How to Collect Pre-Payment From Dental Patients
As a dental office manager, does the thought of having to collect pre-payment from dental patients while setting up the appointment scare you to death?
This is usually the first reaction most office managers experience when a dental office decides to change their policy from “bill me later” to “collect pre-payment before appointment”.
This week, we’re going to talk about pre-payment and how to collect money from patients before treatment is actually rendered.
Check out the video below and read on to learn how to collect pre-payment from patients as a dental office manager…
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
It’s natural to feel scared about asking for payments up-front from your dental patients.
Here’s how you can get started; everyday, pick two patients to ask to pre-pay.
The way you go about asking them during the conversation is not as important as making a firm commitment to just ASK.
Start with two customers. You can pick who they are.
To make this easier, try choosing patients that have a good attitude and don’t have the potential to chew your head off when you ask them for money.
Be Persistent in Asking
You MUST pick two customers. Even if they are not pre-cognitively chosen, at the very least, you should keep score of yourself and make sure that by end of day you have asked at least two customers to pay up front.
If you find yourself getting to the end of the day without asking at least two customers, consider trying to do your asking at the beginning of the day (before lunch) so you can make sure to catch yourself.
Accountability is Key
Make sure you are holding yourself (and your team) accountable for asking for dental pre-payments up front.
You can keep your staff’s morale high by asking each team member in the morning huddle, “Who are you going to ask today to pre-pay?”
It’s true that you won’t always know who will come in that day, or who will be calling to make an appointment, but your receptionists can always make it a goal to ask the following patients:
- The first person to walk in the door
- The first person to call and make a new appointment
- A specific customer on the calendar for the day
There are two types of patients you’ll want to approach first when getting started with your new dental pre-payment policy.
- New Patients
- Rock-Star Patients
Let’s explore each and see why these two make the most sense to try and covert first:
1. New Patients
New patients are typically the easiest to approach when starting to collect pre-payments.
Since they are new to your practice, they may not be pre-conditioned with a “pay after services are rendered” or “bill me later” attitude.
However, if their previous dentist took payments in the “bill me later” fashion, you’ll get a chance to break that habit up front and avoid any hassle in the long run.
And in the future, every time this new patient makes a new appointment, they will be expecting your new up-front payment policy.
2. Rock-Star Patients
Another best practice is to approach your all-star patients; the ones that love your dentist office and have been known to be easygoing, friendly, and genuinely happy when they visit your dental office.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but if the patient is reasonable, they will come to understand that this is the new policy.
And if they are truly good patients, they will adhere to your new pre-payment policy. If not, they will find another dentist to go to.
And that’s fine.
It’s important to realize that you you cannot and will not convert everyone. So do not get discouraged if they end up leaving your practice after asking them for pre-payment.
For maximum profitability and productivity in the office, your practice will want customers that understand this “pre-pay” policy as part of the admission for your office’s dental services.
If the customer does not understand this new policy, they are not the right fit for your office.
Give Discounts for Pre-Payment
As the video above describes, Amy’s practice was collecting pre-payment from dental patients and offering a discounts to incentivize them to pay up front.
In the video, she tells the story of how she booked and received a pre-payment from a new referral patient.
In Amy’s own words, here’s what happened next…
“That afternoon, I got a call and it was from the new patient’s sister who had referred her. She was up in arms!
She said, ‘I have a bone to pick with you! I sent my sister over to see you and you gave her a discount! What’s up with that? I just had some work done with your office a couple of months ago and you didn’t give me a discount.’
At that moment, it hit me over the head that okay, this is not something that we’re inflicting upon our patients. This is an opportunity that we’re giving our patients to save money.”
Amy goes on to describe that this was her paradigm shifting moment of clarity.
The goal was NOT to rob her patients of money. In fact, quite the opposite.
This new pre-payment priority was an opportunity for everyone involved in the transaction:
- The patient gets an opportunity to save money by paying in advance
- Because of the patient now having “skin in the game”, they are less likely to be late or cancel.
