Say this… Not that!

When I teach systems, I begin by saying that the systems in the office are really meant to be the floor, not the ceiling. There is a lot of room between the bottom and top of a room. So we lay the floor by establishing rules about having rules:

  1. There is a rule for everything.
  2. There is an exception to every rule.
  3. Use discretion when applying the exception.
  4. When you make an exception, ALWAYS let the patient know you have made an exception.

With these four guidelines in place, we can begin taking control of our systems with verbal skills that have been rehearsed by the team.

First, never use the word “Policy” with your patients. It has a negative connotation and there are other words that work.  Guidelines, procedures, options are some examples.

Second, always tell the patient what you can do for them.


The patient on the phone is shopping for a dentist. “How much do you charge for a crown?”

If you simply quote your fee you may miss the opportunity to win them over. Some people will not respond to your information but it can’t hurt to say, “I’d be happy to quote that fee. So that I know which type of crown is best, do you mind if I ask a few questions?”

After gaining permission, ask questions regarding their current dental status. “Has the tooth been treated with a root canal? Is gum lengthening necessary to enable a good margin? Will you have a porcelain crown or a porcelain to metal crown done?” After asking a few questions, it is practical to say, “Based on what you are telling me, I know the doctor would prefer to see you first and determine the best treatment plan for this tooth. The fee could range anywhere from _____________ to _______________. I have appointments to examine this tooth on Monday at 12:30 or Tuesday at 2:00. Which would you prefer?”

Laura Jamison has been consulting since 1986 with Pride Institute, then 25 years in business of her own, Jamison Consulting. She has recently joined Henry Schein to continue providing business advice and team coaching.  Her passion for coaching teams is evident in her commitment to providing the best quality experience in her in-office work with dental clients and her national speaking engagements.  Articles have been published in Journal of Private Dentistry in the U.K., Trojan newsletters, AADOM Observer, Dental Economics and in Private Practice Volumes 2 and 3.  Laura is also currently President-Elect of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants.