The little things make all the difference
The blog title actually says it all. It is all about the little things and it really really is.
Your dental patient experience is all about the small things you can do to make your patients remember you and that show a patient you care about them as an individual.
Just this week I was invited to a practice and I was given a cup of tea in a beautiful cup and saucer; it was dainty and just lovely. I was taken by this little teacup and saucer so much so that I am now writing about it – a little thing but it makes such an impact and a difference.
For me there are so many little things you can do to really enhance your patient experience and here is my top ten.
- Body language, tone and words. I have written articles about this on many occasions. The way in which we present words is vital and this is provided by an engaged body language with wonderful tonality.
- Meeting and greeting patients as though they were friends. When a patient walks into your practice my expectation is that the reception team stand and engage in the greeting. If it is a new patient my expectation is even higher as I would like the reception team to walk from the desk so they can provide a high-class greeting and tour.
- Forms. There are so many forms, both digital and paper, that need to be presented in a positive way, explained with positivity and not just ‘here you are, take a seat’ which always disappoints me. You have a real opportunity to explain each form and gain an easier patient buy in. None of us want to do them but if you present the forms in a fantastic way then this will be a ‘little thing’ winner.
- Refreshments. They are expected and they really do support your experience, however the take up in practices is low and it’s usually because of the way we ask. The verbal skill to follow here is “I would like to get you a refreshment, would you like tea, coffee or a cold drink?”. It is British custom to not like ‘putting people out’ so you have to make an effort. Don’t forget nice cups and saucers for presentation, not an unsuitable mug that has an inappropriate slogan.
- Personality profiling. This is so so important. If you know who your patient is you really have the opportunity to achieve the right patient experience and delight people in a way that makes them happy. You can watch our video on DISC using this link.
- Running on time. Running on time, especially in a practice that is driven privately. Now this is a little thing but actually to achieve this means so many systems have to be correct. You need to make sure this is happening as it is expected that you run to time. There are three areas you have to get right in order to do this. The first one is planning the right amount of treatment time. Secondly, you have to plan time for the patient experience, including discussion of education and treatment plans that is based on the patient’s personality. If a patient enjoys a chat then you need to increase your appointment time, if they are a nervous patient the same rule applies. Thirdly, plan the time taken for writing up your notes and allowing the nurse to complete decontamination procedures. If you get these three areas right then you give yourself the best chance of running on time which is a little thing but, oh my, such a game changer for the patient and the team. Please remember that all this time is to be charged on an hourly rate and not provided for free.
- Greeting from the patient lounge. For a lovely touch, a high-class patient experience starts with the collection of the patient by the clinician. It means you are visible and you can do all the social niceties immediately. Whilst this is happening your nurse can be making sure the surgery is, what I call, “Mary Poppins, spit spot” and is waiting at the door to greet the patient to seat them and place their bags etc.
- Introducing the nurse. This is so important for the nurses; it allows them to present in the room and they need an introduction so that they are able to support the chair-side patient experience with you, the clinician. If you do this I can guarantee that the commitment from the nurses in being energised in the treatments and examinations will be a game changer as nobody likes to feel ignored.
- Handovers. This is a vital patient experience and is often an area that is missed. You work so hard and then you leave the patient to approach the desk on their own, the patient then spends time negotiating with the reception team. This should not happen and the way around this it to do a verbal or written handover that confirms everything the reception team need to know for that patient. There must be no grey areas or surprises such as treatment cost or wait times – everything should have been confirmed and completed in the surgery.
- Goodbye. Make sure, as a clinician, you say goodbye before your next meet and greet, with a big smile on your face. The goodbye is as important as the hello, the final goodbye is provided by the reception team so this has to be spot on. One verbal skill that will always help is “Is there anything we can do differently for you next time [patient name]”. This shows a real commitment to make sure all the little things are either working for the patients or there are areas that they would like to change. You can only change the little things if you know about them.
These are my favourite tips in this area, if you have any questions or thoughts then let us know and we can answer your questions in our monthly Horton Hangout Podcast.