Mrs. Smith standing in front of you. She pays her bills about as
often as NASA lands a rover on Mars, and now she’s supposed
to schedule two endos and a crown!
the phone is ringing and ringing and ringing. You grab it; move
the caller into hurry up and wait zone as fast as you can get out
the words “Dr.’s office please hold.”
Just when your blood pressure is ready to boil over, Mr. Busy Executive
strolls in a full 20 minutes late with nary so much as an apology.
Eeeeooowww! It’s about to get ugly.
Let’s face it, staying positive and “on” hour
after hour can be a drain. Being helpful and understanding with
patient after patient some days can feel almost impossible. After
all, patients come in all shapes, sizes, and challenges. At those
times, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and
take it out on the patients in the form of poor attitudes, exasperated
sighs, rolling eyes, and worse.
Take three deep breaths and look for win-win opportunities in difficult
patient interactions. Educate the patient. Offer
solutions that benefit them while keeping practice systems running
smoothly. Does Mrs. Smith’s failure to pay result from a misunderstanding
about the practice payment policy? Has the doctor given her permission
to ignore the policy thus undermining your collection efforts? Make
sure the Mrs. Smiths of your practice fully understand the payment
guidelines. Provide payment options such as patient financing through
Establish an internal policy that removes the doctor from difficult
financial discussions with patients.
the ringing phone is driving you crazy it’s also driving patients
to another practice. After two rings, patients are wondering if
the office is closed. A real human being should answer the phone
by the second ring or it should go into the voice-mail system by
the 4th ring. A ringing phone can be a powerful urge to drop what
you’re doing to silence it, but the patient in front
of you comes first. How can you respect both the patient
and the caller simultaneously? Answer the phone, ask the caller
for permission to put them on hold. Never put a caller on-hold without
asking for their permission. “Thank you for calling Dr.
Carey’s office. This is Michelle. May I put you on hold for
just a moment?” Utilize “Information on Hold”
services to educate patients about new and existing services, the
practice mission, philosophy of care etc. The patients and the practice
benefit from what would otherwise be considered an inconvenience.
if Mr. Busy Executive is blowing off his appointments or strolling
in 20 minutes late. First consider the schedule. Does the
doctor frequently run late? Did you confirm the appointment?
In addition to confirming the appointment two days in advance, consider
calling Mr. Busy Exec an hour or so before his appointment. Let
him know that the doctor is running on time today – if that
is the case – and looks forward to seeing him at the appointed
hour. This shows respect for Mr. Exec’s schedule as well as
week, steer clear of the most annoying patient service snafus.
you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie
in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club?
SEEN YOUR YEAR END NUMBERS ...
PANIC TO PROFIT - TURNING PANIC TO PROFIT
PANIC TO PROFIT - TURNING PANIC TO PROFIT
to improve management techniques through your technology platform
VP Professional Relations
Last week, [see
article], I discussed the steps to calculating your patient
flow ratio. Remember, even though this article series is called
Tech Tips for Today – I want you to run that calculation every
month and track it month by month either on paper or (for
extra credit) an easy Excel spreadsheet.
week, let’s focus on new patients and where they are coming
from. The idea here is to make sure your practice KNOWS the source
of new patients so you can make better business decisions down the
The person(s) responsible for greeting incoming new patients is
ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the collected information.
Take a good long look at your “Welcome to our Office form
that new patients fill out before you see them. How prominent is
the area that asks how they learned about your practice? If it is
not prominent or not there at all – make necessary changes
to that form.
When a new patient doesn’t fill in the information on the
“Welcome to our Office” form, the person greeting at
the front desk should ask. Asking is a requirement – not a
choice. “Mrs. Jones, whom shall I thank for referring you
to our practice?” is simple to say. Mrs. Jones may not have
been referred and will correct you if they found the office through
the yellow pages or some other marketing source.
Your referral source database should have every possibility already
added to it. This makes it easy to select from a drop down window.
If a patient referred the new patient, confirm with the new patient
that you have selected the proper referral source.
