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Monthly Archives / April 2014

  • Apr 27 / 2014
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MASTER THE ART OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS P5

Now, this gets into the selling phase of the call. I know that for some of you, selling is a negatively charged word itself.  So, if you prefer, there’s a slide on this, but I’ll just share it now, selling for me is nothing but giving people what they want.  It’s communication with a purpose.  It’s empowering people to make informed decisions.  That’s what selling is.

We’ve been victims of bad sales, which is again, just like a bad script.  So, we think all sales is bad, but I have news for you, folks. We are all in the sales business. The last time you convinced your spouse about where you wanted to go for dinner, you made a sale, and the key to selling is understanding what’s important to the people, to your prospective patient in this case.

One very important distinction along the way is understanding the difference between an attribute and a benefit.  An attribute is just a physical characteristic. We’re in a three-story house.  We have an elevator.  We have a parking lot.  We offer the Wand. Those are all attributes.  The benefit is the translation of that attribute into something that is important and valued by the person with whom you’re communicating.  Think of it in terms of A to B.  You have to get from A to B, attributes to benefits.

Here are some examples:  “We offer complimentary smile analysis.” A wonderful way to translate attributes to benefits to simply use the word bridge which is often what that means. That means, “You can visit our office without cost or obligation to choose for yourself how we can help you receive the care that you want and deserve.”

Here’s another one:  “We offer oral DNA sample testing.”  That means that “by simply testing your saliva, we can identify bacteria that could be responsible for your oral health and prescribe treatment to help you with your overall health,” which leads to oral system care which I’m very passionate about and want to lead practices into this tier of care where helping improve patient outcomes through collaboration and providing some really high level diagnostics and protocols that might help save a person’s life.  So, you might want to say, “We’re committed to oral systemic health in our office, and that’s because not only does that enable us to help save you money but by focusing on prevention and home care, we might even save your life.”

Then, of course, when it comes to the Wand, there are almost limitless benefit statements you can offer, and it’s going to make the difference between people coming into the office and not.  Think about what a great way to connect to a caller by saying, “We offer the Wand which means we can administer anesthesia in a pain-free manner.  So, you know you it will be painless and hassle-free.”  For those of you who haven’t seen it, that’s the unit.

Hey, Danny.  Can I add something to that?

Please.

Yeah.  This is Bob DiAntonio.  You mentioned earlier in the presentation about the importance of the call and how it’s like a first date with the patient.  We like to think of the Wand and how we market the Wand is really when we’re underneath the road, anesthesia is the first date with the patient.  There’s a lot of dentists that can provide quality [54:57].  It’s really that date with the syringe that determines how satisfied that new patient is and whether they’re going to come back to you or not.  The Wand, it’s an unmatched standard of care, difference maker.  It takes the guesswork out of syringe insertion, and it really will make the difference with patients going to their websites, posting on their social media, “I can’t believe Dr. Bobrow uses this technology. I didn’t even feel the injection” versus “Oh my gosh. I just went to the dentist, and it hurt like heck. I’m glad it’s over.”

That’s absolutely true.  There are a number of milestones in a relationship, and I think this is one where either the relationship is taken to the next level or it isn’t. I’m glad you mentioned, and I think you and I talked about doing a subsequent webinar on social media because we’re very passionate about that, too.  We agreed about setting up the social media sites so that they’re optimized, and you’re getting them visited connected and friended and liked which is vital.

Ultimately, where that rubber hits the road is the content that you share, and to truly go vital, it’s important, vital that there be something that the typical patient can embrace, get excited about, and share. I agree with you. I can’t think of any experience that qualifies for that better than an experience with the Wand especially when people experience, in the past, such an unpleasant experience with anesthesia.

With this, Danny, one last thing.  With social media and to what you said, you want to piggyback on your patients’ social media forums.  Obviously, you’re going to want to set up the dental clinic with your own social media and things like that, but in this particular case, you’re letting the patients do the marketing for you.  You’re letting them go back and encouraging them to post on their network because dental marketing is generally a local game. 

