Our Favorite Question
Do you just love it when they ask that? Well nowadays, I actually do! Here is why: I have figured out a way to answer that question that attracts the highest percentage of callers I have ever experienced. How do I know? I tracked it.
In my practice we have an extremely simple method for tracking our success rate in converting new callers into new patients. Ever since I implemented my newest scripts for handling the most common incoming calls, our new patient conversion rate has skyrocketed!
Before I unveil the “magic answer,” I need to back up a bit and give you some critical background reasoning that explains where I am coming from.
Point #1: Most people think most dentists and dental practices are the same.
We all know that this could not be further from the truth. But still, that is what most people think. It is a shame, but it is true. Why?
Point #2: Very few dental practices do anything to differentiate themselves from other practices, including when people call.
Call 10 dental offices, chances are you will get at least 9 very similar types of conversations and none of them will be that good.
Point #3: Most people choose their dentist for the wrong reasons; mainly, no dentist has shown them the right reasons to choose the right dentist.
One of those wrong reasons is “going where they take my insurance.” Sure, that may be a financially driven decision; but, you and I know: if they only knew the difference, in most cases they would choose their new dentist for other reasons! That dentist could be “you,” but only if you handle the situation properly.
Point #4: Just because they have bad insurance does not mean that they are bad patients.
Whatever you do, please do not forget this point! Having weak insurance does not mean they value their health any less: they simply have a crappy plan! Their employer is trying to save money. They may not have been trained to value dentistry any more.
The assumption that these people would automatically be undesirable patients is completely off base. And because of the points listed above, they usually do not know any better when they choose a dentist based on the limitations of their plan. We have a huge opportunity here.
Point #5: All people that call your practice deserve the same opportunity to become great patients in your practice!
Why would you deny someone that chance based solely on their insurance plan? I am sure you have had great patients with bad insurance and bad patients with great insurance; the two are not directly related!
Now, you can kick them out if you like and they may “disqualify” themselves in some other way. But, you do not want to prevent a good patient from entering your practice because they do not know how to choose you yet.
The phone rings, and you get that infamous question: “Do you accept my insurance?” What do you do? I promise I am going to give you the answer, but first I am going to give you three things you absolutely should not do. These are so important that I need to list them here:
- NEVER just “field the question.” Verify first that they are looking for a new dentist, invite them to schedule, etc.
- NEVER tell them that “we’re not on any plans or lists.” Dumb, dumb, dumb! This statement is quite negative and it focuses only on what you do not do. It is also irrelevant for most callers; most people do not understand their dental plan at all. They may have traditional, non-restrictive insurance but they still may think they have a “list,” just like their medical insurance. You will drive away some people who have no insurance restrictions. And even if they are on a plan with a “list,” they may still choose you if you handle them properly!
- NEVER tell them to call their own insurance company–or H.R. department at work–to get any information! I know, I know,“but it’s their responsibility.” Yeah it is but almost none of them will call. They will just call another dental office. What do you think will happen if they do call their insurance company or employer? They will get the insurance company’s dogma and drivel! You do not want that. If they need to hear anything at all about their insurance, it needs to be the truth, coming from you!
Finally, we’ve arrived at the answer to this perplexing question. My assumptions are:
- Your practice does not participate in any DMO’s, PPO’s, or other “restrictive” managed care dental plans that lower fees;
- Your practice does accept payments from “traditional” insurance plans that do not restrict fees or a patient’s choice of dentist;
And, patients in your practice have the option of paying in full or paying the “estimated” amount not to be paid by their insurance.
- (If your situation is different, you will have to modify this reply. It is still instructive to study it and consider the rationale behind it.)
Caller Question: “Do you take my insurance?”
Your Response: “Absolutely, we work with almost every plan. Do you know if you are forced, or if it’s cheaper for you, to choose from a finite list of dentists?”
You may be saying to yourself, “That’s it? I read through all this stuff to end up with that?” Hold your horses, Kemosabe. I can tell you that the simple little quote above is remarkably effective!
When people ask this kind of question, it is obvious that they’re looking for a new dentist. It is also obvious that they do not know a whole lot of details about their insurance. This is a big opportunity for you to help them learn more about their plan and your office, and make a great decision to choose you as their new dentist!
Remember, the insurance question is merely an attempt for people to filter through their choices of dentists (and a terrible filter at that). By asking the above question and subsequently offering to help them learn about their plan, you will position your practice way beyond other dental practices in your area (unless any of them are reading this too).
It is a very positive statement. You are letting them know right away that you work with most insurance plans, and that you are willing to at least help them wade through the details of theirs. In doing so, most folks will be naturally inclined to reciprocate by choosing you.
Lastly, by asking a question, you will take complete control of the call: a big deal. Now you are steering the patient where you want them to go and where they need to go.
Of course, there is more to the above reply than meets the eye. You’re going to get 3 different answers to that question: “Yes (I have to choose from a list);” “No (I don’t);” and, “I don’t know.” Wait until you discover how many people really do not know!
Spearing Your Whales
We want to “reel ‘em in!” Our goal is to engineer the conversation so that the patient chooses to schedule their initial appointment with you. This will not happen if you just “field the question” without any purpose.
So as I review these exchanges, keep in mind the psychological dynamics involved, and how I tap into the emotions of the caller. Many of them will not be able to resist scheduling with you if you handle them properly on the phone. It is almost unfair!
