Hear ye, hear ye, implant team members: Under-promise and over-deliver!

Feb. 29, 2008
Patients love it when they discover our service is better than they ever imagined it could be and better than we suggested to them that it would be.

By JoAn Pickett-Majors

It's at the core of great customer service everywhere. Think about the last purchase you made that you would consider a significant cost: how did you feel when you wrote the check? I'm constantly in search of a great service story. Whether at dinner, purchasing clothing or on hold with a dealership about the service on my car, I wonder what promise they will make to me and if they can live up to it.

What if we, the implant team members, decided we wouldn't make a promise we couldn't over-deliver on? It is a simple concept that makes a huge difference to your patients, especially in terms of their repeat business and their referring other quality patients to the practice. "Under-promise, Over-deliver" is something we regularly remind teams of during our trainings. Patients love it when they discover our service is better than they ever imagined it could be and better than we suggested to them that it would be.

If you are not 101% sure that you can have a fifty-six-year-old patient's papilla look like the photo she brought in of herself at twenty-six when she had her original anterior teeth, then why say it? Although we know that many times we can expect outcomes this remarkable, what if this patient happens to be the one for whom it just doesn't happen as you planned? In implant dentistry we like to say, placing the implant is like placing a wedding ring: you are married to them now.

Don't misunderstand what I am suggesting here, though some of you may. Patients only know what they know — they don't know what you know! Most of the time you've seen and helped produce incredible results, but be careful because patients will remember the exact picture you showed them or the words you said exactly. Why tell them they'll have "no more sore spots" with the appropriate structure design and proposed to support the denture?

Instead, tell patients their sore spots will be dramatically reduced and the denture will be stable. When they have no more sore spots, you're their hero! It's a lot more gratifying than being the villain who did not deliver on her promise. For the record: just because you didn't say it doesn't mean they don't think you said it, doctor! If a team member misspeaks, it is often the patient's perception that the information comes from the doctor. Team members must understand how powerful our words and actions are to build or destroy the relationships in the practice. Patients believe well trained and well trusted team members.

Consider a perfect specimen of an over denture. It snaps into place; it fits beautifully with no real movement, but there is an area where food can still get lodged underneath. The disappointed patient will address all complaints with the haunting phrase, "But you said," time and time again. As we all know, patients often feel less intimidated to ask a question (or ask the same question again) after the doctor leaves the treatment area. So take the "Under-promise, Over-deliver" oath as a team to ensure an environment for success.

Team members have such a vital role in implant dentistry due to the fact that this is an area where misunderstandings run rampant. We must be crystal clear about what we say to patients. If you have not taken the time to do a FAQ on implants and scripted the answers the group agrees on so that you can speak with confidence, then call a team meeting and get out your pen and paper out because your words are crucially linked to the success of the implant treatment our doctors offer. If you don't believe in it and can't support it wholeheartedly, don't think for one minute the patient won't figure it out. When they get mixed signals, expect a train wreck!

When a patient asks how long it will last due to their very urgent schedule and upcoming class reunion, offering the wrong information can cause real heartache. However, when we understand the subtle nuances of our words, team members can take patients to a new level of satisfaction. Preface your comment with a phrase like, "In instances like this, I have seen Dr. Majors do wonders." This allows you to brag on the doctor's treatment skills and leaves an open end for details we shouldn't necessarily discuss at this point anyway.

So take time to prepare as a team. What you don't know can and will hurt you. Not asking the questions of each other and preparing the answers the doctor wants (in your own language) will surely come back to bite you. It has been happening for years! A patient leaves a practice due to a misunderstanding and the team member never knew they played a role in it. Most especially the doctor never got to make it right.

Furthermore, by taking the time to prepare the answers to the questions you want to have support your team approach, you avoid the old "spay and pray" method, that is, spray something out there and hope it sticks. You're better off having a team meeting where you ask (and answer) the questions. If you don't invest any time in the front end, don't expect you will be able to save your back end!

For a free list of "Frequently Asked Questions" and possible answers make a request to [email protected] Subject Line: PennWell Implant FAQ.

Author of the "Open the Door to Your Purpose" series and founder of Dentistry by Choice, a training L.L.C., JoAn Majors has been described as a team member who has temporarily left the office. Her highly sought-after presentations are known for their authenticity, humor and engagement. Her area of specialty is in working with teams from traditional industries — like banking, real estate, health care, education and her favorite, dentistry — to produce non-traditional transformation with profitable people skills. A member of the National Speakers Association and International Federation for Professional Speakers, she's serious about her seminars and crazy about her clients. Contact JoAn at 866-51-CHOICE. The time is now, the choice is yours. www.dentistrybychoice.com