So, what better way than to have your patients posting on their social media network how great their experience was at the clinic, particularly when it related to the number cause of fear and anxiety in dental which is syringe injection. So, I agree with you. I think a presentation on social media could be a completely different animal and be very well-received.

Yeah.  You’re kind of stealing my thunder here, but I will say I can’t think of a better way of third party endorsement. You are spot on.

Let’s show some more examples of attributes and benefits when you do own and use the Wand.  “There is no what dentists called ‘collateral numbness’. This thing is just so precise.”  You can say that to somebody, but you’ve got to translate it so they can see, “Oh, this is why it’s going to make it better for me because you can leave your appointments smiling, speaking normally.  You’re not going to have a speech impediment or burn yourself drinking hot liquid and have it dripping off your chin after a procedure.”

Well, another thing for the working folk like myself is you don’t have to take a half day of personal time off to go to the dentist.  You can take a lunch appointment or maybe an hour and half appointment and go back to work.  Certainly, if you’re seeing children, you’re not running risk of children or special needs patients chomping down on the sides of their tongue, another big advantage of not having collateral numbness which is relatively routine in procedures.

Yeah.  It’s just one benefit and example of how you can care for your patients or about your patients. So, I agree.  Here’s another benefit.  No syringe injection which is the number one reason people don’t go to the dentist, and again, people are calling.  They haven’t made a decision, and what a great way to connect with them and allay the fear they’re likely to have, stastically speaking.

Here’s another one, bilateral dentistry.  You can take care of more in fewer visits which is, again, another convenience.  Again as Bob mentioned, they take less time away from work or whatever else they’d prefer to do which is probably most things.  Most people would rather be somewhere else so what a great way to give it to them.

In general, this whole presentation is giving you a plan so that you can deal with predictable scenarios which, if you think about it, is probably 95% to 98% of the calls you’re going to get because people aren’t calling you to see if you can flat top their driveway or if you sell snow tires.  They are calling you about things you can pretty well predict so let’s take the time to look at these scenarios which are predictable, which is almost all of them and master the verbiage so you can get excited about that phone when it rings and know that being to adeptly connect with these patients, you’re growing the practice. I presume the case is that when the practice grows, everybody wins.  There’s more money for bonuses and raises and time off and hiring more people so you can get time off. It’s the old rise in tide raises all boats.

So, here is where we share the definitions if selling, for you, is a negatively-charged word which I hope, by the end of today’s presentation, if it was no longer is. Again, this is where we talk about the checklist, which is the road map.  Once you know where you’re headed and the key points you need to accomplish in the call, we want you to seemingly lose control.  What I mean by that is connecting with the caller by finding out what you have in common.  You can share philanthropy or connections with the community or your commitment to oral system health, and these are, as I mentioned earlier, introduced prematurely.  These are arrows in your marketing quiver or your communications quiver.

Don’t wing it. You can learn from every call, but it would be great to know how you answer a question when some says, “I had a bad experience with the dentist” or “You’re so far away from me” or “I’m having trouble finding you” or “Are you in my plan” or any number of questions.  You should just be prepared for them.

The enthusiasm part is not only are you prepared to share things, but are you going to be excited about sharing them?  Here’s a list, another exercise I would ask you to consider taking the time, the dental team as well as the practice owner. Add this to your regular team meetings.  What is it that you get to share with the caller about the doctor, the facility, the amenities, our commitment to giving back, whatever it is?  These are great because, these are the attributes we’re excited about it, and this is why you should care.  This is what’s in it for you.

Well, this sort of where the rubber meets the road in terms of connecting with callers.  It’s the art and science of questioning and listening.  A lot of people think that sales people are good talkers.  I couldn’t disagree more.  The best sales people are good listeners, and the way they listen is by asking questions, by knowing when to ask the right question in the right way at the right time, which is what I meant by when.  This is you connect with callers.  You have to ask the right questions because whoever is asking the questions controls the call, and I know we all like to be in control of the clicker.

  • Apr 20 / 2014
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MASTER THE ART OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS P4

If a dental patient was calling you and expressed what was truly on their mind, they might probably say something like, “I’ve had negative experiences with dentists in the past, and what I’m really hoping is you can demonstrate to me on the phone right now that you’re caring, compassionate, and will deliver value if I see you.” That’s really what they want to know, but don’t be confused by the words that they use.

