At first glance, the idea of requiring a credit card on file in order for a new patient to schedule an appointment may seem preposterous. In my new book, “Dentistry’s Business Secrets, Proven Growth Strategies for Your New or Existing Practice” I discuss the importance of providing Five-Star Customer Service to your patients. Following this principle, it might appear even more outlandish to demand credit card information during the new patient phone call. The unfortunate truth, however, is that even though you may be committed to offering top-quality customer service, this in no way assures that your new patient will be so kind as to supply Five-Star Doctor Service. This is to say that while most people are honest and attempt to live their word, many will disrespect the initial appointment time when anything more appealing presents. We all understand that most things fall within this category when they are compared with going to the dentist.
When a new patient calls our office and requests an appointment, we are diligent about helping to first establish a warm rapport and help to answer any questions or concerns that the patient might have. We then walk through insurance information to obtain data which will allow us to arrive at a reasonably accurate co-payment estimate for treatment on the first visit. We do all we can to make the patient feel comfortable and welcome in our practice before broaching the topic of securing the appointment with a credit card. This is presented almost as an afterthought, something so standard in the industry that it must stand to reason.
Though many dentists approach this subject with some trepidation, the process holds a dual purpose for the profitable dental practice. Not only does it ensure against losing money when a patient fails an appointment, it also establishes the appointment in the patient’s mind as valuable. We have found that the number of new patient failures and cancellations has been significantly reduced when employing this protocol. We have also been pleased to find that the resistance to such a request has been much milder than originally anticipated.