There are many ways a dental office can become successful, but there is one thing that all successful offices have in common; successful dental offices have great patient treatment acceptance. You can’t be successful as a dental office if patients are constantly turning down treatment options or delaying care.
So why do patients turn down treatment? Dr. Katz, a practicing dentist for over 40 years and dental coach explains that patients will often have objections, which need to be overcome before they commit to treatment. Dr. Katz explains that often these objects become apparent when patients ask questions after the doctor presents the treatment plan:
A lot of doctors will feel that when a patient asks a question, they do not want the treatment. But actually, when a patient is asking questions, it shows that they do want the treatment, but they have some sort of obstacle in their own life that they need help and overcoming.
Dr. Katz then continues and explains that there are five common objections that patients often voice. Those five objections are cost, fear, time, sense of urgency, and trust.
Cost is a tricky objection to handle, and it is one that Dr. Katz recommends should be dealt with by the administrative and business team. However, they must be set up for success. So the doctor’s role at this point is to become the cheerleader for the business team by saying something like the following:
I want to tell you about Mercedes, our treatment coordinator,. She is an expert at making treatment affordable for you. So that as long as Mercedes is able to fit the treatment into a budget for you, do you see any other reason why we shouldn’t go ahead and schedule the next visit to begin the treatment?
When it comes to cost objections, you need to address the patient and let them know you understand. Payments and fees should be addressed early in the patient relationship, but when cost objections are raised, the patient needs to understand that you are not dismissing their concern.
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Another common objection that comes up is fear. It is not uncommon for patients to ask questions like, is it gonna hurt? Can I go to work afterward? These are expressions of fear.
Dr. Katz suggests the best tactic to overcome fear objections is to use the ‘feel, felt found’ technique. Communicate to the patient that you understand how they feel, and connect their feeling with those other patients have felt. Then present what your practice has found when working with these patients. The strategy behind this tactic is to validate the patient’s fear and then establish trust that others have had that same fear and you have helped them to the right treatment decision. Dr. Katz gives an example of how his team would employ the feel, felt strategy:
I understand how you feel. Other patients have shown similar concern and asked the same. What our patients have found though is that Dr. Katz is extremely dedicated to making sure that you’re comfortable throughout your experience. So Dr. Katz will make sure that you have adequate anesthesia, Novocaine. He will stop and check with you during the procedure. At the end, he will ask you if you would like any medications and provide them for you. Dr. Katz will call you this evening and make sure that you are still comfortable and somebody from the office will check in with you tomorrow to make sure that that’s continuing.
As long as you know that we are totally dedicated to making sure that you’re comfortable throughout and after the procedure, do you see any reason why we shouldn’t go ahead and schedule the next visit to begin the treatment?
Another objection that commonly comes up is objections about time. Often this comes out with a question like, ‘How long is that procedure going to take?’ Dr. Katz advises not to jump to the answer yet until you understand exactly what is being asked:
Somebody asking about how long a procedure’s going to be, that could be a cost question. They may be relating time in the chair to how much pain they’re gonna have. It could be a fear question. It could be a fear question in the sense that the longer time in the chair the more discomfort they may experience. So if you don’t know exactly what somebody is asking, it helps to ask them another question to help narrow it down. The question I would recommend here would be; is there something in your schedule that’s concerning you in setting up your next appointment?
It is vital to try and understand what is the real patient objection to treatment. This requires asking follow-up questions and not immediately jumping to the conclusion that questions mean they don’t want to proceed with treatment. By asking clarifying questions, you can better understand the patient’s objections and communicate the right solution.
When it comes to time objections, Dr. Katz gives an example of something his office often used:
The response to that would be, we understand that your schedule may be tight and difficult, therefore ours is much more flexible. If it means that we are gonna ha need to come in early or stay late, or work through our lunch in order to give you a convenient time for your appointment, we’ll absolutely do so as long as you know that we are going to create convenient times for your appointments. Mrs. Jones, do you see any reason why we shouldn’t go ahead and schedule the next visit to begin the treatment?
You should never quit when a patient raises a question that appears to be an objection. Rather, understand that these objections can be turned into opportunities that enable a patient to go ahead with treatment if you handle them in a scripted and predictable way.
Don’t let patients’ questions at treatment presentations be the end. Prepare to dig deeper and have answers ready when you have identified the correct objection. As you better prepare for patient objections and address them as they come, you will find that your treatment acceptance will increase and you will be able to provide better care for your patients. As the popular Benjamin Franklin quote, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”