Set a benchmark. Know your case acceptance rate. This is the one and only way to truly track progress. An average case acceptance rate is 65% and an excellent rate is 85%. Once you know where you are (say, 62%), set a goal for where you want to be (for example, 75%). Track results monthly and keep an eye on the annual average.
Nurture, nurture, nurture. No matter how high your case acceptance rate is, you will always have patients who simply aren’t quite ready to start treatment. Most practices forget the not-quite-ready group. With some nurturing, they could very well convert into high-paying patients. Nurture them with educational emails and the occasional friendly phone call or text. Be absolutely sure to reappoint all patients at the end of each appointment. The trick is to keep patients engaged, earn their trust and speak to all of the questions, obstacles and challenges that might exist in their minds about that big case.
Monitor phones. Is everyone at the front desk warm and friendly in voice and tone on every call, or are there inconsistencies? Are all new patients offered a complimentary initial appointment and tour of the office, or are some written off as “not good patients” too quickly? (The initial appointment can be as simple as a meet-and-greet in the waiting room and a quick whirl around the office. It can even be a group session, such as a lunch-and-learn about braces or implants. It shouldn’t involve anything that would require the doctor’s fee. The initial appointment can go a long way in welcoming new patients, building rapport and establishing trust – all of which translate into case acceptance down the road.)
Check chair-side manner. Are all of your hygienists and assistants adept at articulating your vision for the practice, or are they just focused on the clinical side of the practice? Do they engage patients in meaningful conversations to build deep relationships, or do they leave them waiting alone? Do they know the right questions to ask to “fish” for patients who may be thinking about that big case, or do they ask generic questions like, “How was your summer?”
Ask open-ended questions. People are willing to share… but you have to open a door for them. Asking questions like, “What was your experience with braces?” or “What have you heard about dental implants?” gives the patient permission to talk freely with you. Other favorite open-ended questions are, “What do you think your smile says about you?” and “How would life be different if you had the smile you always wanted?”
Ask for referrals. Just because one patient isn’t quite ready for treatment doesn’t mean that he or she can’t bring more patients who are. Train the team to ask for a referral every time a patient compliments the practice or says, “Thank you.” The response can be as smooth as, “Thank you! We love seeing patients like you, so be sure to send your friends and family your way.”
Write the script. Work with the team to create a script for how to talk to patients about case acceptance. Start with things that have to be said. Include things that should not be said. Sprinkle in a few anecdotal points of discussion. Be sure to present the fee in clear and simple terms, and put it in writing.
Offer 0% APR financing. Both CareCredit and LendingClub make it possible for practices to offer their patients creative financing. When money is on their minds, financing options make it easy for the patient to make the right choice for their dental health.
Practice. Inspire the team (and yourself) to master the script by practicing often. Practice with each other. Practice at home. Practice with patients, of course. It’s less about getting it exactly right every time and more about oiling the machine. The more you say it, the more comfortable you become in delivering it. And when you’re at ease, the patient is at ease, which gives way to case acceptance.
Watch every word. Positive language only! Resist using phrases like “no trouble at all” (a double negative) or “Unfortunately…” Instead, punch up the conversation with ultra-positive phraseology like, “We would be delighted,” and “There’s always a possibility!”
Listen. This is not a one-way presentation. It’s a conversation. As you share expectations and financial options, intermittently ask if the patient has any questions or concerns. Ask every time you introduce a new concept. Listen for silence, too, and allow that in the conversation. This gives the patient time to digest what you are saying and ponder anything you have not yet covered for them.
Rinse and repeat. Inspire the team to follow these steps with every patient, and you will see your case acceptance rate rise. Be sure to reward the team once you reach the collective goal. Then, set the bar higher!