6 Ways To Make a Good First Impression in Your Dental Practice

June 4, 2009    By Lisa Klinghoffer Buber

6 Ways To Make a Good First Impression in Your Dental Practice

When you meet someone or go somewhere for the first time, your first impression is often your lasting impression. The same can be said about you and your dental practice. Whatever first impression a new dental patient gets is the one that will determine whether or not he or she wants to continue coming to your practice.

There are a few ways you can help make those first impressions positive ones.

1) Greeting patients
Your receptionist is the first contact a new patient has with your practice. Either by telephone or in person, the receptionist is your office's welcome wagon. He or she greets the patient, hands out a stack of paperwork and directs the patient to his or her next stop. The receptionist should always have a smile and acknowledge patients when they walk in.

This rule holds true not only for the receptionist, but for you and the rest of your staff as well. Looking the patient in the eye when speaking, addressing the patient by name and sitting down at eye level with the patient are just a few ways to make new patients feel at ease and make a positive first impression.

2) Improving the reception area
If you walked into the dirty kitchen of a friend who was hosting a party, would you want to eat the food that he or she was about to serve? Probably not. The same can be said for your dental office reception area. Stained seats and furniture are signs that you care very little about the quality of your facility. Be sure that your reception area is neat and clean. In some cases, you may want to update the furniture if it is starting to wear.

3) Other improvements include posting pictures of your staff, keeping magazines and newspapers up-to-date, posting thank-you notes from dental patients and hanging pictures of the community.

4) Improving telephone communication
The way in which new patient calls are greeted and handled on the telephone can have a tremendous effect on first impressions. An abrupt "Doctor's office" greeting signals to a new patient that your office staff is not friendly which can be the impression the patient has of you before ever having met you. Be sure that everyone on your staff, including yourself, answers the phone in a polite and friendly manner. This includes being able to answer patient inquiries in a timely manner (without having to ask anyone for the answer unless it is an obscure question), explaining all directions and/or instructions clearly, using the patient's name at least once in conversation and avoiding the use of speaker phones. Also, make sure the answering service you use also greets new patients in a polite and friendly manner.

5) Putting up signs
Signs can be an effective communication tool for new dental patients if placed correctly. For example, be sure to hang a sign that says "Payment is appreciated at the time of service" if this is part of your practice. By displaying it prominently at the front desk when new patients check in, there will be no confusion over payment. Also, include a sign that states where patients should check in and what is expected of them such as their insurance card. Another good sign to hang up is one that lists all the insurance plans you participate in.

6) Creating useful forms
Every new patient must fill out a slew of new forms when they first arrive. Instead of making copies of copies of the forms you use, use originals. They are much easier to read and do give the impression that you care about the quality of everything you do even your forms. For older patients, you might want to redesign the forms to include bigger type that is easier to read.

These simple changes in the way you and your staff operate can make a significant difference in the way your office is perceived. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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