Giving patients added value

small checkTracy Stuart of NBS Training describes how to offer added value to improve the perception of your practice in the eyes of your patients

Dentistry is viewed by many not in the business as something of a dark art that is beyond the realms of their understanding, much like car servicing can be for the non-mechanically minded. You drop your car off, collect it later, are told it is fixed, and presented with a bill, with no real understanding of what has happened in the meantime. Despite the physical presence of the person in the dentist’s chair, dental check-ups often take many people in much the same way; you lie there, get poked at while people talk over your head, and are given a verdict or a reprieve at the end of the session, without really understanding the value of what has just happened to you!

This being the case, making the check-up process more transparent and interactive for the client can help to provide added value, improving the customer’s perception of your clinic and what you do there, and promoting interest in your services as well as building customer loyalty.
Asking your clients to complete the Smile Checker every two years gives you the chance to keep your records up to date, as well as identify any new areas of concern that may be troubling your client, from potentially serious issues, to simpler factors such as stained teeth that may benefit from a whitening service.

However, all too often, Smile Checkers are given out, and yet the contents are not read or discussed with the client! This should be viewed as a massive oversight that needs prompt correction, as the information contained within the Smile Checker is as valuable as gold dust, but only when it is used correctly to improve client relations and to help to secure treatments that your client might otherwise go elsewhere for, or not undergo at all.

With the right knowledge and protocols for the use of your Smile Checkers, these can be an important lead for clinical discussions that may ultimately bear fruit. However, often they are highly underutilised, or not discussed at all due to time constraints. Even when the Smile Checker is used to trigger a discussion, this is often left until the very end of the consultation as a ‘by the way,’ by which point, the client is often already hearing alarm bells and deciding that they want no part of whatever it is that you are peddling!

Utilising the skills of a proactive TCO (treatment co-ordinator) can help to broach this issue, and turn the use of the Smile Checker into a vital stream of potential revenue, as well as an important tool to make a connection with your client, and make them feel valued and involved.

Learning new skills

Missing the chance to make a connection with your client can result in your client possibly taking their business elsewhere, in a haze of missed cues and opportunities. Smile Checkers do not generate funds for your clinic in and of themselves, but they harvest and collate important data for you, giving you the tools that you need to turn information into cash.

Good customer service skills, selling skills and communication do not come naturally to everyone, and are learned rather than innate. This means that they also provide a valuable learning opportunity for the people on the front line of your clinic when it comes to training and up-skilling to ultimately raise your profit margins.

Theoretical knowledge and tangible added value

Incorporating a discussion of the Smile Checker into your consults will help to lead to happier clients who feel valued, and who can gain important food for thought from their standard check-ups. Instilling a sense of security and investment into your clients when it comes to building confidence in your skills in both dentistry and communication will help your clients to see the value in every visit that they make to you, and appreciate the worth of your fees.

Many dentists and other clinic staff are often reticent to view sales and upselling as part of their role, and this is something that your clinic will need to work on with proactive training to both teach your staff the communication skills that they need, and to help them to overcome a fear of appearing too sales-y.

Any opportunity to involve your client in their appointment as an involved party rather than just as the subject should be taken, and utilising modern methods such as using photographs of your client’s smile that can be uploaded and viewed instantly, rather than the traditional ‘show me what you’re unhappy with in the mirror’ approach, can be a huge help with this.

The mirror often lies, and many people suffer from a kind of dental dysmorphia when it comes to seeing what is really in front of them. We all know what it is like to look into the mirror one morning and see an on-point, put-together hottie staring back, only to look in just the same mirror the next day, and feel like a shambling bag of lines and wrinkles!

Photos can also be incorporated into your client’s files and utilised by other staff such as the TCO, while of course, the mirror will show a different set of teeth every time…

Speaking the language

Die Zaehne dieses Mannes kann sich von den Leistungen eines Hygeinist profitieren.

I’ve just told you that this man’s teeth could benefit from the services of a hygienist; but the chances are you didn’t understand. It’s obviously german, but that sentence was probably about as useful to you, and made as much sense to you, as the average dental conversation held between professionals is to the average dental client. (Unless of course you actually happen to be a German speaker, in which case, my point will be wasted on you.)

Using clear, plain English when speaking to and about your client while they are in the chair is also vital, as is explaining what you are doing, and more importantly, why, at each stage of the procedure.

The vast majority of clients have no real understanding of what the dentist is doing while they are rummaging around in their mouth, and ensuring that your own clients do not feel like this will give you an edge over the other practices in the area. Opening a dialogue by talking about the other health risks associated with gum disease is a good start, such as heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. Opticians are well versed in the connections between glaucoma and diabetes, for instance, and encouraging your client to view the care of their teeth as a holistic approach to overall better health, rather than as a small, self-sustaining body part that occasionally plays up, is important.

Sharing knowledge

All too often, dentists don’t share their knowledge and insights with their clients as part of their check-ups, instead waiting until the rinse before announcing that they need an X-ray to investigate a possible cavity, or something similar. Clients are poorly prepared for this type of revelation if their check-up is otherwise silent where their own involvement is concerned, and by the time they are wiping spit off their lips, they are already hearing the voice in their head saying, ‘all good, see you in six months!’

This neatly brings us onto another point; do your clients really appreciate why six monthly check-ups are important, or do they largely view them as an overly frequent cash generator for the clinic that is more elective than it is important?

If you can explain to your client along the way that six monthly check-ups are vital to keeping future restorative work to a minimum, and can help them to avoid costly and possibly unpleasant treatments down the line, again, you are offering added value, securing future appointments, and placing your clinic head and shoulders above the competition.

Using the standard 40-point checklist for each check-up but failing to explain this to the client, and not offering them a copy of their results may well serve to leave your clients feeling short changed, wondering why they visited you in the first place…

Even the local gym gives their customers a copy of their fitness test after their induction or training session, and other experts such as audiologists and opticians never send their clients home without some food for thought!


Tracy Stuart is a well-known, well respected and seasoned team trainer and practice development specialist across the UK and Ireland and wants to help dental practices get the most out of any training that they undertake. Tracy has been successfully delivering training programmes for the last seven years, with over 20 years’ experience in developing and managing dental practices.

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