5 Customer Service-Focused Case Acceptance Strategies
What is case acceptance?
Dental case acceptance can be defined as a patient’s agreement to proceed with diagnosed procedures. A dental practice’s case acceptance rate or percentage is the number of accepted cases divided by the total number of cases (accepted and declined) presented to patients for treatment. And case acceptance strategies can increase profit and build trust with patients.
The typical practice in the US sees a 35-45% case acceptance rate. This means that 55-65% of patients chose not to move forward with diagnosed dental needs. While approximately 50% of the population sees a dentist, it’s important to capitalize on these opportunities to provide services where diagnosed.
What causes low case acceptance rates in dentistry?
- Poor customer experience
- Inability to provide a concrete estimate of cost/insurance benefits
- Lack of follow-up on diagnosed work that has not been scheduled (open treatment plans)
- Insufficient trust in provider and staff
- Financial hurdles
There are a lot of hurdles that keep patients from saying yes to their diagnosed treatment. Customer experience, trust, money, and lack of communication are among the most common issues, but they can all be corrected. Below we discuss how customer service case acceptance strategies can elevate the experiences of your patients and increase case acceptance.
1. Always Answer the Phone
Customer experience begins when the patient first hears about your practice. What do they feel from the referral, commercial, or other ad they see that drives them to call your office? After, how is the phone answered? Was it answered? Did it go to voicemail? Many dental practices leave more than 60% of their incoming calls being unanswered. Correcting this is completely in your control. Start by answering the phone and getting the patient on the phone in a courteous and efficient manner.
2. Greet the Patient Upon Arrival
You’ve scheduled the patient and they have arrived for their first appointment. A successful DSO employs good people to build a positive culture. Now is your chance to “wow” them and provide the best experience they could have at the dentist. Greet the patient by name. You know who is coming at what time, so even if you have 16 chairs in your office, you have an educated guess on who each patient is when they enter.
Next, keep your intake documents as succinct as you can. If there are items you never use on new patient documents that are 14 years old, it’s time to revise your system.
Surprise your new patient with a free gift. This doesn’t need to be something tremendous, but a branded item with your practice logo is great. This could be a tumbler, ice scraper (in the winter months), chip clip and magnet, or something else. An item that shows the practice is grateful for the patient’s choice of your practice for their dental needs (or the ability to win their trust).
Finally, be specific with the care the patient will receive and who will be assisting them. You know the assistant or hygienist who will be calling them to the treatment room, so be sure to prep the patient for that handoff. Give them the name of your teammate who will be coming to get them from the reception area.
3. Establish a Personal Connection
Building on the introduction to the practice when the patient arrives, some patients will require a slightly elevated experience. These patients include those who have voiced concerns of anxiety, but also those who have come for a major consultation. Utilizing a treatment coordinator helps maintain this level of experience and will greatly improve the probability of your patient committing to proposed services.
In these situations, have your treatment coordinator do the following:
- Speak privately with the new patient (5-8 minutes max) in a private setting.
- Ask questions to gather information to manage the patient’s expectations, why they chose your office, and why they left their previous dental provider (if applicable). Repeat the answers back to the patient to show your understanding.
- Build up the providers by commenting on the patient’s choice of office. Reference the experience of the doctor in the interests of the patient. Repeat the reasons and treatment required for restoration.
You have set up the patient’s experience to align trust and comfort, but now comes the discussion of diagnosed treatment and helping the patient say “yes” to your treatment plan. This can be a delicate conversation, especially when there may be more going on than the patient’s initial concern. In these situations, speak when you need to and let the patient fill the empty space.
4. Keep it Simple and Only Use Detail When Necessary
Diving into the procedure-by-procedure detail of the treatment plan is often overwhelming to a patient. The opportunity for you to speak and explain may make you feel good, but be careful. Providing too much procedural detail without being asked being asked can decrease the likelihood of the patient saying yes.
Start with a summary such as, “To address your concerns and get you to optimal health, taking care of [issue here], your total investment is [$__].” If the patient needs more info, let them ask. It’s okay for there to be some silence as they process the information.
5. Finance the Treatment Plan
A patient’s ability to pay can be a big barrier to case acceptance. Be sure to remove the obstacles for the patient when possible. This could be as simple as using the patient’s existing CareCredit account, but may require in-house financing. If it is a large treatment plan with values above typical financing thresholds, consider a relationship with a local bank or credit union to offer patients another avenue. Credit unions are always looking for new members and they will see this as an opportunity to help the patient with other debt obligations at the same time. Here are some items to keep in mind as you secure the financial commitments to close the treatment plan:
- Offer 3rd party financing if it cannot be done in a down payment a few payments.
- When using in-house financing, do not be afraid to apply interest. Patients understand credit.
- Utilize auto-payment when possible. If a patient resists auto-pay, you have a high probability of default. Consult your credit card merchant services provider to see if this is a feature they have available.
The customer service you offer dental patients can make or break your case acceptance rate. Dental case acceptance strategies as a whole can help you bring in more profit while excelling in patient care. As dental consultants, Skytale Group can help you develop case acceptance strategies. To learn more, start a conversation with us!