Run your practice management software’s referral reports.
You are looking for total number of patients referred (last month),
referral sources, and a production tally from each referral source.
The production tally from individual patient referrals is not as
important as the production tally from PAID referral sources such
as yellow pages, welcome wagon, direct mail, etc on a month by month
healthy, growing practice will receive 80% to 100% of their new
patients organically (through direct patient referral).
This results in lower marketing (advertising) expense and increases
Always, always, always remember to send every patient who refers,
something nice. It can be a letter, video rental vouchers, movie
vouchers, whatever. Use the monthly report and check off the patient’s
name as these referral rewards are distributed. Make a note in the
referring patient’s contact note area that a reward was distributed
so the rest of the team knows.
I welcome any and all readers to email me with specific questions,
problems, requests and challenges. Who knows? Maybe your inquiry
will lead to a new Tips For Today article! Don’t worry, your
inquiry will remain anonymous.
in having Mark speak to your dental society or study club?
The Cold Shoulder
Giving Dentists And Their Staff Different Perspectives On Day To
I've had multiple occasions in which the remainder
of my staff has had problems with
my office manager. It's been small things here and there
and the other girls who feel a loyalty to me have finally taken
a stand. How do you handle this? I know I'm happy
with my office manager in every aspect except a couple.
One problem is the way she talks to people. She tends to
be "snappy" and of course, no one likes that.
How does one handle something like this WITHOUT getting the other
girls involved? HELP.
The office staff is in a position to look up at the office manager,
whereas the dentist is in a position to look down at the office
manager. As a result, the perceptions of each must logically vary
with their perspective. The first perspective concerns the women
in the office evaluating another woman. The second perspective
involves a man evaluating a woman. These two perspectives are going
to be different.
staff will evaluate the office manager based on her ability to not
only do each of their jobs, but to make decisions that are consistent
with the direction of the business. The staff will look at the office
manager for a demonstration of competency. If the office manager
is competent, then the office staff will follow her dictates. However,
if the office manager is in some way sloppy, inappropriate,
or makes frequent mistakes then their trust will be diminished and
their ability to follow her dictates will be compromised.
the staff has lost faith in the manager, they will talk amongst
themselves and diminish the importance of the manager in order to
feel more secure. In other words, if their leader is weak, they
will form a stronger alliance amongst themselves in order to endure
the daily work routine and her presence. This alliance forming
is very feminine and very powerful. A sense of camaraderie
is fundamental to the ability for women to work together. This is
not a sexist remark. This has been validated in group studies of
the sexes. Women must like each other in order to work and play
together, whereas men do not.
your question, you state that there are “multiple occasions”.
The simple fact that there are multiple occasions is troublesome.
While you, a male brain, may characterize the incidents as a “small
things here and there”, to the women, multiple occasions is
problematic, because they depend on her for a model of the quality
of work performance that is expected. Therefore, small things
to your brain may be very large things to their brain.
fact that the girls loyal to you took a stand is a demonstration
that the office manager’s behavior is sufficiently infuriating
and annoying that the cohesiveness of the team is being severely
damaged, and they could no longer stand by and watch her behavior
undermine your professional efforts. It is understandable that you
might not see these problems as large or significant, because of
your perspective from above; however, I do not have any
faith in your ability to assess what is problematic.
In your question, you state that you are happy with every aspect
of her behavior except “the way she talks to people.”
It is astounding, it is absolutely astounding that you, a businessman,
an important man in the community, can not immediately recognize
that in a health-care business where we talk to people in pain and
relieve pain and spend so much time engaged in communicating with
people, that your number one person in the company, other than yourself,
the No. 1 person who is in charge of the image of your business
“cannot talk to people... she tends to be snappy "
Your blindness to the seriousness of this incredible business flaw
only serves to support my belief that your staff is reasonable and
your office manager, in all likelihood, is very dysfunctional and
you cannot see the dysfunction for some personal reason.
is reasonable that you look at the office manager and do not see
the severity or intensity of the problem, because you are in the
back room; however, your inability to see the damage that having
an office manager who “tends to be snappy” will cause
to your business only makes me inclined to conclude that, while
the office staff may have a point about this inappropriate office
manager, your support of this office manager is probably
more problematic with the staff than the office manager’s
I propose the following steps:
There is no need to involve the staff, since this is a business
the staff draw up a list of complaints and determine to your own
satisfaction whether they are legitimate.
your own list of complaints. These are automatically legitimate.
