Diffusing Difficult Situations in the Dental Office

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Here is the transcript of Episode 1.

Welcome to The Personal Report.   Today, we have a great topic for you. It’s called “How to Diffuse Difficult Situations in the Dental Office.” Are there difficult situation in the dental office? You bet. Most patients are very nice, but every once in a while, we have conflicts. We have tension.

Why do you want to diffuse them? Because you want to release the anxiety. You want everybody to relax. You want the patients to be relaxed and happy, the staff to be relaxed and happy, and you want case acceptance to go up.

So how do we do that? We do it through some great verbal skills.

Let me tell you a story. We had a person that I worked with. She worked in the dental office, really terrific person, and her doctor’s fantastic, but there was a problem. She said that sometimes she would get flummoxed. She would get upset. She was not using the right verbal skills with patients when they were insistent, and they wanted certain things, and she couldn’t accommodate them.

So I asked her, “What the most difficult problem you face?” Now, the answer surprised me. I thought she was going to say, “Well, sometimes I don’t say the right thing,” but that’s not what she said. Her answer was, “Sometimes, I really don’t know what to say. I just don’t have the words at all.”

That could be awkward. You know, on radio, they call that “dead air.” Can you imagine, you’re on the phone with someone, and then you say, “I just don’t know what to say.” So I helped her. We gave her great verbal skills. Now she’s confident. She’s happy. She’s relaxed. The whole practice is more relaxed, and, yes, the doctor is happy too.

So how do we do this? Let’s look at some verbal skills. The number one thing to keep in mind is empathy. Empathy means what? It means seeing it from the patient’s point of view. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to see it from somebody else’s point of view because what’s the dynamic that we have?

We’ve got a patient on one side, in some cases, and staff on the other. Example. Somebody calls and says they want an appointment in the next couple of days. Well, there are no appointments in the next couple of days. The next appointment is actually a few weeks out. I’m not talking about somebody who’s in pain or has an emergency or anything like that. I’m talking about somebody who could wait, but they just choose not to.

So then, the staff person says, “Well, I’m sorry, our next available is three weeks out,” and then you have an insistent patient who is really trying to push and get in. So think about that. We’ve got a conflict. The patient wants to storm the gates and get past the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper says, “No, no, no. We can’t have any more people today because we’re just too full.”

So how do we resolve the situation? A great thing to remember is that we’re talking about empathy. We’re talking about reducing tension. We’re talking about seeing it from the patient’s point of view.

A couple of great verbal skills would be to say things like this. “I understand. You know, let’s work together. I’m going to work with you, and together, we’re going to solve this problem.” And then, the patient relaxes a little bit. Another great verbal skill is, “May I make a suggestion?”

The patient says, “Well, if you’re going to work with me, if you’re going to help me resolve the situation, sure. What’s your suggestion?” The person says to the patient, “I know you don’t want to wait three weeks to come in. I understand, but let me make this suggestion.”

“Why don’t you take an appointment that’s three weeks out, just as a placeholder. We’ll put you down, put you on the schedule, and what that will do is it will get you into our system. And there’s going to be a change in our schedule over the next few weeks. I can guarantee you that.

“So when it happens, when we do have that change, that opening, I’ll call you. Now, I don’t know if it’ll be tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, but we’ll definitely call you. And then, you can move up and get a much closer slot.”

And that usually works out great because now, you’ve resolved the situation. You’ve lowered the tension. So what you’ve done is you’ve used some great verbal skills. So I hope you can take this to heart and use it.

Let me leave you with one other point. I’m using the example of somebody on the phone. This is not just for somebody on the phone. This is also for in-person interactions. This is for the assistant, the hygienist, the doctor, anybody who can say to somebody, “I’m on your side. I want to work with you. I understand, and make a suggestion, and then work it out with the patient that way.”

If you’d like some additional information, a copy of my Free Report, Three Mistakes Every Dental Practice Should Avoid, then just send an email to ThePersonalReport@yahoo.com. Those three mistakes, believe me, every dental practice should avoid them. You don’t want to make them. So just write to us at ThePersonalReport@yahoo.com.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment, and certainly, you can follow me on the web at davidschwab.com. This is David Schwab, and we’ll see you on the next episode of The Personal Report.

Topic for the next episode of The Personal Report: No Cost Team Motivation.  Click to subscribe.