8.13.10 Issue #440 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Do This Before Summer’s End And Reap the Rewards
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Hard to believe that summer is almost over. While we may wish we could hold onto the lazy summer days just a bit longer, I like this time of year because for many, it brings a sense of new beginnings. Staff are returning fresh from vacations. Students are preparing to go back into the classroom or head off to college. And for dental teams, this is an excellent time to look at where you are on your 2010 goals.

December may seem far off into the distant future, but I assure you, the end of the year is right around the corner, and the only color I want you to see when the holidays roll around and you close out 2010 is green. That makes August an ideal time to regroup, refocus, and redouble your efforts in those areas that have the greatest impact on your practice success. Starting with patient communication, namely, scripts.

Successful practices script every patient interaction. I know that you and your team think that you are brilliant communicators. Truth is, many of you are very good, many more are average, and a fair number are poor. I can assure you this, if you develop scripts that emphasize the benefit to the patient in virtually every interaction, you and your team will become better and more effective communicators. More importantly, you will see the return in your bottom-line. 

Scripts ensure that nothing is left to chance and everyone is communicating in a positive and effective manner. For example, when new patients call the practice, a script guarantees that whoever picks up the phone is prepared to make the caller feel welcome and effectively convey the value in creating a relationship with this dental practice. When it comes to collections, a script enables the practice to help patients feel confident in pursuing treatment because they fully understand that effective payment plans, such as CareCredit, are available. Additionally, scripts help to ensure that the schedule has fewer gaping holes because team members understand how to consistently reinforce the value of each visit with the patient. And the patient fully understands the importance of keeping appointments, as they benefit their overall health.

The best scripts use words, phrases, and questions that emphasize the benefits to the patient - not the requirements of the doctor or practice. Those who are able to use scripts most effectively understand the message they need to convey. They know the information and material thoroughly and are able to adapt the scripts so they come across naturally. What’s more, those teams that use scripts to their full advantage practice, practice, practice and regularly engage in role playing.

Role playing is essential in helping staff improve communication skills significantly. And the key to successful role playing is that everyone knows that mistakes are both welcome and encouraged - they are not expected to be a pro from the first word. Remember, the goal with role playing isn’t performing - it’s thinking about what should be communicated, determining how to best phrase questions and identifying the most appropriate sequence for statements and questions. For example, role playing helps a team to determine where in a script to place questions involving insurance or statements regarding the financial policy so as not to send unintended negative messages to patients.

Make it fun, make it a regular part of your staff meetings, and I guarantee that every person on your team will become far more skilled in effectively communicating with patients. And that translates into practice success!

Seal up the cracks in your own economy with thorough patient follow-through. Current and prospective patients who request information should be sent the material the day the request is made. Consider including additional information about the practice, such as the doctor’s commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. Emphasize specific qualities about the practice that set it apart from others, such as dentistry for the entire family, painless dentistry techniques, cosmetic services offered, 3-D cone beam, lasers, a commitment to never make the patient wait more than 5-10 minutes, etc. Ensure that the materials convey a positive feeling about the doctor, the practice, the team. Avoid negative language in your materials, such as cannot, don’t, won’t, and lists of punitive policies and requirements.

Next week, follow-up and watch patients follow-through. 

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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