Here’s a little test that I like to use just to underscore a point.  Let’s imagine that there’s two callers. You have two phones, and they both ring at the same time.  On line 1 is Bill, and Bill is calling because his fiancé has “asked” him to get his teeth done in time for their big day so they are proper and they have some nice pictures for their wedding album.  On the other line is Agnes, and Agnes just received a direct mail piece offering a complimentary consultation and wants to know how much a crown costs.  My question for you is who would you rather talk to?

Now, if you’re like most people and you’re honest, you’d probably rather talk to Bill. The reason is that Bill really doesn’t require any selling.  Bill has already been sold.  He is frankly the result of your effective marketing because his fiancé is a happy patient of yours, and she’s already established credibility.  She’s already created urgency.  She’s already directed him.

Agnes is the same potential quality patient.  She’s just at a different stage in the relationship.  Basically, by working with Agnes and getting excited about talking with her, you are creating a future Bill because there’s every reason to believe that in the future, Agnes will be in the same position, a happy patient.  It’s just a matter of running the race at the caller’s pace.  So, we want you to get excited even more about the other one because Bill is already ripe fruit or low-hanging fruit.  He’s ready for harvesting, and Agnes is a seed that has to be planted.

So, in marketing math.  We touched on it a little bit. It’s just the reality that you can measure certain things like you do now, and there’s the reality that you don’t know what you don’t know.  In the case of this, one simple example is if the practice is investing $1000 a month in marketing, and as a result of that marketing, they get the phone to ring 10 times, what you can measure is the cost per call which $1000 divided by 10 calls. It’s $100 a call.  If you fail to connect with that patient and get them into the office, you could say, “It costs me $100.”

However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The average patient lifetime value which was actually calculated by the University of Minnesota in conjunction with my friend Bill Rossi at Advanced Practice Management 12 years ago came up to an average lifetime value, profit, of $4800 per patient.  I’m sure it’s higher now.  If your practice is above average, it’s higher still. So, the real cost is closer $5000 for effectively getting the caller.  That’s something that you need to keep in mind, and that’s why this is such a valuable skill right there.  That explains it.

Now, how do we actually connect with these callers? One way is the verbal component even though it only comprises 7% of effective communication. Remember, that’s only when you have the face-to-face opportunity.  So, it at least doubles when you don’t have the body language, the visual component, but negatively charged words can really affect people.  Positively charged words can also affect people, but in a positive way by way of example.

Which seminar would you rather attend:  Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Dealing with Racism or Men and Women as Allies and Friends and Celebrating Pluralism? Some of you may be ahead of me and already realized that they’re the same lecture.  Their talking about the same subject matter. However, the one on the bottom speaks in positive terms about how we can actually help this problem or basically capitalize on an opportunity as opposed to dealing with a problem.  It’s been proven. I’m a health coach, and we know that people that achieve and sustain weight loss do so because they did not approach it from a problem-solution standpoint but from an opportunity standpoint. It’s all about the words that you use with other people and in your self-talk, the words that you use with yourself.

So, use positive words.  Here are some really good ones to incorporate into your communication.  They are proud, conservative, and concerned.  Pride is self-evident, but it gives a sense that you really have the admiration and loyalty and appreciation for your doctor’s care, skill, and judgment.  It shows passion, and when we talk about enthusiasm, you’ll see why that’s so important.  Passion is just another manifestation of enthusiasm.

What I would ask you to do because you’ve got to practice this in order to incorporate it.  I’m sure people are not in agreement that this makes sense.  If you want to internalize it and make it your own, I encourage you to practice it with your team. In this case, I would ask you to share specific reasons why you are proud to be a part of your practice.

Now, with conservative, I don’t care what your political vent is.  Nobody wants to go to a doctor who plays with their health or takes unnecessary risks, and personally speaking, I would always want people to take the conservative approach. I think you can wave the wand very well into this mindset also because in every sense it shows caring, but I think it’s a conservative approach as well. Another question is how would you demonstrate that in your treatment?

