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Those within the dental profession may have noticed that dentistry doesn’t always promote positive reactions in people. The cliché is that a trip to the dentist is something to be dreaded, with the dentist portrayed as some kind of intimidating practitioner, often utilizing loud implements feared by apprehensive patients.

While this may seem like a dramatization, the reputation persists. The narrative needs to be changed, and dental practices themselves need to be the places to take ownership of changing that reputation.

It all starts at the dental practice reception – the welcoming point for anyone visiting your practice. The atmosphere and environment created by your front desk team are the first impression patients will get on the trip to the dentist, so it needs to be a good one. Here are some key tips to making your practice a welcoming place:

Create a welcoming environment

In general, most dental practice reception areas don’t radiate warmth. Cold and clinical colors can often contribute to this issue, so adding a bit of color to the front office and having soft furnishings that add warmth and friendliness to the environment will go a long way to setting visitors at ease.

“Avoid silence if at all possible, so have a bit of music playing gently in the background, and provide an array of magazines and newspapers for the adults, and a collection of toys and games for younger visitors to the practice. Think carefully about what makes a welcoming atmosphere, and you will quickly understand that it is the small touches, rather than the grand gestures, that do this,” advises Kim Dozzell, a blogger at BritStudent.

Hire warm and welcoming staff

Many people who visit the dentist do so on edge. So, the last thing they want to be faced with is a front office team who appears to lack empathy.

“As with any service profession, a welcoming smile and kind words upon arrival make a huge difference. Be sure you present your patients with a front office team who are welcoming and friendly in their interactions with patients – this will go a long way in turning every visitor into valuable long-term patients. Training can be provided, of course, but these considerations should be built into your recruitment processes too,” says Connor Shannon, a lifestyle blogger at Australia2write.

Phone manner is just as important, because if the approach is abrupt and cold, then you may fail to attract the patient through the door in the first place. This issue is regularly cited as a major contributing factor in patient retention, so don’t underestimate the importance of having staff who get what it means to be working in a dental practice. It goes without saying that as a medical service provider, putting your patients at ease is always a top priority.

Provide flexible payment options

Dental care is expensive for people, so give your patients options to make those payments. Not only are many people uneasy on a trip to the dentist, but they are also fearful that it’s going to break the bank, so be extremely upfront with costs too, and have total transparency in the cost of various services, itemizing bills and providing flexible options to make repayments. In short, be understanding of different patients’ needs. Of course, you are not running a charity, but knowing that paying upfront is not an option for everybody, it can be important to offer solutions that work for as many people as possible.

Use an effective scheduling system

One of the biggest pet peeves of patients is that they can arrive at the practice for their appointment, and find themselves having to wait for an hour. While it may sometimes be inevitable due to circumstances not in your control if it’s a regular occurrence this experience can put your patients on edge and hurt your ability to retain their business. The first thing to do is to make sure you employ an effective scheduling system and don’t try to pack patients in too tightly. You may think you are making more money or helping more patients this way, but you don’t want to get a reputation for rushing the job and leaving people waiting.

Instead, allocate plenty of time between appointments, automate your system with automatic text alerts to let patients know if you are running behind schedule, and train your staff in how to effectively deal with patients who find themselves having to wait. All of this helps greatly in retaining business.

Katrina Hatchett is a marketing blogger at PhDKingdom with a particular interesting in the art of communication. She is a regular writing contributor at Next Coursework.

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