Consolidate both lists and ask yourself, do these complaints
affect my ability to do business. Do these complaints
affect staff, affect me, do they affect my client base.
the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are faced
with the choice.
can thank her for her service to the business and tell her
that you will be looking for new office manager and that she
can remain in your employ until she finds another job.
You can present a list of complaints and tell her that all
of these complaints must disappear and she has 30 days in
which to make them disappear. For the next 30 days, she is
on probation. Should she not be able to eliminate all of these
complaints, then she will be asked to leave the practice.
She will either clean up her act or begin looking
for a job.
My greatest question after making this recommendation is whether
you, the doctor, have the personality to take control of your business.
Your ability to ignore an office manager that “tends to be
snappy” makes you a major part of the problem.
I believe that a good businessperson would rather have an office
manager that is wonderful, charming, friendly, gentle, and firm
but soft when talking to the clients. Why has this escaped you?
You have to ask yourself what is the quality of your leadership
in this business. Why would you be blinded to something as important
as the quality of your customer-service?
your issues answered? Ask the email@example.com.
is a tremendous honor to receive the endorsement from
To be among those companies singled out for their ability
to provide the very best programs and services to California
Dental Association members is a distinct privilege.
Management is one of the first practice management
companies to be endorsed by any state dental association.
Our sincere thanks to you for your friendship and continued
support that have helped us achieve this high level of
President and CEO
To Make New Patients…Patients for a lifetime
is a must read for every office that wants to reduce or eliminate
"one-shot" patients, complete ideal treatment and
retain patients in recall.
scripts are included for the entire staff for easy implementation.
you order before 2/27/03
Practice Management Consultants
McKenzie Management Team looks forward to continuing to
provide the very best consulting services so that dental
practices in turn can perform at their very best.
I’m tired of sending out those generic thank you cards that
provide a line to write in the patient’s name. I want to send
out a handwritten thank you from on a nice note card or stationery.
Do you have any ideas on what I could say?
Dr. Justin Note
Here are some different examples for you to use.
1. Just a little note to acknowledge my appreciation of the confidence
and interest you displayed in my office and services by referring
____________to me. Thank you.
2. I wish again to convey a sincere “Thank You” for
your referral of ____________ for our professional services. The
confidence you have in our office is sincerely appreciated.
3. Just a word of appreciation for referring _____to our office
for dental service. The confidence you show by referring your friends
is very gratifying. Thank you so much.
4. Just a note to thank you for referring __________to us. We’re
certain __________will be an excellent patient, and we will do our
best to warrant your confidence. Thank you again.
5. Just a note to thank you for your referral of _________for dental
care. I’m sure we will enjoy having _________in our practice.
6. On behalf of our entire staff, I want you to know how much we
appreciate your confi-- dence and friendship in your referral of
________. We shall do everything possible to give them the highest
quality of dentistry with the greatest amount of comfort.
7. On behalf of my staff and myself, I thank you for your expression
of confidence in referring ____to our office for treatment. It is
through your assistance by referral and also your personal cooperation
that we are able to enjoy the fine clientele of pa- tients who understand
and appreciate the quality of care that we seek to provide.
8. Your referrals are always appreciated. It reflects the confidence
you have in us and encourages us to strive for further improvement.
We will endeavor to continue to merit the confidence you have placed
in us. Again, please accept our sincere “thank you.”
Center for Dental Career Development
Business Education for Dental Professionals
737 Pearl Street,
La Jolla, CA 92037
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