You may not view dental patients as consumers but that’s what they are and that’s how you must approach them, especially when it comes to case presentation. For years consumers had a fairly predictable set of purchasing habits that allowed retailers and other businesses to motivate them to make buying decisions. After the 2008 recession, consumer buying psychology began to change. Comparative pricing and short-term specials became a priority, and the ability to research products and services and make purchases on the Internet have given consumers a new level of control. Although it may be hard to accept, consumers have changed, and we need to change with them.
The changing consumer perspective
Consumers have become much more savvy and cautious, and today’s dental patients are behaving more and more like everyday retail consumers. Before choosing a dental home, they evaluate practices regarding convenience, services, reputation, insurance participation, and even whether or not a practice will negotiate in some way. In one study, researchers identified that people with incomes of more than $200,000 a year make buying decisions that are similar to the decisions people with incomes of $50,000 a year make. In a nutshell, everyone is much more mindful about where they are willing to spend their money.
Case presentation tips
Before consumer perspectives changed, dentists generally told patients what they needed, and most patients accepted treatment. Unfortunately, many practices are still approaching case presentation in this manner. Keep the following tips in mind to help enhance case presentation in your practice:
- Greet patients. Greet every patient warmly. Be friendly and enthusiastic. Ask them about themselves and clearly communicate why they should choose your practice as their new dental home.
- Treat patients like VIPs. The dentist should meet with the patient before any type of hygiene treatment. Ultimately, patients want to believe in the dentist, feel they receive excellent care, and know that the dentist is caring and compassionate. Once the appointment begins, the hygienist should engage them throughout the process by letting them know what they’re doing and asking them if there is anything that they can do to make them more comfortable. People like to connect with their dental practice, especially when they are considering significant treatment.
- Be comfortable discussing money. Patients understand that dental care has a cost just like any other type of purchase. When doctors and team members aren’t comfortable talking about money, patients become uncomfortable as well. The key in talking about money is to present viable financial options early, clearly and completely. Far too many patients do not hear about patient financing options until they have rejected all other options and become closed to the idea of having treatment at all.
- Offer patients multiple consultations if needed. I recommend that consultations be available for any patient who seems uncertain about treatment. Offer to have the patient come back for a second or even third consultation and work in harmony with the patient until a choice is made. The diagnostic process should be a joint process between the doctor and patient, with the doctor taking the time to educate the patient about their specific situation.
- Patients like options. Whether they are diagnostic or financial, all options should be clearly presented to patients so that they can make choices without feeling they are being pushed hard in one direction. The doctor should point out specifically which option he or she feels is in the best interest of the patient, while being sure to leave all options on the table.
Today's dental patients view practices from a retail perspective, making them more willing to change practices if their needs aren’t being met. To increase case acceptance, practices should spend more time orienting patients to the practice, presenting treatment and financial options, and offering follow-up consultations.
Dr. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., a dental management consulting firm, and has written 65 books and more than 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs – Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of dental business education.