A Room to Match the Message
Over the past 25 years I have searched for the case acceptance pearl that will have patients saying a resounding “Yes” to recommended treatment. I thought that pearl would come in the form of some new piece of equipment or new restorative material. I know many dentists who are masters of numerous areas of dentistry and are the best in their community at what they do. Yet, the reality is many of them are going broke! The bottom line is you may be one of the best educated dentists because you have spent endless amount of money on CE; however, if your work environment does not match your message, all bets are off on any case acceptance.
My philosophy when I present a treatment strategy is not just to get a “yes” to the treatment plan but to get them to say, “Yes, I want my treatment done here,” and “Yes, I intend to refer friends and family.” The ability to inspire this reaction is intimately linked to how we are perceived by the patient. This first patient encounter with your practice is always the initial phone call. How that call is handled initiates a first impression from which all others will be based. It leaves an impression of excellence, trust and caring, or it leaves them feeling that they have reached “just another dental practice.” The area in which most patient interaction occurs is your office, and so I ask: does your environment match your message?
Imagine for a moment that you and a friend go out to a particular eatery because of their menu. When you arrive at the restaurant you start to take notice of napkins on the floor, fingerprints on the glass door, and flies buzzing around. The menu feels sticky from spilled food and the waitress who seated you wore a uniform that needs a good washing and ironing. Now the great food that you had heard so much about suddenly seems unappealing.
Do your dental clients feel this way when they come into your practice? When was the last time you sat in the reception room or laid down in an operatory chair to get the patient’s view? Are the ceiling tiles soiled? Dust balls, anyone? Patients judge quality on many levels and the physical appearance of the dental office is the first thing they’ll notice . Special attention should be placed on the reception area to ease their anxiety and to present a professional appearance.
Yet, of all areas of the office layout, the most important room that matches your message of excellence, trust and caring is the consultation room. This room is strictly dedicated to presenting comprehensive dental solutions and all private financial conversations with patients. Our consultation room is designed using feng shui interior design concepts. The decor should be clean and crisp-looking throughout, with soft neutral colors, clean surfaces and light woods. (Pic) Maple wood tables and cabinets are sleek, sophisticated and current. The intent in using feng shui to design work spaces is to make the energy of your environment a conscious part of your life. There is a large dry-erase board (Pic) on one wall to project photos and video, or to draw illustrations. We show “Dr. Dick Barnes’ Seven Slides” using a DLP projector connected to a PC. Utilizing our dental management software, we also review a patient’s intra-oral photography taken at the initial visit. LG© makes a TV monitor that has touch sensors to draw images on as well. The level at which this screen is placed on the wall has critical importance. Here feng shui finally meets up with modern brain research.
Scientists have discovered that eye movements trigger neural response in different areas of the brain, depending on how high the eye is looking. Placing the screen or a 40-inch monitor just above eye level jump starts the imagination. It helps people enter the realm of the possible, the imaginable, and the achievable. It’s also important to keep your own office in mind, since you’ll spend quite a bit of time there.
The entry door into our consultation room is glass and has a glass side window. There are two entry doors to convey openness, instead of a sense of confinement. (Pic) The other wall displays anything that will inspire excellence, trust and caring. This consultation room must promote a feeling of high trust and low fear. Developing a bond with the patient is instrumental for treatment acceptance, and a well designed consultation room that is properly equipped has a way of establishing creditability and trust at an almost subconscious level.
Today’s patients are looking for a safe and caring environment that promises quality and convenience. Preparation for the consultation, treatment solutions are done in advance, along with financial options. Being organized and prepared for your patient reduces stress and makes you appear fresh and relaxed. This is the best opportunity to make a patient feel confidence in you and your abilities. To ensure quality time, which allows a patient to feel important, it is essential the consult visit be appointed with the dentist at a time when he or she will not be interrupted. Typically in our office, consult times are before lunch breaks or at the end of the day. When placed in the middle of your schedule, the chances of the dentist coming to the appointment on time is rare and valuable time spent cultivating that case acceptance falls victim to scheduling conflicts.
Would you find it easy to trust a physician who entered the consult room late, confused, frazzled, and unorganized? The dentist has to be enthusiastic, alert, positive, and caring so that rapport between the patient and doctor is developed, nurtured, and strengthened. Whether a patient views what you are offering as an expense versus an opportunity, depends very much upon your appearance and demeanor as a presenter.
During this consultation we focus on dental solutions that define what we offer in terms of value – what the patient wants and needs. We focus on access to dental solutions and integrate those with the patient’s entire dental health journey. Instead of price, we focus on creating value by making clear the benefits we offer in relation to price.
The way you look and what you say is extremely important. I wear a dress shirt and tie for my consults. You need to appear and communicate like you’re successful. Mastery of communication to emulate confidence, credibility, wisdom, and clarity is a must. Dr. Dick Barnes’ CD series are a great source for developing your communication skills. In them he introduces the phrase, “So let’s do this…” which inspires a coordinator or dentist to go from a passive communicator to a more confident one. Here is an example of how to guide your patient with options and direction. “So let’s do this, you can pay with cash, check or credit card today.” Another source I have found very helpful is Tawana Coleman’s Total Team Training course which will provide you and your staff with the right words for success..
Learn how to actively listen to your patients during the consultation, which will enable you to find their hot buttons, whether pain or pleasure motivators. Active listening allows you to read between the lines to determine what patients are truly saying. The key is to ask questions that help peel back the onion of truly what is going on .
All and all, the consultation room environment has to allow for trust to be developed and be built upon. If you do not have such a room, and you have a personal doctor’s office, clean it up and create one. In today’s economic climate, it’s not that patients do not want the treatment; they want to trust the office and how to pay for treatment. Remember, solid clinic skills are not cutting it today; the need to be a true leader in communication skills is paramount.
Instead of pearl hunting, propel your practice and create a consultation room that will match your message. It is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. I know it has for me.