Concern is a wonderful word to use because it means you care.  I’m going to jump ahead but people don’t really care what you know until they know how much you care. So, this is a really good term.  Show people that you are human beings and you have passion, and when you do that, people will connect with you.  If they were calling about insurance or a second opinion, all of a sudden, that question’s going to begin to diminish in importance because they have connected with you.

Again, how do you show your concern for your patient, specifically?  It’s all about the verbiage, and here’s some more terms.  Instead of appointment say visit.  It’s softer.  Use challenge or opportunity instead of problem.  Today’s amount instead of cost, and initial or monthly amount instead of down payment and monthly payment.  What I like to use is remove or removal instead of extraction. Here’s some more positive words that you can use:  Approval, approve, endorse, authorize, authorization, okay can I get your John Hancock instead of sign here.  This is a really good one, too.  Also, you don’t need to use the same verbiage that your callers are using.  If someone says, “I’m looking for the cheapest dentist,” say “value”.  “Value and economy, we understand that.  That’s why were offer,” and give them the benefits.

A really good exercise is to heighten your awareness by listening to your friends and family and patient and co-workers and notice how their words make you feel.  It’s really interesting.  Say something and monitor, engage your own emotional reaction, and just make a note of it.  Well, that word is a word that can make them feel good, or that word is a word that didn’t make them feel good.  So, I would have preferred to have heard this word.  Then, you’re building a little vocabulary for your communication quicker.

So, this is time to play Guess the Charge!  These are pretty simple now that you all have already mastered the distinction between negative and positive.  So, we give a thumbs down for, “The office can’t see you until next Tuesday.”  “I can help you with that”, thumbs up.  “You must submit your own insurance forms.” “We’re delighted you’ve chosen to call you.” Pretty straight forward, right? Just ask yourself how you feel.  “Which would you prefer, morning or afternoon for your next visit?” “We don’t do it that way.” That’s exactly what the answering service said to me two weeks ago.  “Why don’t you accept messages?” “Well, we don’t do it that way,” and she hung up.  We appreciate you considering us.” So, in other words, is your attitude a my way or the highway or yes we can? Of course, you know what we hope it is.

So, here’s some of the emotional pillars that support a solid conversation based on emotion and connection: Empathy and rapport.  Empathy is simply the capability, the capacity to understand another’s feelings, to walk a mile in their moccasins. Rapport is a relation marked by harmony and conformity, and as I said, this is important because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Another memorable phrase that I love by Maya Angelou is that people may not remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.

Enthusiasm is key.  Henry Ford said no one ever bought anything without an exchange of enthusiasm.  We all know people like this however.  They’re at 10 out of 10, and we prefer more of a 7.  However, I will share that on the phone it’s usually the opposite.  People need to up the volume, the intensity, the articulation just a little bit.  I’m not really speaking in my normal voice right now.  It’s a little bit louder. It’s a little bit clearer.  It’s a little bit more articulated, and that’s because we’re on the phone.  I would ask you to do the same.  Exude that enthusiasm.  Make it bigger than maybe what you think it needs to be.  People will appreciate it.  They won’t be scratching their heads saying, “What is this person doing?” They will appreciate the enthusiasm.

It’s very important to get the caller’s name.  Those of you that are too young to know How to Win Friends and Influence People was a book published in 1935 by Dale Carnegie.  One of the gems in that book was that a person’s name is the sweetest sound they will ever hear.  So, people perk up when they hear their name.  You don’t want to overdo it, but most people aren’t in danger of doing it.  That’s why in the TAFI intro, you may recall the first statement we make after our introduction, no matter what people ask us, it’s, “I can help you with that.  My name is Danny.  May I ask with whom I’m speaking?”

Then, get the name, and I want to take a moment here to talk a little bit more about this. If someone calls for whom English is not their first language or has a speech impediment, take the time to get their name.  Imagine you are them.  They are going through life where people who hear this hard to pronounce name will say, “Okay, thank you dear, honey, buddy, pal,” and they just gloss through it.  The person knows what they’re doing.

