Reality Check - Does Your Practice Suffer from Neglect?
It’s no secret that over the past few years, many dental practice owners have had to take a good hard look at how they do business. The problem, however, is most either don’t know what to look for or really don’t want to pull back the curtain and face the nasty mess that lies behind it. Instead, they promise themselves: “We’ll get through it. We’ll be okay.”
For practices that have been in operation for 15-20 years, owner neglect is not uncommon. The doctors went into dentistry to treat patients. They managed to squeeze out a pretty decent income over the years. They tolerated the staff challenges. They did their best to stay enthused. They knew things weren't perfect, but they were good enough - until the last few years. These dentists can no longer bury themselves in the dentistry and let the rest of the practice operate on autopilot.
They are facing serious challenges today, unlike any they have seen in their careers. They don't know what to do, so they pretend the problems aren't that big. Essentially, they check out from reality. But eventually, the doctor finds him/herself standing toe-to-toe with serious concerns - be they with practice finances, staff, or other - and something has to change.
What can you do when you've allowed your practice problems to multiply to the point that you are completely overwhelmed? Get help. In the meantime, take a good close look at the critical systems that feed the business, starting with the manner in which your staff handles telephone calls.
With all of the focus on customer service and creating a positive experience for patients/customers, I continue to be utterly and completely amazed by the numbers of dental employees that think quality customer service is something that everyone else should provide, except them. Or they are convinced that the mediocre or poor service they are delivering daily is actually good!
One of the most eye opening reality checks for doctors who seek help for their struggling practices is listening to the phone conversations that take place between their employees and prospective patients. The ultimate irony is that in many instances, the doctor acknowledges that if s/he were the calling patient, s/he would hang up and never call back again. In others, the doctor listens in disbelief as patient after patient after patient slips away. Staff rattle off their best guesses on fees for services, provide advice on insurance, yet never make the effort to schedule the caller or reschedule a cancellation.
McKenzie Management’s telephone skill training helps doctors better understand how truly critical this “front door” to the practice is in maintaining a full schedule and a steady stream of patients. Consider this actual exchange:
Patient “Mary” calls the practice of “Dr. Casio.” Business employee “Tina” answers the phone, states the name of the practice, identifies herself, and conveys a helpful attitude. The call is off to a good start. Mary explains that she has a 3 p.m. appointment today, but “something” has come up and she cannot make it. Tina, nice as can be, says: “Okay, do you want to just call back when you can reschedule?” Mary, of course, says “yes.” Click, the call ends, and the opportunity is lost.
What's wrong with this exchange? Tina makes no effort to convey to the patient the importance of keeping the appointment. She does not emphasize that the time has been reserved exclusively for Mary, or that the doctor will be very concerned, or the importance of receiving treatment so that the dental problem does not worsen. More troubling is the fact that Tina doesn't even try to reschedule the patient. Certainly, the tone is warm and friendly, but it is also one that conveys the appointment is not important, last minute cancellations are no big deal, and the patient can just call back when she's in the mood for dental treatment.
There is a very good reason why this practice is not meeting daily production targets. Cancellations and no-shows are rampant, and patient attrition is clobbering the bottom line. Yet, Tina - who has not received a day of training - is doing her best. The doctor hears Tina’s friendly tone and believes that she’s doing a “good job” until he listens to both sides of the exchange and hears for himself the sound of patients slipping away, one friendly phone conversation after another.
Next week, practice feeders can't be ignored.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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