- Your office receives money that it would not have seen until weeks or months AFTER the procedure.
- You and your dentist are happier because the practice now has working capital to cover office expenses, payroll, etc.
Expanding Your Beliefs About “Money”
We know it can be a little nerve wrecking to try and collect money in advance.
The unfortunate truth is money is a very delicate topic for most people. This truth stems far into the psychology of your patients, their upbringings, and their past experiences with money.
But it does not just extend to your patients… this truth also includes your own limiting beliefs about money.
In fact, the more you fear talking about money… the more you will want to excavate this deeply rooted pre-supposition.
You and your staff will do this with practice. (hence the reason for the “2 patients per day” commitment.)
It takes a very real mental-shift to overcome the fear of money. We’ll cover more about that in a future post.
For now, focus on the benefit to the patient.
These benefits are not always self-evident. But if you explain them properly, your patients will soon realize you are doing them a favor.
Try using the following lines to get them to understand why pre-payment is a good thing:
- “You get to save money by paying up-front for your appointment”.
- “You don’t have to come see me when you check out next week for your treatment.”
- “The money part will all be squared away for your visit.”
Pre-Payments Make Your Dentist Happier
If you’re still having trouble convincing yourself or your staff why pre-payments are a good thing for the office, consider the following facts:
- Patient pre-payments = commitment to the appointment (less cancellations or no-shows)
- Patient pre-payments = more money for office purchases, expenditures, payroll, etc.
- More money = a HAPPIER DENTIST in the office!
- Happier dentist = more successful procedures with no monetary distractions floating around in his head.
- Happier dentist = a HAPPIER OFFICE STAFF!
- Happier office staff = a happier dental office manager (i.e.- your life becomes much easier)
Defining “Dental Pre-Payments”
Remember, when you take a dental appointment pre-payment, you are collecting the FULL AMOUNT of the cost of the appointment or procedure.
Not just a portion of the payment.
This full amount is NOT in addition to outside funding of any sort.
The pre-payment arrangement (and discount) is for cash, credit card, debit card, or check (if applicable) at the time of the treatment scheduled.
Overcoming the “Let Me Think About It” Objection
If a patient happens to say something like…
“That sounds like a good deal, but let me check with my husband”
“I don’t have the right credit card with me”.
You can simply reply with…
“No problem, I’ll tell you what, I can hold this appointment until five o’clock today and if you want to give us a call back with your credit card number /electronic check over the phone, we can definitely do that. But please call before 5 o’clock TODAY, otherwise, we’ll have to give this appointment away to another patient.”
Then, just as you promised, put a hold on the appointment with a note reminding you to delete the appointment if the payment has not been received.
When the customer calls back, process the transaction over the phone, and keep the appointment on your system.
What NOT to Do
Be careful not to let yourself or your staff fall for a common loop-hole in your new pre-payment policy.
The loophole looks something like this:
You feel empathetic for the patient on the phone and say something like,
“Oh, you can’t pay today? Well, that’s alright… as long as you come in 48 hours or 24 hours prior to your treatment and make the payment, we’ll still keep you booked.”
This is unacceptable.
There are no exceptions to the new pre-payment policy. The customer either makes the payment by 5pm, or they are taken off your office schedule.
Do Not Keep Old Habits Alive
Remember, this new policy + discount offered to your patients excludes paying for the treatment on the day of the appointment.
For example- If the patient makes their appointment, you offer a discount and no money is collected beforehand… you have defeated the purpose of the discount.
This discount for pre-payment is used to ensure your patients are committed to their appointments.
If you fail to take the payment beforehand, not only are you losing commitment from the patient, you’re also losing up-front office money for no reason.
You might save yourself a difficult conversation with a patient, but that difficult conversation will still happen with your dentist when he realizes you’ve been offering his services at a discount with no benefit to the office.
We hope this article has helped you start thinking about how to approach patients with a new “pre-payment” policy.
What kinds of challenges or struggles have we left out? Please let us know in the comments below so we can address them.
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