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Improving Verbal Skills for the Dental Front Office

by | Jun 14, 2022 | Dental Practice Management Advice, Paperless Dental Software, Product News and Updates

Here’s How Your Front Office Can Improve Their Verbal Skills

If your practice is short-staffed and stressed out, we have the perfect verbal skills your front office needs to address your staffing shortage to your patients.

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Dental practices are facing the critical problem of mismatched supply and demand. As the COVID mandates lift, many businesses are experiencing an influx of patients ready to return to the dentist. According to a survey from late 2021, dental practices saw patient volume reach 89%, the highest since March 2020.

At the same time, dental practices face a staffing shortage in the front and back dental offices, making it hard to meet patient demand for care. Many hygienists voluntarily left their roles during the pandemic, either to early retirement or amid fears of transmission while working closely with patients. And according to a 2021 ADA Health Policy Institute survey, 90% of dentists surveyed said that recruiting dental hygienists was “extremely” or “very challenging.” Quality dental front office employees are also hard to come by. And in most cases, these team members bear the brunt of the backlash of limited staffing in the form of frustrated patients and an accumulation of administrative work such as billing and form processing.

Of course, the long-term solution to the problem is to hire more team members. In the meantime, however, dental practices can help manage the chaos by helping the dental front office refresh their patient communication skills. Good verbal or “soft skills” can significantly affect patient satisfaction and retention rates. Even if your office isn’t busy, excellent verbal skills can go a long way toward reducing complaints and heading off potential problems before they start. Solid communication skills can also help your team members feel empowered to navigate complicated interactions and improve productivity and motivation, ensuring your dental practice runs smoothly.

 

How to Communicate with Your Dental Patients

If you retain nothing else from this post, remember this—two things support the foundations of good patient communication:

  • Be honest with your patients; they appreciate transparency, even if the answer isn’t exactly what they want to hear.
  • Active listening will ensure you truly understand what your patients need and allow you to respond appropriately. When in-person, pay attention to what your patients say and their body language. Consider repeating patients’ concerns and needs back to them, so they know you understand their concerns.

With these principles in mind, here are some examples of how your team can courteously respond to patients and solutions that can help you promptly meet patients’ needs.

Scenario
You’re on the phone, and a new patient calls. You don’t want to keep them on hold too long for fear that they’ll hang up and try another office.
Potential Response(s)
"Since you are a new patient of our practice, we will email your paperwork to you. This way, you can fill out and submit your information to us digitally. By doing this, you can avoid wait times when you come in for your appointment. "
Quick Solution
YAPI’s Paperless Forms make it easy for new patients to complete paperwork before coming in for their appointment. You can email new patient forms or point them to the documents hosted on your website. Once patients fill out and submit their digital paperwork, the data will automatically sync to your PMS.
Scenario
A patient calls the practice wanting to book an appointment, and the call volume is high.
Potential Response(s)
"Please excuse the wait; we're experiencing a high call volume today." "Thank you for your patience and understanding. May I place you on hold and return as soon as possible?"
Quick Solution
Online booking systems such as YAPI Smart Scheduling are great options for patients who want to make an appointment. It can also be helpful for older adults who need the extra time to coordinate their different doctors' appointments. Here's a sample script: "Great news. Our office now offers online booking. You can go to our website and book online if you are in a hurry…"
Scenario
A patient is in the reception room and has to wait longer than expected to be seen.
Potential Response(s)
“We’re short-staffed today.” “You are going to experience longer wait times.” "We want to do same-day treatments as much as possible, but because of our influx of patients, we might ask you to come back for any additional treatment outside of today's schedule.”
Quick Solution
Prevent your patients from arriving at the doctor's early only to wait. With two-way texting from YAPI, you can text your patients to tell them that their hygenist, for instance, is running 30 minutes behind. Here's a sample text: "If you'd like to get a coffee while you wait for your doctor, I'd be happy to text you when he/she is ready."
Scenario
A patient checking out voices concerns about needing to leave and that they are in a hurry. You still need to give them their bill.
Potential Response(s)
“On your way out, we can text you your billing statement, and you can pay through your smartphone with our new text to pay feature."
Quick Solution
Front desk team members can text patients their bills directly with YAPI Pay, an online billing feature. Patients love using this contactless feature to pay bills on their own time and devices. YAPI PAY can also help speed up cash flow for past-due balances and increase appointment hold rates for patients who like to pay in advance with a discount.

Want more helpful tips and solutions on managing the pressure of staff shortages? Then download our newest e-guide, “Dental Staffing Shortage? Here are Four Tips to Manage the Chaos.”

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