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Practice Makes Perfect when Mastering Patient Conversations

Effective communication with patients is a necessity in any successful dental practice. Every interaction counts towards patient satisfaction and loyalty, from handling inquiries over the phone to addressing clinical concerns. However, being a confident communicator doesn’t come naturally to everyone. That’s where the mantra “practice makes perfect” comes into play.

Practice Makes Perfect when Mastering Patient Conversations

As leaders, we must equip our teams with the framework and confidence to engage in strategic and effective conversations with our patients. ‘I don’t have time for that’, I can hear some of you saying. Well, good news! Team meetings are the perfect place to start helping your team hone their communication skills.

If you aren’t holding regular team meetings already, consider blocking off one hour a month or thirty minutes a fortnight so your team can connect, discuss relevant issues, and do training. By dedicating time to practising how the teams handle different scenarios, we empower our staff to navigate real-life situations easily and professionally.

So, what are some scenarios that can be practiced during these sessions? Here’s a list to get you started:

  1. Telephone shoppers: Handling inquiries and scheduling appointments effectively over the phone.

  2. Patients complaining about price: Addressing cost concerns while emphasising the value of dental services.

  3. Clinical complaints: Responding empathetically to patients’ concerns about their treatment experience.

  4. Asking for a review or referral: Encouraging satisfied patients to spread the word about your practice.

  5. Quality statement: Articulating the team’s skill and commitment to quality care and patient satisfaction.

  6. Handling objections: Addressing common objections or hesitations patients may have about treatment plans.

Now, let’s dive into a couple of sample scenarios:

Bill calls to complain that his tooth is still hurting four days after his root canal appointment, and he is raising his voice.

This scenario tests the team’s ability to handle a disgruntled patient with empathy and professionalism. Firstly, inform the team about the best course of action in this situation. The team can then practice responding calmly, acknowledging Bill’s concerns, and offering solutions.

Jen compliments the Dentist’s gentle manner. How would you ask her to refer a friend?

Here, the focus is on capitalising on positive patient experiences to generate referrals. Practice expressing gratitude for Jen’s compliment and seamlessly transitioning to a referral request, such as asking if she knows anyone else who would benefit from the same level of care.

Mrs Yang calls to reschedule her appointment for the third time due to personal reasons.

This scenario tests the team’s ability to handle situations that compromise the smooth running of the day. Practice empathising with Mrs Yang’s situation and applying strategies to help Mrs Yang keep her appointment and respect the practice’s time. 

Jack expresses dissatisfaction with the results of his recent teeth whitening treatment.

This scenario challenges the team to manage patient dissatisfaction and address concerns about treatment outcomes. Practice actively listening to Mr. Jones’s feedback, showing empathy and discussing potential solutions.

A patient arrives 25 minutes late for their 40-minute appointment and demands they still see the clinician.

This scenario assesses the team’s ability to handle challenging patient behaviours while demonstrating best practices for appointment book management. Practice explaining office policies regarding tardiness while offering solutions such as rescheduling the patient’s appointment or accommodating them if possible without disrupting other appointments.

A new patient expresses anxiety about undergoing a dental procedure and is hesitant to proceed with treatment.

This scenario examines the team’s skill in comforting and reassuring anxious patients while instilling confidence in the treatment process. Practice empathising with the patient’s fears, explaining the procedure in detail, and offering coping strategies or sedation options to alleviate anxiety.

A patient requests a refund for treatment they are dissatisfied with, citing discomfort and lack of improvement.

This scenario tests the team’s ability to handle complaints and resolve issues to maintain patient satisfaction. Practice listening to the patient’s concerns without becoming defensive, offering options for resolution, and following up to ensure the patient’s concerns are addressed.

By incorporating scenarios such as these into team practice sessions, you can ensure that your staff are well-prepared to handle any situation that arises with patients. Ultimately, investing time in skills practice during team meetings boosts staff confidence and enhances the overall patient experience, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

Remember, practice may not make perfect overnight, but it certainly paves the way for continuous improvement and excellence in patient communication. So, let’s make the most of our team meeting time and empower our staff to shine in every patient interaction.


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