Imagine, now, you take the time, and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite get your name, and I certainly want to make sure I can pronounce it correctly.  It might be a bad connection.  Would you mind spelling that for me, and let me try to pronounce it.” You will basically have a friend for life because this person, as I said, has gone through life without people taking the time to know you’re their name. It really works, and it’s such a simple way to connect.  So, I strongly encourage you to do it.

  • Apr 13 / 2014
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MASTER THE ART OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS P3

It also unnecessarily lengthens the time of the outgoing message, which is another inconvenience.  While we’re on the subject, when repeat callers call you, it’s very nice and convenient to say, “To bypass the remainder of this message please press pound or zero.” Make sure that your system accommodates it because sometimes I will do that and press pound, and then it says, “Please enter your password.” Then, you have to hang up and call back and listen to the whole message again.

In general, we like the answering message to not be longer than 45 seconds; 25 seconds is even better, and we have a lot clients who are able to convey all the information they need which is, “We’re glad you called. We’re sorry we’re not available.  We care about you.  Please leave a confidential message of any length or visit our website,” and that is it.

Remember that you’re actually communicating with people.  The person who’s doing the recording may not be talking to a person at that time, but obviously, that message is intended to be heard by human beings.  So, be enthusiastic.  Be excited.  Select the person in your office who gives the best phone, and let them have at it.

Now, if you have an answering service, I strongly advise that you check it often.  We have had very little success with consistent reliability of the quality of an answering service.  They will often begin good, and they reach their own level of incompetence by taking on more clients than they can handle or what it is, but I just had another experience last week trying to make an appointment to an ophthalmologist that I was referred to by a doctor.  They said, “Well, are you a patient?” I said I’m a prospective patient.  “Well, you have to call back.  We don’t take messages.” I said, “I was referred by a doctor who’s friends with the doctor.” “I’m sorry. You can leave a message.” I said, “I’m a consultant who actually evaluates how telephone calls are being handled,” and then she hung up on me.

Now, that could be that she was actually following the policy of the office, too. So, whatever your protocol is, you want to evaluate that and make that it’s open to prospective patients because you don’t know who’s going to be calling you, and if you’re accepting new patients, you certainly don’t want that to be the protocol.

Now, on hold messages are what callers hear when you’re placed on hold, and I place you on hold, you hear this.  That message runs for 4 minutes, and because I use a VoIP system, it always begins in the beginning which I like.  The reality is that every office will place callers on hold.  Sometimes, we’ll talk to practices that say, “We never place callers on hold.” If that’s true, you’re probably overstaffed, but in any case, we will actually get into this and show you where we recommend it under certain circumstances, mainly a new patient caller.

We recommend that you place them on hold provided that you have a high quality, regularly updated on hold message that entertains and educates callers that is no overly commercial and obviously is not dead air.  Tests have shown that when people are placed on hold and listen to dead air or an out of tune radio station or something else ridiculous like a competitor’s commercial that they are tapping their foot waiting, but when they hear an entertaining and informative on hold message, it literally cuts the perceived time on hold in half.  That’s great because it buys time for the team to do what they need to do to return to the line and give this caller their undivided attention.

In terms of the proper implementation of an on hold message solution, we do recommend that you update it frequently, and we do offer a service that does this.  It’s all online. Quarterly updates are sent to you, and we’ve made it really very smooth and almost seamless because otherwise practices don’t have time to do it. We want you to do it because this is another touch point that demonstrates you’re not only a professional that’s committed to high quality dental care but that you’re also a vibrant, engaged member of your community.

This gives you an opportunity to share what you’re up to, what you’re doing, what you’re doing, and that you are people, too. I think that’s a particularly valuable thing for a dental practice to remind people of because as we all know, in general, people are a little bit trepid when it comes to seeing their dentist.  So, the more you can connect with people on an emotional level, the better, and, again, we recommend that you call and check the system frequently to make sure that it’s operating.  Our systems are pretty much fool-proof. We use a USB so that there’s no moving parts, but switches can be turned. Volume can be reduced, and if nothing happens, it’s good to remind yourself what it says, especially if you’re updating it regularly.  Again, if somebody asks about it, you can very seamlessly and adeptly respond to that without thinking too much about it.

