with your patients will help when presenting treatment and having them feel comfortable moving forward with dental care in YOUR dental practice.

The bottom line is that no detail is too small that it can’t tarnish an impeccable first impression!

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About the Author

Headshot of Kelly Lynch

Kelly Lynch, MAADOM, retired from dental office management in 2022 and works as a team development coach with Productive Dentist Academy. She travels the nation, helping turn dental team members into highly productive, cohesive, and successful teams by implementing systems and introducing team-building activities. Kelly is a lifetime member of AADOM and received her MAADOM designation in 2021. She is a member of the Speaking Consulting Network and DSI and loves speaking to audiences and helping them ignite their passions for the greatest profession ever, Dental Practice Management.

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