Throughout the years I have said phrases or expressions without really processing the meaning behind the words. For example, how many times have I said, “I’m going to be the devils advocate for a second.” If I think about what I am actually saying, why would I want to do that?? I certainly don’t want to be remembered as “Amy was so good at playing the devil’s advocate”. No thank you! I want to be remembered as “the person who spoke with grace, truth and integrity even when she didn’t agree.”
Communication is critical for building relationships, comprehension, educating others and giving clear direction. We may use words, facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, emojis or choose silence to communicate an emotion or thought to another person. I teach that all things need INTENTION.PURPOSE.RESULTS and how we communicate is no exception.
If you take these following recommendations to heart and adapt the changes into your practice, you will see an increase in case acceptance, a more empowered team and improve your leadership skills. This list is compiled from personal and observed experiences when failing to use intentional words. Conversely, when intentional words are used, the patients response is immediate and positive.
Keep in mind there will be a transitional time to retrain your brains when you and your team commit to these intentional communication recommendations. The most common complaint I hear is “we don’t have time.” None of these strategies will take extra time in your schedule and you can start today!
Communication Habits to Avoid
1. Remove the word “just” from your vocabulary. What the patient perceives is devaluing or minimizing the need for a procedure. It is NOT “just a cleaning”. When a patient says, “I just need a cleaning.” Replace with, “OK great, Mrs. Patient. Let’s go ahead and reserve your next appointment for your hygiene visit.” This takes out the word just and helps to give a higher value for the next visit.
2. Remove “quick check”. Many of us have either heard or said this at one time or another, correct? I know I used to say this all the time. “Dr. Crown will be in in a few minutes to do a quick check.” By saying this, we are wanting to assure the patient that they won’t have to wait long. When the patient sees the walkout statement and notices the “quick check” doctor exam was $100, they start to mentally question if the service provided is worth the price paid. Rephrase by saying, “I’ve let Dr. Crown know we are ready and she will be in shortly to do your thorough exam. While we are waiting, let me show you that electric toothbrush I was mentioning and get your next hygiene visit reserved.”
3. Replace “but” with “and” or “however”. I learned this concept about 15 years ago and I feel like it is the hardest to change. The word “but” seems to flow out of our mouths in our everyday conversation. However, every time I have asked a person “what do you think of when someone says “but”, they say that something negative is about to be said. If we feel that way, most likely our patients do too. An example is, “We are out of network but…” replace with “We are out of network and what we can do for you is…”
4. Keep Eye Contact with Patient when reviewing X-rays. At my last hygiene visit, the doctor was talking to the computer screen and explaining what he saw…to my X-rays. He didn’t look at me until he was done. Honestly, I was annoyed and maybe I’m overly critical because of what I do. I don’t think anyone would disagree that dental professionals want to educate and help their patients. What I have observed is the passion that comes through when a dentist or hygienist is explaining what the X-rays are showing. Depending upon how it’s presented, it may come across as overly clinical or overwhelming for the patient. Watch the patients body language and response when going over next steps and ask clarifying questions. When time allows, review the X-rays ahead of time at another computer screen so you have an idea of where to focus your attention. Understandably, some operatories are set up more conducive for effective eye-contact. Even so, I challenge you to intentionally make eye contact with patients while reviewing X-rays and notice how your case acceptance increases.
5. Replace “confirm with “reserve”. When a team member is making calls to “confirm” an appointment, what is the message we want to relay to the patient? Do we want them to think their appointment is optional? Or that it is OK to cancel last minute? No, we don’t and sometimes the most subtle changes in how we convey a message can increase patient compliance. Instead of “I’m calling to confirm your appointment,”replace with, “Hi this is Amy from Dr. Crown’s office and I’m giving you a courtesy call for your reserved appointment on Tuesday October 30th, at 2:00. We will see you then!” If you have automated systems, check the verbiage and update accordingly. Having a consistent message throughout the office is important for the patient to hear.
As a side note: Proactively setting patient expectations for how your “reserved appointment system” works will eliminate confusion and they will understand your process. Such as, ” You will receive a series of texts, emails and calls prior to your next reserved visit. Please click the “submit” button so our system will hold your reserved appointment.”
Intentional communication is key to practice growth and professional growth. Having an open mind to improving processes and getting the team involved will help to take your practice to another level. When you start listening to how you say things to others and their responses, your confidence will grow and so will your bottom line! Please let me know your personal experiences and your wins and challenges. I’m here to help and guide you to live by the philosophy of: INTENTION.PURPOSE.RESULTS. Keep Smiling! Amy
Contact me anytime!