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Take 3 minutes to improve your image

Jan. 6, 2012
Janice Hurley-Trailor, Dentistry’s Image Expert, says sometimes we are hurting our office image without even realizing it. Working through a sample patient scenario, she explains how you can avoid misunderstandings by instilling patient trust and strengthening their loyalty toward you and your practice.
By Janice Hurley-Trailor, the Image ExpertSometimes we are hurting our office image and we don’t even know it. I recently heard from a frustrated patient about misunderstandings that took place during an office visit to her general dentist. Upon closer review, it turns out that these misunderstandings could have been easily avoided. She had been a patient of this practice for seven years and had made numerous referrals in the past, but she confided in me that her confidence in the office was now shaken.What happened?The patient called in to say she had a loose crown on No. 15. In fact, upon flossing, she had removed the crown altogether. Her appointment the next day started out on a good note. The patient was seated on time, the staff knew why she was scheduled for the day, but it went downhill from there.The assistant hadn’t checked to see if this was a vital tooth and made the mistake of blowing cold air on the sensitive tooth.The assistant asked the patient how old the crown was and if she remembered who had prepped that tooth, only to have the patient tell her that their office had restored the tooth.The assistant explained that the crown had only been put on with temporary cement because it was the office policy to see how a tooth responded after the prep when it was still a vital tooth. When the patient asked how long the temporary cement would last, the assistant said, “Until you lose it or it falls out like it did for you.” As the patient left, she was given a bill to “recement her crown.” She was asked to pay again for the crown that she had paid almost $2,000 for in the first place ... a crown that she thought cementing permanently was part of the fee charged.
Easy enough to fixThis is a first-class dental office that prides itself on customer service, warm face towels, and esthetically pleasing décor. However, showing a lack of knowledge about the history of the patient’s tooth in this example created a sense of mistrust. The sad thing is, this problem was avoidable. The patient knew exactly which tooth had lost its crown. The team member who took the patient’s phone call initially and scheduled the appointment to research the history of tooth No. 15 should have taken three minutes to go the extra mile that would have given everyone peace of mind and saved time and confusion.When it’s done right, the front desk communicates at the morning huddle the specifics of the upcoming office visit. Decisions are made based on whether the patient will be having anesthesia and what the latest X-ray reveals. Everyone knows this patient will either have a no-charge visit to permanently cement the crown that was delivered two-and-a-half years ago or be reappointed for a prep appointment if decay is found. Either way, the whole team is presented in the best of light, and the patient can feel confident that the people in charge of her dental health KNOW for certain the history and future of that tooth.Be preparedBeing prepared is not only good for the Boy Scouts, but it also works wonders with your patients as well. Take a bold step and review all pertinent clinical notes before you see your patient. You’ll never go back to flying blind again, and you’ll never have to wonder why some of your favorite patients stop referring.Author bioJanice Hurley-Trailor is known as Dentistry’s Image Expert on personal presence. She has more than 25 years of experience as a dental consultant helping professionals use the tools they have to gain higher treatment acceptance and attract quality patients. Her goal is that everyone understands how to better use his or her professional energy for success. She is an international author and speaker on what it takes to project professional excellence and confidence so others feel it instantly.