We’ve already talked about the purpose of it.  It builds a professional image, and we will also talk more about this.  It is a tool that used to prepare you to speak with the most important person in the world which is your newest patient.

This is what we call the TAFI intro.  TAFI is short for the art of first impression, and if you walk away today with nothing more than this, I believe that your time today will have been well-invested.  This is not just randomly put together verbage. I will deconstruct it throughout the rest of the presentation so you can see why it what it is, but I thought I would introduce it right now just to show you.

So, the first thing that we do is say, “Thank you for calling.” In our case, it is, “Thank you for calling AIM Dental Marketing where we take aim with your marketing.  This is Danny.  How may I help you?” In your case, you would say, “Thanks for calling our practice where we,” and I hope you have a tagline. The tagline is basically a distillation of your brand.  It is a memorably simple statement about what makes you special and different. I strongly advise practices to go through an exercise to establish a tagline with the input of the team, and another benefit of using it in your introduction is it reminds the team who you are, what you do, for whom you do it, and why.  It reinforces, in their mind, why we’re all here.

Now, whatever the person says, they may say, “I’m seeking a second opinion. I would like to accept my insurance plan.  I’d like to know how much a crown cost.  I’d like to know the purpose of life or why the sky is blue.” I don’t care about the question. The answer really should be this or a slight variation on this:  “I can help you with that.  My name is Danny.  May I ask who I’m speaking with?”

Then, the next question that you ask is, “Are you in any discomfort presently?” Use their name, even though you know they’re not in any discomfort, and we’ll about why in a little bit.  “Who may we thank for referring you to us?” Again, it’s interesting that you include these in the introduction.  Then, here’s the transition.

To help you buy time to get to a quiet area to clear your mind, we prioritize because it’s show time with the patient.  The verbage is, “Would you mind if I place you on hold for just a moment so I can get to my desk or a quiet area and give you my undivided attention?” People will never have a problem with that, and if you have a quality on hold message system, you will have easily 60 seconds to do what you need to do to prepare to talk with this person and to give them your undivided attention.  On the East Coast, it’s called take away. I’m in the Midwest.  It’s called take out, but this is a big take away.  So, if you get nothing else from today’s presentation, I hope you will walk away and take away this.

So, let’s talk about the components of effective communication.  There was a study done in UCLA by Albert [35:07], a professor, who was commissioned to evaluate what comprises effective communication as well as the percentage contribution was each component to effective communication.  Those elements are verbal, vocal, and visual, and verbal is the actual words used.  Note, it accounts for a whopping 7%. So, it’s not so much the words that we use.  It’s how we use the words, and it’s our body language.  It’s the gestures of the face and the hands.  You may realize already that when you’re on the telephone, we really don’t have this component, and that’s why we talk about the visual gap because when you’re on the phone, callers can’t see you. Actually, they can because they have a mind’s eye, but they develop that impression based on what they hear which makes the use of the verbal and the vocal components all the more vital.

Let’s talk about the self-fulfilling prophecy trap.  This process is when we label someone as undesirable.  The quality of our communication changes, and unfortunately, it inevitably changes for the worse.  Typically, we judge a book by its cover, and we write the book.  I’ve seen this time and again.  This is very important when you talk about prospective patient. More and more practices are engaging external marketing because they have control over the growth rate of their practice.  There’s a certain assumption somehow that somebody who calls asking about a price or second opinion is somehow lower quality than your community in general.

That’s just not true.  The reality is that people are calling you because they’re interested, and if they weren’t interested, they’ve got better things to do than call you. How you respond to those inquiries makes all the difference, and Bill Ross of Advanced Practice Management in Edina, Minnesota writes this:  “Externally generated patients do not yet know or trust you.  That doesn’t mean they are not good enough patients.”  The thing is we tend to focus on the negative, the clinkers as he calls them, but put yourself in their place.

When you are calling for a service, especially one that you don’t know much about, I bet the most likely question you’re going to ask is, “How much does this cost?”  That means you’re interested. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re interested in the lowest cost. What it really means is that you don’t know what else to ask.

