I’m always surprised at the number of dentists who do not know that collection calls are an extension of exemplary customer service. Collection calls should be viewed as part of patient retention. Sometimes the front office does not collect copays at the time of a patient’s visit. The other scenario is that insurance may have denied a claim. At my practice, we believe collection calls need to be done immediately before statements. I make collection calls around the 15th of each month.
Before I ever make a collection call, which our office has nicknamed “Dialing for Dollars,” I make sure I know the answers to the following questions. To prepare, I read the notes that I last made, as well as the last set of clinical notes.
• When was their last date of treatment?
• What did they have completed?
• When is their next cleaning?
• Is their next cleaning scheduled?
• What is left in the treatment plan for them to complete?
• Why is it important for them to finish treatment?
• What problems might this patient experience if they don’t finish treatment?
• Have any life events occurred to keep them from making their payments?
• What do they owe the practice?
• What discount or agreement can be discussed that will enable them to pay their balance off over the phone?
When I call patients to collect payments, I try to make the conversation fun and light. This should sound like a conversation with an old friend. When I handle the conversation with some levity, this keeps patients' perception from becoming that the doctor is "all about the money."
Time to get them on the phone
Take a deep breath. Count to three. Dial and wait for the patient to answer. I do leave messages. In my messages I say only that this is Amanda from Oyler Dentistry, and I ask them to call me back to let me know they received my message.
When I get them on the phone, I introduce myself as Amanda with Oyler Dentistry.I ask them how they have been since their last appointment, and then I listen. I let them talk after I ask them this.
There is always a question behind the question. Often when I ask how someone is doing, I find out right away that they have not paid their last bill because they felt there was something wrong with the dental service or treatment they received. I use this as a learning opportunity, and their answer provides invaluable feedback. I offer to make whatever they perceive that went wrong, right. I know that each call will be different depending on how each patient answers this opening question.
After the conversation unfolds, I make them aware of their balance. I ask, “How would you like to take care of your bill?” This starts the negotiation of payment. It is our policy that the bill is paid off in 90 days. I offer the option of three payments to be charged to a card over the next 90 days.
If you do not offer this information you will never have the tools to build urgency and concern. You do not want a bill to stand in the way of a patient visiting your office. But you don’t want your collections to get out of hand either. Make sure everyone is prepared when you begin to Dial for Dollars. You want your patients to always know that they made the right decision in choosing your dental office.