04.24.09 Issue #372 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Building A Patient Connection
Team Activities Empower
Marketing During Recession

Be our Guest, not Just our Patient
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review reported that between 65-85% of people who leave one business for another do so even though they are satisfied. What does that mean for dentists?  Many of your patients stay with your practice only until they find a reason to leave.

And most dental teams are often more than a little surprised by what some of those reasons are: The practice hours are not convenient. There’s no place to park, The doctor hurts me. I don’t understand the bills. They don’t accept my insurance. They changed a practice policy. They don’t answer the phone. I can’t leave a message. They charged me for a missed appointment. They are always trying to sell me something. The fees are too high. They can’t keep staff. They told me I have to go to a specialist. They don’t listen to me. What dental teams might consider insignificant issues or minor patient problems, are costing practices a fortune in lost loyalty. Obviously, it doesn’t take much to motivate patients to take their dental needs and wants elsewhere.

So how do you turn patients waiting for a reason to leave into long-term loyal partners? Take a close look at systems and service. While surveys indicate 70% of customers/patients cite service as the number one reason they defect, too often employees view managing patient service as a distraction from what they consider to be more important tasks, such as ensuring the schedule is full, collecting from the insurance companies, confirming appointments, etc. Ironically the success of each of these goes hand-in-hand with providing excellent service.

First, find out what your patients think. Survey patients to assess if seemingly minor concerns raised by a few patients are a bigger problem than you may have realized. Invest in a statistically valid survey instrument that is designed to ask questions that will elicit the most valuable and revealing information.

Next, engage in “action listening,” which is different from active listening. With action listening, the dental team commits to bring concerns and issues voiced by patients to the staff meetings for discussion and action. For example, if patients are commenting that practice hours are inconvenient, the team develops a plan to address the issue, such as adjusting the practice hours for 60 days, marketing the change, and monitoring patient reaction and subsequent patient retention. The team can then assess if the change should be made permanent.

Look at practice systems and evaluate if they are best serving the patients thereby best serving the practice. If the schedule is booked out weeks for the doctor and months for hygiene, if patients are routinely declining treatment, if collections are low and holes in the schedule are frequent, these are all system indicators that patient service is deficient.

While you’re at it, pay attention to the obvious:

  1. Welcome each “guest.” Treat each patient as the most important person in your office from the moment he/she walks in the door until they leave the parking lot.
  1. Have the answers. Patients expect you to have immediate answers to basic questions. Track the common questions that patients ask. Take steps to ensure that every member of the team is prepared to answer them.
  1. Acknowledge Patients Immediately. Under no circumstances should a patient be ignored when they come to the counter. It takes five seconds to look over at the patient let them know you will be right with them. If you pretend they are not there, you tell the patient that they are an annoyance and unworthy of your time.

Providing excellent service means building a strong emotional connection with the patient – not just running on-time and delivering good dentistry. It means that every member of the team makes it clear that they care about that specific patient, is willing to listen to them, and shows genuine interest and concern for them.

Interested in taking a CLOSER LOOK at your systems and service?  Go Here

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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In 30 days, you could be depositing more money. What are you waiting for?

Nancy Haller
Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Team Leadership

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the demands on your time?
  • Burdened by the responsibility of making ALL the decisions?
  • Drained by the myriad of problems that crop up within your staff?

Leadership was never easy and it’s gotten a whole lot harder with the economic crisis we’re in. And as businesses move into ‘survival mode’, leadership is a whole lot more necessary. Don’t panic because there is a growing change, not just in the financial industry but within the field of team leadership. If you want to develop the power of your team, you need to take a new perspective.

The classic leadership structure is a ‘top down’ model. That’s great for documenting reporting relationships, identifying areas of functionality and job duties. Ultimately that arrangement means that the group’s effectiveness falls on your shoulders. It’s a heavy burden to carry, and it restricts your employees’ level of initiation.

There is a more vibrant structure of leadership that happens when you empower others to solve problems. An employee can show five levels of initiating behavior:

  1. Wait to be told what to do.
  2. Ask what to do.
  3. Make a recommendation then take action on it.
  4. Take action but simultaneously advise.
  5. Act on their own, and then routinely report it to others.

The most productive teams are composed of individuals at Level 5. The more employees engage in Level 5 behavior, the more efficient and effective your practice will be.

An empowered team is built on trust and mutual respect. Team building retreats are an excellent way to establish that foundation. One of the most effective ways to accelerate trust is a facilitated outdoor day. Team activities that are disguised as ‘games’ illuminate team dynamics quickly. After all, adults learn best by doing.

Recently I conducted such a learning day with a dental team. During the first activity – a simple ball toss – HUGE awareness was achieved. In a wild, frenzied way they threw koosh balls at one another and struggled to succeed in this seemingly innocent ‘game’. When we talked about how they approached the task, they recognized the parallel to the chaotic manner in which they ran the office. As a result of this ‘day in the park’ everyone is showing more initiative now. A small investment with BIG dividends for the practice’s bottom line.

Until you are ready to make a training commitment, here’s a group exercise to bring out the team leadership in your office.

Invite each of your employees to recall a time when they were on a successful team. This was a time when they felt engaged, energized, happy, fulfilled and most effective. It might have been a sports team in high school, a Boy Scout Troop, a work environment.