  • Apr 06 / 2014
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MASTER THE ART OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS P2

In terms of personality, when one becomes confident and is really deftly able to practice the distinction that we share in the first impressions, it’s then that your true personality has an opportunity to shine through. In other words, because you know what your goal is and you know where you’re headed, you can then allow your true personality to shin through, and that is not just okay. It’s essential because people don’t want to talk to an automaton or someone that they view is just going through rout procedure, and it’s just like the dentist when they’re practicing. They’re having a conversation frequently, and that’s important because that sets the patients at ease.

It’s the very same case here. If the dentist was just out of dental school and having to think consciously about every move that he or she is making, it’s pretty tough to have your personality shine through. In terms of whether you were hired to do this or not, the fact is we live in a dynamic world, and any practice that is willing to invest in your coaching to master this art, I would look at as a positive thing because they’re actually offering to add to your skill set. They’re providing you with the tools so you can become even more indispensable to the practice.

We get a lot of pushback from reading off scripts. I suspect one reason is we know. We all have experienced people reading off a script to us, and it’s a negative experience. It’s usually the negative that we remember, and we’ll talk about that a little bit more in a minute.

Being too busy is a commonly stated concern, and the only way I ever respond to that is when the phone stops ringing, don’t worry. You won’t be busy for long. In other words, there needs to be a rearrangement of priorities when that phone rings because that really is your patient calling. When the phone stops ringing, the practice is in trouble, and lest you think this is not necessarily, I hope everything I shared already shows you that in fact communicating skills very necessary.

Some people think they’re very good at it now already, and that reminds me of the phrase which is people know what they don’t know and they also don’t know what they don’t know. This could be an example of not knowing what you don’t know. So, all I would ask is that you be open to hearing what we have to share today, and if you don’t agree that there’s some ways that perhaps you could do a better job of connecting with callers.

It’s tough to measure, and we’ll talk about that later, too, because you may have gotten on the phone with someone.  We’ll talk about in in the self-fulfilling prophecy that they didn’t come in, and you may consult yourself by saying, “Well, they’re not fit for our practice anyway.” Well, maybe, maybe not, but the production you never experienced because the patient never came in to the office. It’s something you can’t measure, but it’s nonetheless quite real.

We’ll also talk about this view that people are responding to an external stimulus.  Also, callers that are low quality, and we will demonstrate how that has never been demonstrated to be the case.  We know that once patients meet you, they love you. This is the frustration that you hear sometimes that you hear from dental team members, and the fact is that they’ve already met you. They just met you on the phone. So, we want to show you how you can make them love you on the phone so that they can’t wait to meet you in person.

Now, in terms of this concern about reading off a script, I already gave you an example. I cited one example of a script that we heard is a bad telemarketer that reads and doesn’t listen and is obviously just howling for dollars. That’s what gives scripts that name, but I would ask you to consider some of these that you might remember. Depending on how old you are, this is sometimes an age test. These are quotes from some of the movies that have really become part of our culture:  Wizard of Oz, Underwater Front. I think that’s Magnum Force. Go ahead make my day. Dirty Harry. Gone with the Wind, Sunset Boulevard.

These, if you recognize them, are actually very memorable, and they give us warm feelings, and they really remind us of what a great performance we received.  Remember, these are all lines off the script, and the reality is the reason we remember them so fondly is that the actor got what they call in the acting book, they got off book. That means they internalized these lines to the point of they didn’t think about what they had to say, and they allowed their personalities to come through. With actors, it’s actually their persona because we don’t even know what their personality is necessarily.  The versatile actors will prove that to you that they’re all over the map. They can be animated characters, and they can be heavies and comedic characters. So, it’s easier for us because we don’t want you to assume a character. We want your true personality to come through.

Now, having said all of that, if you don’t like the term script, it might be a negatively charged word for you. If it is, think of a checklist or even map. Frankly, I think they’re more appropriate because we don’t want you broadly reciting a script word for word. We want you to realize that there are certain key points that you have to do like establish rapport, convey empathy, exude enthusiasm, get the caller’s name, use the caller’s name, and connect with them. Exactly how you do that is not my concern. You may do that by sharing the fact that you have children on the same little league team. That’s great. That’s what we want to hear.

