Normal is not enough. Aim Higher!
A year ago, it seems like we were all asking the same question - is this the ‘new normal’? Our world has gone through 2 years of craziness – from the shutdown, to vaccines to boosters to … what is next? Smile! I see your teeth so are masks gone for good? I flew for the first-time last week without having to re-mask between sips of water on an airplane. Now my question is – are we getting back to normal? And what exactly is NORMAL?
Maybe normal is not what your patients are really looking for. In my experience of all areas of society, especially in healthcare, normal is closer to toxic rudeness than civility.
There is a division throughout the populace that borders on indifference, which is worse than hatefulness. We talk incessantly about customer service – smile when you answer the phone, acknowledge people when they approach, thank them for coming in today.
In most offices, that is normal. And that is enough.
I’m challenging you to find out what is more than normal? How can you ‘kick it up a notch’? Think about these situations:
1. Referral to specialist
Normal: hand the patient a card for the specialist; let them know they need to call to schedule an appointment Above Normal: call the specialist for the patient and schedule the appointment; let the patient know what they will be expected to pay for the consult. Aim Higher: make sure that you send the patients’ information, insurance, etc – to the specialist along with all the x-rays, prior to being asked (typically when the patient is in the specialist’s chair).
2. New Patient appointment
Normal: get pertinent information and schedule the appointment; a text/email confirms the appointment Above Normal: call the patient back once you receive the insurance information to review the details and what they can expect at the first appointment Aim Higher: the doctor calls the patient a day or two before the first appointment to welcome them to the practice and that he/she is looking forward to meeting the patient. Following appointment, hand-written thank you from team.
3. Completed Treatment
Normal: sit patient up and let them know that they are done Above Normal: hand the patient a mirror and show what was done and give thorough post op instructions on caring for restoration. Ask for questions. Aim Higher: Doctor follows up with a post op call that evening; additionally, a ‘thank you for completing your treatment’ letter goes out, which explains how to protect their investment by maintaining routine hygiene visits.
4. End of Appointment
Normal: sit patient up and let them know that they are done; send the patient to the front Above Normal: escort the patient to the front with a power hand-off with details about today’s appointment and when the patient will need to return Aim Higher: hand the patient a Chapstick (personalized, of course) and warm towel to ‘freshen up’; have the next appointment scheduled.
The final thought is on the topic of Language - When you speak with your patients, consider these things:
What are the words you use – are they friendly, welcoming and sincere? No problem vs You're Welcome For those that know me, know that those words are like nails on a chalkboard to me. No problem? No worries? Was it a problem? Was it a worry? Whatever happened to ‘You’re Welcome’; I absolutely love ‘My pleasure’.
You can say a lot with your body language – how do you greet or speak with a patient? Do you make and maintain eye contact? Do you square your shoulders, so you are facing directly at the person with whom you are speaking? Are you attentive and engaged in the conversation?
You are the expert in dentistry, even if it’s your 1st day, you still know more than the patient. Take time to help them understand their treatment, their policy, how things work in your office. I know that you have to explain insurance 100 times a day; and now you get started on 101. It’s the job. It’s what is expected out of an office that prides itself on the utmost in customer service. It’s giving more when you don’t want to but you do because that who you are.
As the world slowly steps back into normal, I challenge you to take a moment to examine how you can kick normal to the curb and aim for higher, better, more. Show your patients that you appreciate them and are grateful that they chose your office to entrust their dental care.
Denise Ciardello, Consultant
Denise is co-founder of Global Team Solutions. A professional speaker and published author, her enthusiasm and knowledge about the dental profession has helped many dental teams. She brings experience, insight, and creativity into her management style, along with a sense of humor. In a profession that can cause anxiety in some dental employees.
Denise’s consulting approach is to partner with doctors and team members to help them realize the dream of creating a thriving, successful practice.
Denise can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org