What made it such a powerful team? Tell the "story" about the events, situation, people involved, their involvement and how the team achieved its incredible results. Without being humble, what was it about you and your actions, thoughts and beliefs that contributed to the success of the team? Describe - in as much detail as possible - your personal qualities and what you value about yourself that enabled the team's success. Project a year into the future - the current dental team is functioning even more successfully than you imagined. What are you doing, how are your team-mates working together differently? What does success look like? How did you make it all happen?

If your employees are hesitant to participate, pair team members to interview each other. Then gather back together to share and compare the results. This activity also can be done with large teams by groups of 4-6 people.

The core themes and elements that come out of these successful times will emerge. Through further inquiry and discussions the entire team then decides new strategies to improve day-to-day functioning. The performance of the team approaches an ideal level.

Every time you encourage your team to talk about ‘peak experiences’, you’ll rejuvenate them with enthusiasm, engagement, energy and team optimism. With a deliberate focus on strengths and positively, you’ll build team leadership and loyalty.

Interested in having Dr. Haller conduct a Team Building Program for you?  Contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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By Howie Horrocks and Mark Dilatush
New Patients. Inc.
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Consistent Marketing = Consistent Results

Thinking of reducing your marketing during this recession? While it’s smart to reduce expenses, cutting outreach to your target market is like cutting back on air while you’re drowning.  What happens when you don’t market? Well, not much! In fact, nothing of a revenue consequence happens in a dental office until the phone rings. It is a fact that many practice’s phones aren’t ringing as much as they were a year ago, but without marketing they’d be ringing even less today.

Here is some real world advice from dentists we know who are doing well right now:

  • Keep marketing but change the focus. Be more inclusive. You don’t want to be the practice that’s only interested in celebrities, CEOs and FMRs. You need a broad appeal. You need a family appeal. Now is not the time to micro-niche your practice.
  • Convenient hours. 8 – 4 Monday -Thursday is only convenient for you. Patients who are worried about their jobs are nervous about taking time off work. And having to take the kids out of school? Not convenient. Consider every other Saturday hours, or Friday hours, or early morning or evening hours. Yes, it’s a pain but in a recession we all need to work harder and smarter.
  • Emergencies are good. Yes, they mess up your schedule but figure how to squeeze them in somehow. People who put off dental care are emergencies waiting to happen. Take care of them, they’ll love you and come back. You will also make unexpected and unplanned money.
  • We Love Kids. Parents will neglect themselves but will spend their last dime on their kids. You can still refer the youngest and difficult to the pediatric dentist but if Mom thinks you won’t take her kids she won’t even call. If she calls you first, you can control it. Kids are recession resistant and will give you a great chance at getting Mom and Dad in the future.
  • Financing options. You’re going to have to work with your patients during this recession. Don’t be a doormat but do look for ways to make it easier for them to manage the cost of treatment. Offering a no interest payment plan will make you a lot more popular these days.
Patient Education Models
  • Consider lowering your fees for some services. If you lower fees for some of your higher margin services you won’t get hurt and it will show that you’re trying to help. We’re not suggesting you give away the farm or advertise yourself as a ‘cheap’ dentist. Just let people know you understand their economic plight and you want to help them by temporarily reducing some fees to make it easier for them.
  • Don’t risk marketing dollars on experimental approaches. Like diving into TV advertising when you’ve never done it before and have not first laid the groundwork with other less costly marketing. Stick with tried and true approaches like direct mail, newspaper inserts and most especially your website.
  • Internal marketing = less risk. There are companies who can help you with email and text reminders, or snail mail newsletters or simple one page letters regularly sent to the patient base. Marketing to people who have already given you money poses the least risk.
  • Add service and value. Things like Rod Kurthy’s KoR Bleaching www.korwhitening.com or Ryan Swain’s 6 month braces www.6monthsmiles.com. These are short learning curves and you can be up and running in very little time. Take an endo course and refer out fewer cases. Our buddy Kit Weathers teaches his Endo Root Camp at LVI www.lviglobal.com but there are many other good endo courses out there as well.
  • Dentures. Yeah, you hate them but they can be very profitable. The highest profit margin services in a dental practice are: endo, ortho and dentures. Consider it.

Recession marketing
We personally know a bunch of MBAs. Of our three most favorite, two are on the New Patients, Inc. team and the other is our friend Howard Farran, who is both a dentist and an MBA. They all say the same thing - in a recession you take these steps:  Put a freeze on hiring. If you can at all, lower your fees (at least some of your fees). Double your marketing budget. Keep marketing consistently.
These are precisely what the companies who survived (and even thrived) during the last recession did.

Mr. Horrocks is Founder and CEO of New Patients, Inc. He is the author of two dental bestsellers, Unlimited New Patients, Volumes One and Two. His agency produces advertising campaigns for private dental practices all over the US and Canada. For more information call (866) 336-8237 or on the web at www.newpatientsinc.com
Mr. Dilatush is the Vice President of New Patients, Inc. He has a unique combined background in dental technology, dental practice management, practice marketing, and dental business analytics, which was built over the past 23 years in dentistry. He and his team are responsible for building client marketing plans that pose the least risk to client marketing budgets with the highest potential return.

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