Now, setting the stage does also depend on the physical environment and your equipment, and we’re going to talk a little bit about telephone systems, cordless headsets, what people hear when they call you after hours, and what people could hear when they’re placed on hold at your office. The key is that we want all these systems working in concert which means you, every member of the team, needs to know what do people hear when they call you after hours.  That’s important.  They might make reference to it, and, specifically, we want to offer convenience to callers.  We don’t always know when they’re going to call so one way of offering convenience is your outgoing message should reference your website if it’s able to accept appointment requests.  Just about every website today has a contact us form.  So, this shows convenience and also invites them to learn more about you. Many people calling your office have already been to your website, by the way.  That’s where more and more people are going to find and evaluate a practice before they even call you.

Likewise, if you have an on hold message, what does it say? What if somebody says, “That’s really interesting.  Tell me about your implant-supported dentures” or “I didn’t know you were supporting the local [21:28].  My husband’s a part of that group.”  If you say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” that’s obviously a missed opportunity to connect with the caller.  Likewise, know what’s on your website because people will reference it.

I am on a cordless headset right now.  I have not used a handset since 1989. Literally, they were not cordless back then, but cordless headsets are nothing less than freedom.  Now, I don’t know because we’re not interacting right now, but I’ve heard things from, “We don’t like them because they mess up our hair.  They give us ear infections.  They don’t work.”

Change is uncomfortable, but I can tell you that the technology of today’s cordless headset is so wonderful that if you’re accustomed to using a handset, there’s a little bit of an adjustment.  Sometimes it’s a mental adjustment, and sometimes you just need to contact tech support and put yourself on your cordless headset.  They will walk you through how to optimize the sound quality.

I strongly recommend this because it untethers you from the front desk.  Remember we talked about whether your environment was serene or chaotic. If it’s Grand Central Station at the front desk and you’re trying to connect with a first time telephone caller, a prospective patient, that is a challenge.  What we really want to do is get you in a position where you can go to a quiet area and give this caller your undivided attention.  I recommend Mallory headsets, malloryheadsets.com.  Also go with hellodirect.com.  They’re very cost-effective. They’re very durable, and they charge for at least 3 hours, and you can walk away with 300 feet from your desk.  So, no practice is too big to be served by cordless headsets.

Your outgoing message, otherwise known as voicemail unless you’re using an answering machine or answering service, is a very important connection.  This is a first impression, and what I mean by first impression throwing its weight is we cannot control when people are going to call our office.  People will often call after hours because that’s when it’s convenient for them, and that’s why the outgoing message has got to be recorded and regularly monitored and taken very seriously because a certain percentage of people, their initial contact with you will be your outgoing message.

So, in general, during office hours, we don’t want to hear it ring more than 4 times before answering, and 3 rings is even better.  With most telephone systems, you should be able to change the settings so that when you’re not in the office, the caller doesn’t have to ring any rings, and that’s really important because here’s another convenience feature. People don’t like to be kept waiting.  People on cell phones could be driving through a bad cell, and you could lose the call.  It’s also the case that people may need to muster some courage to get the phone and call a dental office in the first place.  So, all they need is an excuse to say, “Yeah, I tried to call the dentist, but it just kept ringing.  I just hung up.” Let’s make it really simple for them to connect with you.

I’d also recommend you avoid and reference to hours and anything else that might fluff.  I can only guess that the reason that people refer to their office hours is that the first answering machine or maybe the outgoing messages that we hear at retail establishments, which a dental office is. I mean it’s a local area business for sure. It’s important to know what a pizzeria’s hours are or a dry cleaner’s office, but we are not really a walk-in business are we?
Therefore, I doubt, unless you’re a rare exception where you have a high walk-by traffic or you’re a serious dental center, I suppose, it’s  very unlikely that anybody’s going to walk into the office without first calling you. In fact, giving the hours is one less reason for a person to leave a message because they want to know what your hours are.  They may want to know that when they’re calling..