Um, uh, nope, uh huh, ain’t,
yep, nah, dunno, can’t do that, you’ll have to, hold,
ya know … and the list goes on, seemingly innocuous utterances
sprinkled in typical phone conversations that can in as few as three
words or even two syllables leave a lasting impression on your patients,
a lasting negative impression that says sloppy,
rude, and untrained. Harsh assessment, you say? Patients don’t
really evaluate an entire practice based on a three minute phone
conversation. Wanna bet? Patients’ expectations are higher
today than ever before. If they are contacting an office with the
intent of purchasing services in the
future they are immediately assessing if that practice is worthy
of their investment.
Every time an employee is on the phone with a patient he or she
represents the practice. They convey to the patient the doctor’s
commitment to education, professionalism, and training. Yet too
many practices pay too little attention to this most obvious link
between the practice and the patients. Particularly when the office
is busy, answering the phone is just one more irritating
interruption. In fact, many practices don’t even
consider the fact that the patient’s experience begins with
the very first phone call. The process is on autopilot until something
goes wrong and the alarms start blaring.
was the last time you reviewed your standard operating procedures
and training regimen for placing and answering patient calls? Does
your practice even have a policy or provide training?
Is un-polished talk costing your practice a fortune? Before untrained
staff cut the line on your revenues maybe it’s time to dial
up a few telephone do’s and don’ts.
use slang or jargon. Instead of saying, "OK,"
or "No problem," for example, say "Certainly,"
"Very well," or "All right." Avoid stringing
your responses together with fillers such as "uh huh",
"um," or phrases such as "like" or "you
know." Staff should be trained to avoid these when they are
speaking on the phone.
Don’t ever say, "I don't know or I can’t."
Do say, "Let me find out about that for you."
Do offer to help the caller. If a patient calls
and wants to speak to the doctor and he/she is not available, take
this approach: “Doctor Mack is with a patient. This is Jane,
could I help you?” If the patient insists on speaking to the
doctor, politely ask, “Could I please have your name and number
and I’ll see that Dr. Mack receives your message.”
take telephone messages completely and accurately. Ask
the caller to spell their name. Unless you know all of the patients
very well it may be difficult to distinguish if you are talking
to Mr. John Carrigan or Mr. Jon Kerrigan.
rest until the message gets to the intended recipient.
ask for identification politely. “May I tell Dr.
Mack who is calling?”
put the patient on the defensive by asking: “Who
is calling?” “What’s this regarding?” Or
“Why are you calling?”
gather information with skill. “Mrs. Smith, if you
could give me just a bit of information, I’m sure I can help
bounce the patients around the office by sending them to
the financial coordinator, then to business manager, and so on.
Check on the matter yourself and call the patient back promptly
or personally go get the employee they need to speak to.
offer solutions. “Let me see what we can do to help.”
use a speaker phone.
ask permission before putting the patient on hold.
give the patient orders. “Mrs. Smith you’ll
have to …”
the telephone is your single most important link to your patients.
It’s the initial point of contact and the first impression
of the doctor and the team. Make it ring with enthusiasm
you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie
in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club?
Let Your Office Become a Battleground
Dr. Nancy Haller
employee conflicts puts you and your practice at risk.
The ‘war’ might be a lawsuit against you for a hostile
work environment. More likely, the ‘combat’ results
when feuding staff fail to communicate vital information about scheduling
line: Ignoring conflict costs you money!
Do yourself – and your wallet – a favor. Address
and problems as soon as they occur. Here are some recommended
1. Adjust your belief about conflict.
Conflict itself isn’t the problem; it’s the
way you respond that escalates or resolves conflict. Certainly
we know what ‘bad’ conflict looks like – verbal,
emotional, physical violence. But remember that conflict can result
in positive change – we gained freedom as a nation in 1776,
it enabled us to abolish slavery, women gained the right to vote.
Accept that conflict is a natural part of life and deal
with it upfront.
Know your ‘hot buttons’ and response to conflict.
article, I listed five styles of conflict. If you are avoidant,
competitive or accommodating more often than compromising
or collaborative, take a class in assertiveness
or mediation, or work
with a coach to improve your ability to handle conflict constructively.
Become more comfortable staying engaged and composed, regardless
of how difficult the situation might be.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
gets resolved if people stop talking. Rather than trying
to stop conflict, meet it head on. Explore what’s behind the
frustration or anger that people are expressing in their words or
actions. Ask open-ended questions.
Listen, listen, listen.
has been said that we have one mouth and two ears because we are
supposed to listen twice as much as talk. The power
and value of listening, especially in conflict situations, is monumental.
When you are in a discussion about conflict, rephrase what
you hear to show that you are listening and to assure you
heard correctly. Refrain from trying to ‘fix it’ too
quickly. Strive for understanding before resolution. Show
empathy. Acknowledging employees’ feelings and motives
is not the same as agreeing with them.
Be curious not furious.
natural reaction to conflict, especially if we feel threatened,
is to become defensive. Manage yourself. Stay calm.
