Jean Gallienne RDH BS
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What exactly is it that makes one dental office perceived by patients as being better than the other? Does the patient really know if the dentistry being provided in one office compared to another is actually better dentistry? When a crown is placed on number fifteen is there a way the patient truly knows that it was seated perfectly? Even in our own mouths, as dental professionals, unless we are doing our own dentistry do we even know the quality of the work being done?
Alright, we as dental professionals may have a good idea, but without being able to watch the actual procedure, evaluate all of the margins, see the actual probings, and check with an explorer after a professional hygiene appointment even we do not know for sure the quality of work.
So….what makes a patient perceive one dental office as being better than another? The next time you enter or do business with any service-oriented profession, think to yourself what makes me like it here more than someplace else. Here are some things that may make your office out shine other offices when it comes to the eyes of your patient. We have all gone to seminars where they recommend you walk in the front door as if you are a patient and evaluate the experience for ourselves, but how many people have really taken the time to do it?
Patients like to be recognized as they walk in the office. This may be done by a picture in the computer, the chart, or by having an employee that is good with names and faces.
Everyday, all team members should look at the reception room when they go and get their patients. If something needs straightened up it should be taken care of. This is especially important when there have just been a lot of children in the area. This should be added to one of the employee’s job descriptions, but everybody should help.
Over the course of the years, I have had many patients inform me that they left their previous dentist because they did not see regular hand washing or the office was not clean. Maybe the offices were clean and maybe the team was washing their hands regularly but it is the perception of the patient that matters.
Make sure that if the patient is not able to see you wash your hands that you inform them, “Sandy, we will get started as soon as I wash my hands, excuse me for just a minute.”
Clean off your countertops. If something has alginate on it or any type of substance and you can see it and it does not come off, replace it. It may be clean but if it does not look clean it does not matter.
In addition to the appearance of the office, the appearance of the staff is equally important. It is important that employee evaluations include that they appear professional. As employees, take time to iron your scrubs, pull your hair back so the patient is not concerned with it getting into their mouths or on the instruments. Wear shoes and clothing that are appropriate for the office.
Every individual will want to be treated differently. Being able to interpret different personality types will help with knowing how to approach patients. However, there are certain things that we as dental professionals may do to make our office be the gold medal winner when it comes to customer service.
After a long procedure, call the patient and see how they are doing.
If a patient is nervous, continually ask during the procedure if the patient is doing all right. If they say no, stop, listen, and determine what you or a staff member may do to make the experience better for them. Call the patient later that day and see how they are doing. Start and finish appointments at the times the patients are scheduled.
Follow through by returning patient phone calls. Even if you are still talking with another doctor, an insurance company, or waiting for your own doctor to get back, return the phone call and let the patient know that you are following up and will get back to them, and when you will get back to them. The other important part of this is to get back to them.Let’s face it, our dentistry may be the best in the world but if our dental team does not provide quality customer service, our patients may go elsewhere. Every patient that enters the doors of your practice should be treated as the special individual that they all are.
Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?
There are many great ideas available for marketing your practice both externally and internally. Internal marketing is what you offer the patient once they have joined your practice, such as seating on time; post op calls, professional, courteous behavior, etc. External marketing is the method used to attract new patients to your practice, such as direct mail, coupon offers, yellow page ads, etc.
A recent attendee to McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training proved to be a remarkable and articulate business manager named Clarisse (not her real name). “ My desk is in the center of the office and I have a complete view of the entire practice operations. I am accessible to the doctors, staff, and patients at their whim any given time of the day. Breaks are unheard of except at lunch, which I make sure we get. I know that my attitude can make or break this practice but I find it a challenge to keep smiling under certain circumstances. The myth that I must always be cheerful and accommodating or I will upset the staff or drive patients away is the monster that hovers over me. After a particular bad day I go home and wonder whom I have slighted in any way. How do I stay calm when Dr. A complains about assistant B and assistant B says Dr. A needs an antidepressant? At the same time, Mrs. Brown is asking for a toothbrush because she just came from lunch and Mrs. Smith is standing at the desk with her insurance file to discuss the latest billing?”
Clarisse’s concern is common to many dental practices and the following response helped her to set up a manageable system for multitasking to support the needs of staff and patients.
Assuming that the doctor and staff share the same practice vision and mission, the every day minor miscommunications can be easily handled by just being a listening ear. Most people need to vent and if you are a kind and open person, you will be on the receiving end of the venting. However, as Business Manager you need to set boundaries on doctor, staff, and patients so that you can successfully meet all of their needs without “burnout”.
The morning huddle or morning business meeting is an important internal marketing system. This meeting should last no more than ten minutes and has a definite agenda (provided during the training). Patients coming in for treatment that day can be assessed for potential problems that they may bring with them. If there are problems with accounts or insurance, the patient will most surely want to discuss that when they come in. It is best to call them ahead of the appointment to clarify account discrepancies. Are there any x-rays, photos or impressions needed for patients that are not on the schedule? What appointments could be open-ended should there be a cancellation? Where should emergency patients be placed on the schedule? What patients will you compliment that day or what patient will you ask for a referral? Are there any patients that will take more time than scheduled? Someone will have to be available to that patient for TLC. If we are prepared ahead of time for potential scheduling issues, we can eliminate some of the daily stress. Some things cannot be anticipated, like equipment failure, so let’s eliminate what we can.
The fact that the doctor and the staff can come to you for help is a compliment. When you are sitting at your desk you may look like you are available, but you are not. You are answering the phone, following up on insurance, updating records, monitoring practice reports, sending statements etc. Set up a time with the doctor or the assistant for discussion of their personal or business issues. Have another staff member cover the phones or have a voice mail system set up to direct callers to leave a message that will be returned within the hour. Try to keep these meetings short and to the point. Doctor bashing needs to be eliminated and if the issue is an assistant’s job skill then a performance review is necessary. Always write up a short report and place in the doctor or assistant file for future reference.
When the patient arrives, good customer service dictates that they get the time and attention that is necessary for them to “connect” in a positive way. If you look too busy you will be perceived as too busy. Healthy practices need a constant flow of new patients to grow. You will not receive referrals for new patients if you look “too busy”.Removing the monster from the myth sets up a positive look at the important work of the Business Administrator. For help in eliminating monsters, call us today.
For more information on McKenzie's Advanced Training Programs for Dentists, Office Managers and Front Office, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at www.mckenziemgmt.com.Forward this article to a friend.