The phone rings,and one of your team members (could/should be any team member) answers with their friendliest, happiest, most cordial voice. Then you get “the question:”
“Do you take my insurance?”
To refresh your memory, here’s my recommended reply: “Absolutely, we work with almost every plan! Do you know if you are forced, or if it’s cheaper for you, to choose from a finite list of dentists?”
Patient Answer #1: “No, I don’t have to choose from a list. I can go to whichever dentist I want.”
Your Response #1: Great! You’ll be able to use your benefits here to their maximum extent. If you’d like, I’ll do a ‘Free Benefits Evaluation’ for you so we can find out the limitations of your plan. That way we can avoid any surprises if your insurance plan does not pay what you expect.”
There are many different psychological tools at work here. Among them is the concept of shaping expectations. Certain words are chosen for their effect on the prospect’s expectations about their plan. For example:
- “Great!” = very positive word choice.
- “Maximum extent” = use all their available benefits.
- “Free Benefits Evaluation” = free service offered that connects the patient to your practice early.
- “Limitations of your plan” = discussing insurance benefits in terms of their limits, not amounts.
- “Avoid surprises” = you’re being as clear and upfront as possible with patients at the outset.
- “Plan doesn’t pay what you expect” = this puts you on the patient’s side and positions the insurance company as the deceptive entity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It is critical that you try your best to sound objective when explaining insurance issues to patients. You do not want your opinions to show through too openly to patients. It will appear as propaganda and may elicit skepticism. However, when you speak of insurance plans in terms of their limitations, you will find that your patients will quickly conclude for themselves that their plan is very limited no matter how “good” they thought it was before. This distinction is huge, as it often leads towards patients making better decisions for themselves regardless of their plan’s limitations. Instead of saying, “My insurance won’t let me,” they will say, “My insurance only pays so much for X and nothing for Y, but I want Y because it’s the best choice for my situation!”
From this point, you should transition straight to converting the prospect to a patient immediately by asking to schedule their first appointment.
If the prospect is still not ready to schedule, the “Free Benefits Evaluation” is a quick and cheap way to guarantee a follow-up discussion. The prospect in turn will often reciprocate by scheduling with your practice!
Patient Answer #2: “Yes, I do have to choose my dentist from a list. Are you on it?”
Your Response #2: (Assumption of no PPO/DMO participation) “Ok. These plans really limit your choices when it comes to choosing the dentist you may want. But we have many patients who choose to have Dr. (your name) be their dentist even though they get fewer (or even no) benefits than they would get if they went to an office where it’s cheaper. In fact some of them had even left our office when their insurance changed to a more restricted plan but then they came back because they missed our level of service and care! We would love to have you as one of our patients! Would you like to experience the same level of service and care that our patients do?”
How could you say no to that? I know what you are saying, “That’s too much to say…I’ll never learn all that.” Hogwash! Just try it. Say it 5 times in a row comfortably. You will find that it will naturally flow right out of your mouth after a while of practice.
The magic of this dialogue is that it includes heavy doses of what world famous psychology professor Dr. Robert Cialdini calls “social proof:” if others are doing something, it must be a good thing to do. By explaining that you have “many patients” who appreciate your practice and the doctor so much that they pay more to go there, that is saying something!
You will likely gain about 1 in 3-5 new patients using this approach with PPO/DMO patients. That’s 20-33%. It may not seem like much, but every one is one that you had no chance of getting before!
You could always offer them a free evaluation to let them experience your office with no risk. Or, give them at-home whitening for just $97. The more you reach out to them, the more likely they will make their next dental appointment with you.
Remember, just because they have a sucky plan does not mean that they would be bad patients! Give them a chance to be a great patient in your office!
Patient Answer #3: “I’m not sure if I have a list or not. How can I find out?”
Your Response #3: OK, that’s fine. How about if I do a Free Benefits Evaluation’ for you so we can find out what the limitations of your plan are. That way we can avoid any surprises if your insurance plan doesn’t pay what you expect. Would you like that?”
Now, can you see how that differentiates your practice from all the others? I’d bet my future earnings that 9 of 10 dentists would tell callers to find out for themselves.
As previously discussed, this strategy virtually guarantees a second conversation with the caller during which you can outline the limitations of their plan. Then simply move to response #1 or #2 from there. Finally, do not ever forget to always invite: ask them to schedule!
Another big benefit of the “free benefits evaluation” not previously mentioned is that you can indeed avoid the surprise of a new patient having a different insurance plan than they thought. This cuts way down on any chances for the patient to be shocked by an unexpected bill or you feeling compelled to write it off at the end of the appointment.
Remember, the mere fact that you’re willing to do this for prospects greatly increases the chances that they will become patients!
Let us say you employ this strategy and capture just one extra new patient per week that would not have been scheduled otherwise. Many of you will do far better, depending upon your call volume. Assuming a first-year patient value of about $800 per (a very conservative figure), you are looking at:
1 Patient x 50 Weeks x $800 = $40,000 increase!
And, just for fun, it’s very possible to double:
2 Patients x 50 Weeks x $800 = $80,000 increase!
Really, there is no true limit! Understanding that fact is the key to stellar growth beyond your wildest dreams! As Napoleon Hill, author of “Think And Grow Rich,” so wisely stated, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!”
Now that you have the tools to master this frequently occurring situation, I strongly suggest that you share this information with your team. Also, let them know of your expectations for them to implement this and all the other concepts and strategies that can make your practice soar; then, just turn them loose and watch your practice soar!