Use a neutral voice, even if the other person is heated up. Move
the discussion to a private area, especially if there are patients
in hearing range. Give the other person time to vent. Don’t
interrupt or judge what they are saying. Thank them for letting
you know how they are feeling and what they are experiencing. Rather
than attempt a premature remedy, agree to talk about it after a
‘cooling off’ period.
Work the issue not the person.
you are convinced that you fully understand the problem, acknowledge
where you agree and disagree. Avoid blaming. Use “I”,
not “you”. Talk in terms of the present as much as possible.
Ask, “What can we do to make things better?”
Identify at least one action that each person will do, and get commitment
for the plan. Set up a future meeting to discuss progress.
Develop a feedback-based culture in your office.
frequent, two-way communication a natural part of your daily practice.
Just as it’s important to praise and reward people when things
are ‘right’, it’s essential to give feedback when
we want something to change. Feedback is nothing more than data
or information. Get individual ego out of this exchange. Learn to
de-personalize and help your staff to do the same. Ask them
to give you feedback by using a simple process –
what should I continue doing; what should I
stop doing, what should I start doing.
the attitude that holding different views is both normal and healthy
to a group. Use patience, persistence and good people skills. Model
open communication and feedback. Make your office a peace
Haller offers basic training for interpersonal communication, conflict
management, and team building. If you would like information about
any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at email@example.com
or 1-877-777-6151 Ext. 33
Executive Coaching Help YOU Be A Better CEO?
this test to find out ...
the Patient’s Perspective
it comes to treatment acceptance – or lack thereof –
hindsight is often 20-20. You can spend hours analyzing how things
could have been if you had just used a different model, how things
would have been if you had listened more carefully to the patient,
how things should have been if you had just taken more time to educate
patient on why the treatment was necessary.
oh why don’t patients seem to grasp the need for the care
you have to offer? Many patients are visual learners.
Certainly they trust you, and some patients are motivated to pursue
treatment merely because they believe the doctor is recommending
the best care for them. But for the others who don’t automatically
accept treatment, often they simply don’t comprehend
the need for the treatment, the importance of the procedure,
or the true ramifications of their treatment procrastination.
you’re listening to those motivational tapes, trying to exude
high energy and confidence, rehearsing various treatment presentation
approaches, tailoring the case discussion for this patient and adjusting
for that. But in the end, no matter how charming, charismatic, and
thoroughly prepared you are, the patient still sits across from
you waiting to be convinced that they really need
the work performed at all.
therein lies the biggest obstacle to consistent treatment acceptance.
Many patients must see and understand the problem for
themselves. It’s not that they don’t respect or believe
what you have to say. It’s simply that in their minds it is
not real until they can ascertain the problem for themselves. Commonly
referred to as co-diagnosis, more and more doctors are taking steps
to actively involve patients in the discovery process,
and one of the most effective and efficient tools I’ve seen
is digital radiography. When you take a digital image and before
the sensor is even removed from the patient’s mouth that image
is blown up on a 20” screen right before the patient’s
eyes, not only has the WOW factor begun, so too
has the understanding factor.
the first time they can actually see the bone loss, the decay, the
fractures that they could never see before on those itty, bitty,
little films. The abstract is now real and in black and white right
in front of them. Throw into the educational benefits of digital
X-rays the physical and time management benefits
as well. The patient didn’t have to endure that uncomfortable
film jabbing them in the gums. They didn’t have to sit there
and cool their heels waiting for the film to be processed while
the meter and the day are ticking away.
you further explain what the image shows, the patient is beginning
to understand the true extent of the problem and begins asking you
what can be done to fix it. They are engaged, involved, and more
open to treatment than they have ever been before.
You are doing what you do best – recommending the ideal treatment
to address the patient’s oral health concerns. You’re
not pitching a plan. You’re not selling. You’re providing
a solution. The patient wants it and you didn’t even have
to make sure that you were exuding maximum charm, unsurpassed charisma,
unquestionable trust, all cinched in a neat little package with
your firm but perfectly compassionate handshake.
the end, patients don’t want to be “sold” they
want to be educated. They want to make informed
decisions because this choice will impact their oral health, their
personal and professional lives, and their pocketbook for sometime
to come. They need to understand the “why” before they
can even consider the “how.” Digital X-ray systems
spell out the why often before you ever have to utter a word.
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to Know Why Your Employees Act and Interact The Way They Do?
How Personality Types Can Affect Your Practice Success
in dental offices are caused by a breakdown in communications
due to different personality styles. Understanding your employees'
personality traits can help to better match your staff with the
work they are likely to do best.
will learn how their personality affects their ability to successfully
manage the business and its employees.
I think we are taking too long for procedures. What would you suggest
we look at?
1. Do you have a daily schedule in each treatment room?
2. Do you have a clock in each treatment room?
3. Do you talk too much?
4. Do you perform more treatment than was scheduled?
5. Do you state the time needed for each procedure to your assistant
and is it realistic?
6. Do you spend too much time with the hygiene exams?
7. Do you, as a rule, allow more than two emergencies per day to
8. Do you spend too much time on personal telephone calls or the
9. Are you doing treatment planning?
10. Are you communicating to the scheduling coordinator the exact
11. Do you have a lot of emergencies and if so, why?
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