First Impressions Affect Case Acceptance

Case Acceptance Begins Before You Schedule the Dental Patient.

Patients start to formulate an opinion about your practice before they ever pick up the phone to schedule with you. What patients see and hear about your office (from other people, from your advertising, from your website) all plays into their initial judgment of your practice based on first impressions. This opinion forms the subliminal foundation of their level of trust in you, which begins the case acceptance process—before you have ever met them.

If you want your dental patients to accept their treatment plan, then earning their trust the key.

There are many ways patients can come to us, and each way can have a different impact on what patients are expecting from you as their dentist when they arrive in your office. Let’s look at a few ways a new patient can find you and how that plays into the beginning stages of case acceptance.

4 Ways Dental Patients Find You & How It Impacts Case Acceptance:

1. Referral from a current patient.

We all know that a word of mouth referral inevitably becomes the best new patient we could ask for. I want you to understand that this is not always the case because we only get the referral based on quality, not cost. Of course, we always love when our current patients tell others about us. However, what they are saying about us sets the expectation for that new patient. For example, if the current patient tells the prospective new patient that they were in pain and the doctor at your dental practice got them out of pain, that is a quality referral. Or if the patient says they were always unhappy with their smile and your team worked to get them their new amazing smile, that’s even better. Not so great: the patient tells a friend, “You should go to my dentist because the office is on the insurance list and only does what the insurance will pay for” or “You should go to my dentist because they give really good discounts.” Your new patient is now coming to the office with the expectation that you will only do what their insurance covers or that they will receive a discount. They will not expect to discuss any work that’s more than their insurance will cover or anything that requires the full fee out of their pocket. It doesn’t help your dental office to gain new patients if most of them are there with the intent of saving money. Furthermore, if those new patients tell their friends that your office gives discounts…it becomes a vicious cycle.

2. Online reviews.

For a lot of people these days, the minute they hear something about a business, they’re likely to look on the Internet to see what other people have said about it. Online reviews are very similar to patient referrals, as they are written by people who have some experience with your office, whether they became ongoing patients or not. However, one important difference between a direct patient referral and an online review is that once a review is on the Internet, it stays there forever—and has a way bigger reach. That is great when you get a glowing review, but when you get a bad one, it can hurt your online presence. On the other hand, getting a bad review is not the end of the world. Consumers do not expect to see perfect reviews across the board, and if they did, they probably would not believe it. It is important to monitor what is being said about your office on the internet, so you can stay on top of the situation. Make sure when you get a bad review, you work to bury it with a lot of good reviews.

3. Your website.

The other place online that a potential new patient might go when they hear about you is your website. Since patients don’t know whether you are a good dentist yet or not, the website is a way for them to start to formulate an opinion about you and your office. It is important that you have a website that accurately conveys your office culture and your expertise and specialties in dentistry, but above all make sure your website is friendly and welcoming. If your site is generic or outdated, the patient will begin to make assumptions that your office is impersonal, and your dentistry is outdated. If your website is bad (for example, it is full of typos or it looks like you last updated it in 1995), they might not even pick up the phone to call your office at all. It is important that you have a site that is friendly, has a call to action, shows and talks about the type of dentistry you do, and helps a prospective patient formulate an opinion about you that will work in your favor when it comes time to present the treatment plan to them.

4. Your paid marketing.

Any additional marketing you do outside of your website is an attempt to reach people who need and want a dentist in hopes they decide to call your office. How you choose to market tells people a lot about how you do dentistry and run your office. For example, if you are marketing multiple coupons or discounts, that tells a new patient that they can always expect to get discounts at your office and that your primary value as a dental office is to compete on price. If you list all the procedures that you do, like a menu, they will think of your office as a place where they can order off a menu, choosing one or two offerings rather than trusting the dentist to make a recommendation about the full treatment that they need. Make sure that any marketing you do is effective, which means – getting the phone to ring and patients to schedule, but also that it is attracting the kind of patients you want to fill your practice with. At the end of the day, no matter what we do, we are dentists—no one is ever going to schedule with us because they just love dental work. We have no control over that. However, we can control what we put out into the public so when people are considering coming to our office for the first time, it will be more likely that they come with the right first impression and mindset. Once a new patient picks up the phone and calls you, their first impression has already formed. Now it is your turn, once you answer the phone, to either solidify that impression or (if it is not what you hope for) to change their assumptions about your office. Like the cliché goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. However, the phone call is your chance to either affirm that impression or prove it wrong.

Keep in mind that case acceptance doesn’t happen entirely while you are presenting the dentist’s recommendations to a new patient in your office.

Case acceptance happens gradually by creating a foundation of a consistent message about what to expect from your office, starting with how the patient hears about you and continuing through the initial phone call. To improve your case acceptance rate, try looking at all the things that happen long before that new patient ever makes it into the dental chair. If you want to hear more about treatment case acceptance from the perspective of your patients, tune in to our latest podcasts on AADOM Radio.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.