Three Things Never to Say to a Patient

Verbal skills in a dental office are very important. Here are three things never to say to a patient in your dental office:

1. We will be happy to make an appointment for your initial visit. The term “initial visit” sounds somewhere between bland and boring; it certainly does not communicate value. A better phrase is “comprehensive diagnostic evaluation.” Example: We can see you on Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. for your comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination, including x-rays, and answer all your questions. Patients sometimes complain about the high cost to walk in the door. Let them know that their first visit is not just to get acquainted but that the doctor will use his or her skills to make a professional assessment of the patient’s oral health.

2. I know it’s expensive but we have a financing plan. The word “expensive” to some people carries a connotation of “over-priced.” A much better alternative: The proposed treatment will never be more conservative, more cost-effective, or less invasive than it is today. We work with an independent financing company that allows patients to spread out payments over time with a low interest rate. Banish the word “expensive” from your vocabulary because it makes communicating value for the dollar more difficult.

3. I’m new. Everyone has to start somewhere, but when you say that you are new, you are telling the patient not to listen to you because you are trainee and you have no idea what you are talking about—at least not yet. It’s better to say, let me check for you and then proceed with the conversation. If you have been in dentistry for many years but you are new to the practice, then you can say,I recently started working here and it’s a great practice, and I have a number of years of prior experience. If you have no prior experience, impress the patient with your great work ethic and commitment to customer service and do not be afraid to ask your colleagues for help, but do not emphasize your lack of experience to patients if you can avoid it.

By having verbal skills at the ready, you will avoid pitfalls.