How’s the signage in your dental office?

You think it’s helpful having all these wondrous signs, but in reality, your signage could be sending out the wrong message to your valued clients, patients and customers…

Well, how can this be so, Dr Moffet? Our signs are there to clarify our office policies, you say.

John DiJulius said, 

“Don’t let the actions of the two percent dictate the rules for the other ninety eight percent”

Wise words indeed.

Just because you have a recalcitrant two percent of customers, who disobey your practice guidelines and stretch the boundaries of your office policies and procedures, doesn’t mean that this two percent should dictate rules for the other ninety eight percent of your valuable compliant customers.

Often we see signs in dental offices that simply do the job that should be done by efficient and well-trained staff and team members.

These signs are actually then used as a “crutch” for weak team members to lean on. They point to the sign, as if it is the GOLDEN RULE that is set in stone and cannot be broken.

Sadly, in a lot of situations, the signs are superfluous “clutter” that present a BROKEN WINDOW to your customers that you and your team don’t even see. These signs are actually sending out negative subliminal messages that you as the business owner are totally unaware are happening.

Let me share a few of my favourite signs.

“It is our practice policy that all treatment must be paid for on the day”

This sign, and variations of it, are usually office typed one page Word written signs. They are hung in the front office area and the financial coordinator’s office. 

But why? 

It’s like I said, because it’s on a sign, then that makes it official?

I’d rather not see this nasty sign on display for every person in the office to see. What I’d rather see, when asked for credit, is that the front office team members all have the strength of character to look the customer or client square in the eye and say with a firm, but empathetic voice that the office requires full payment today for treatment.

In fact, for new patients to the dental office, this matter of payment on the day needs to be addressed by the appointment coordinator at the time of scheduling the appointment. A note then needs to be made in the patient’s appointment file, so that this can then be added as a reminder during the confirmation call as well, if needed. 

Then there is no need to rely on this nasty sign.

Dental credit and accounts for treatment are a throwback to the olden days that pre-date credit cards. In this modern day and age of electronic fund transfers and After Pay there is no reason whatsoever that a dental office needs to act as a bank or loan office.

“As a courtesy to others please turn off your mobile phone”

Once again, in this day and age, dental offices need to bring themselves into the twenty first century.

Look around at the world out there. Everyone is either on the phone or texting, or holding a phone.

The mobile phone has become a human appendage, an extension of the person.

Look at young people and their ‘fashion statements” with their phone covers?

Instead of having an office phone policy, I decided to embrace technology. Here’s what I came up with:

Firstly, as a dentist, I do draw the line on patients using the phone and texting while being treated in the chair. However, I don’t need a sign or rule displayed to offend the 99.9% of my clients who observe this courtesy.

I’ve learned though, to never be annoyed or alarmed if a client’s phone rings in the treatment room during treatment.

Here’s what I do.

When their phone does ring, I simply ask, with a concerned voice, 

“Do you need to take that call?” 

and I’m ready to retrieve their phone for them if they respond in the affirmative.

The surprising fact is that in nine out of ten cases, the patient will respond in the negative, that they don’t need to take the call. Often they will apologise for the auditory interruption of their phone ringing, and offer to mute their phone.

I turn this into a positive for our office. When they say no that they don’t need to take the call, I’ll reply with an 

“Are you sure?” 

This puts me on their side, rather than making me an antagonist.

It allows me to show a caring, warmer side. It allows me opportunity to share a tale about another patient who was waiting on or received an important call while getting treatment.

It presents the phone ringing as not being any sort of interruption whatsoever.

This scenario is really another great example of how your office can OFFER THE OFFER

Offer the Offer is a process that I named for when there is kudos to be gained for offering an offer that is nearly always declined, but is no inconvenience whatsoever if accepted.

The customer is delighted to have received the courtesy of the offer, rather than the content or component of the offer.

“Please take a seat. We will endeavor to be with you as quickly as possible”

This one is a doosey on so many levels.

Firstly, the underlying message is, we will run behind schedule. It says, we don’t value or respect your time, and we do it so routinely, we have erected a sign to highlight this regularly occurring occurrence.

Secondly, the sign heralds the fact that upon arrival in our office, you’re on your own. There is no greeter. No front office concierge. No schmoozer. This sign announces to the patients and customers that this office is understaffed. Understaffed for whatever reason. But understaffed none the less.

Patients will naturally think, that with what they are paying for their dental treatment, the least this guy could do is employ someone here to greet me. That’s a given.

All this sign does is herald the fact that on arrival at this office, you’re on your own. No wow factor here. It’s zero customer service.

“A 1.3% service fee is added to all credit card transactions.” 

Or, better still:

“A 2.5% fee is added to all American Express Card transactions.” 

Or, worse still:

“We don’t Accept American Express Cards”


Credit card payments are money in the bank! Instant! It’s there same day or next day. No running to the bank to deposit cash or cheques. EFTPOS machines do daily settling and additions…it’s money for jam.

So why put up a sign that makes you look miserly?

Why not just incorporate the credit card fee into your fee structure without announcing to the world, and to each and every customer, that you are so tight fisted that you need to whack on an extra one point something percent?

And when it comes to American Express, I’ve found that Amex Card holders make the better customers. On the whole, they accept and undergo more treatment.

So look around your office. Are there signs there that really don’t add the customer service experience?

Become a student of bad signage. It is all around us. Everywhere we do business. And it’s atrocious some times.

Don’t become another sign displayer. It’s unnecessary.


Dr. David Moffet BDS FPFA CSP is a certified CX Experience coach. David works with his wife Jayne Bandy to help SME businesses improve their Customer Service Systems to create memorable World Class experiences for their valued clients and customers. Click here to find out how David and Jayne can help your business