A huge part of growing and scaling your practice includes building a team of people who can deliver great care to your patients. Having a reliable and productive associate is an integral part of that team and can make all the difference in your practice. Whilst the clinical skills are of course extremely important, there are a few business skills that associates can develop that will help both the owner and the associate achieve professional satisfaction.

Building a book

As the owner hands new patients to the associate, it’s up to the associate to retain those patients and aid in the process of generating referrals. The touchpoint your patients have with your associates is invaluable, and can have huge commercial implications.


The associate can also have conversations with the patients that stress the value of future bookings and ultimately improve your rebooking rate – which is a vital metric for any practice. A classic example would be: “Bob, it was fantastic to see you today. That restoration was deeper than I expected it to be. Clearly if we’d left it any longer, it could have caused you some grief. So glad as I mentioned that we got it done today. Now the issue, Bob, is that the cavity on the other side of your mouth might also be bigger than I expect, and so I’m a bit anxious about leaving that too long because I definitely don’t want you to have a problem. It’s important that we get on top of this as quickly as possible. In a moment, I’m going to walk you out to the reception and I’d like to get that booked in now so that we’ve got it covered because when these things play up, it’s just not fun and you definitely want to avoid that.” When it comes to retaining a patient base, we’ve always got to be giving people a reason to come back. The above text would be a great example for a patient midway through a treatment plan, but it’s just as important when we go through the recall process and want patients to come in for their six-monthly check-ups. For the recall process, a great rule of thumb is to communicate three reasons for your patient to come back. Patients are busy and might forget one or two reasons, but rarely will they forget all three.

Providing a great patient experience

Your associate plays an important part in the patient experience.  While patients might not understand the ins and outs of the clinical side of things, they will remember how your associate made them feel. It’s imperative that patients feel cared for, listened to, and that they trust you. Part of that includes remembering the little things they tell you about their personal lives, asking what they’re up to this weekend, relating to them on common interests. Ultimately, this is going to play a big part in whether or not they refer friends and family to you – you need to earn the right to referrals.

Asking for feedback and referrals

If you want to ask a patient for feedback and referrals, it’s important to frame it at the beginning of the appointment. You can really simply and concisely frame it like: “Bob at the end of the appointment, would it be okay if I ask you for some feedback? I really want to make sure the appointments good for you, but I also really have to check in on how the appointment goes. Is that okay?” And then at the end of the appointment, follow up with: “Bob, I mentioned at the beginning of the appointment that I’d ask for some feedback. Would you mind letting me know how the appointment was?” Now, not all feedback is necessarily going to be positive. Negative feedback is often very instructive and you can take that on board to improve your patient experience. However, if the feedback is positive, you can make a short request: “Bob, thanks so much for those kind words. I really appreciate the feedback. Look, what you might not realize is that we’re primarily a referral-based practice and look, we don’t take on just anyone as a patient, but I’m glad you’ve had a good experience. I’ve certainly enjoyed looking after you. So if you happen to have any family and friends you’d like to send along, we’d be more than happy to look after them on your behalf. He’s a card that you might like to hand out to them.” So, in essence, building a book, retaining patients, and then being able to ask for referrals are core skills every associate should learn.

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