2.5.10 Issue #413 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Increase Your Value to the Practice, Keep Your Job
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Dental team, I know you don’t really like to be reminded of this, but let’s face it, you are expensive to keep around. There are wages, insurance, taxes, sick days, personal problems, interpersonal issues, etc. Few employees realize how much it really costs the dentist to keep them on the payroll. They see the patients coming in and the schedule full and the fees being paid but give little thought to the real cost of running this “mini-hospital.” They have little or no comprehension of expenses associated with renting or owning the office space, keeping the lights on, the cost of maintaining equipment and supplies, continuing education, lab costs, and the list goes on.

During lean economic times, dentists - like any other employer - must look at reducing employee expenses and doing more with less. There is no better time than now for dental employees to seriously consider what they can do to ensure that the dentists ongoing financial investment in them is worth it.  

Let’s start with the obvious. Competence is not enough. Just being able to perform your specific job duties well might ensure that you’ll get your next pay check, but the one after that may be in question. The doctor needs a strong team in his/her corner and each of you needs to know exactly how your responsibilities fit in with the practice’s overall goals and objectives as well as what you can do to ensure that those goals and objectives are met.

First, the business team. Pay attention! What’s happening in your practice? Are more patients cancelling, not showing, or not scheduling appointments? Are new patient numbers down? Take the initiative to propose solutions and strategies to address potential problem areas such as those above. Perhaps your practice does not confirm appointments. Offer to do the research and present a plan to implement appointment confirmations at the next staff meeting.

If your office does confirm but you are still experiencing high cancellation and no-show numbers, it may be time to reevaluate the approach. Patients that may have responded well to postcards in the past might now respond better to email and/or text messages, or it may be time for a more personalized strategy with some patients. It’s time to revisit the best practices for communicating effectively with today’s patients. 

Follow through. Are new patient numbers down because your new patient systems are weak? If the business employees don’t have clearly defined scripts in place to make the prospective patient feel valued and welcome, they are far more likely to come up with an excuse to not show or cancel. If the material the patient requests is never received, they will feel that your attention to detail is weak. If the patient doesn’t get the impression that their investment in your practice will be appreciated, they’re less inclined to keep the appointment.

Hygienists: Reinforce the doctor’s treatment plan at every opportunity. Emphasize the impact of oral health on overall health. And, if you are not already, you simply must follow the rule of 33. This means that the hygiene department is expected to produce 33% of the total office production, not including doctor's exams. Each hygienist provides 33% of their production in periodontal procedures such as 4910, 4342, and 4381. Additionally, your compensation should be no more than 33% of your production. If you receive a guaranteed salary, you must produce three times your wages. 

Dental Assistants: Help your doctor to improve efficiency and thereby improve production. Surprisingly, significantly improving chairside efficiency often requires just one simple change. If you find that the doctor is routinely stopping a procedure to adjust the light, is asking you for specific instruments, or you are repeatedly craning to better see the procedure, then you are likely not positioned correctly. You must be one head higher than the dentist and there should be a hydraulic lift on the chair so you can see into the mouth and properly anticipate the dentist’s needs.

Next, encourage your doctor to delegate every procedure, patient interaction, and staff matter legally allowable in your state. For example, most states allow dental assistants to remove a temporary crown, clean the tooth and try the permanent crown. Suggest that the team develop a plan of action that would train and prepare team members to perform allowed procedures, discuss post-op instructions, deliver treatment plans, and other duties.

Weathering the current economy will require a team effort. But if staff takes the initiative to pursue solutions, not only will the practice survive, it has the potential to thrive. And, the best part, you are far more likely to keep your job.

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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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Marketing to Meet the Patient's Needs

A recent phone conversation to a dental practice went like this:
Patient:  Hi, I am interested in making an appointment to see the dentist.
Office:  Have you been here before?
Patient:  No, it’s my first time.
Office:  Do you have any dental insurance?
Patient:  No, does that matter?
Office:  Oh no, we just need to know how you are going to pay.
Patient:  Cash.
Office:  Okay and that will be due at your first appointment.
Patient:  I haven’t told you what I need yet.
Office:  How did you hear about us?
Patient:  My neighbor, John Wilkes, said Dr. K was good.
Office:  Great, he is nice. I don’t have anything for almost three weeks, are you in pain?
Patient:  If it gets me in sooner, I am.
Office:  Okay, what is it that you need? I’m sorry, what was your name?

From a clinical standpoint, no one knows the dentist as a provider until the initial meeting and the comprehensive examination takes place.  Before this meeting, several things need to happen before a consumer becomes a patient in your practice.

First, there is the need for dental services. Perhaps the person’s teeth are stained or the gums bleed when brushed, maybe a tooth is broken.  Whatever the reason, the patient is now motivated to seek dental care. Second, there is the quest to find a dentist who can answer the need.  Will this dentist have a clean and up to date practice? Will the charges be reasonable? Will the staff and dentist be friendly and gentle? What exactly is this patient looking for in a dental practice? Third, is hearing the words, “I would like to make an appointment, please.”

Is it difficult for the dentist to make a positive impression on a potential patient prior to meeting them?  Not from a marketing standpoint. Some patients use the yellow pages and are attracted by the services offered, hours and location. Some ask friends, co-workers or relatives for a referral to a good dentist. Other people immediately go online to see the practice website. This often happens prior to the person phoning the office. If you don’t have a website, you could come across as being “behind the times” in your treatment services or that your practice lacks detail in providing important information to the consumer. External marketing is what pushes the patient to make that phone call.  Where there can be a significant disconnect is when the patient reaches the dental office by phone and the personal relationship that was in its infancy suddenly dies after the initial phone contact with someone at the office. 

Is it difficult for the dentist to make a positive impression on a potential patient prior to meeting them?  Not from a marketing standpoint. Some patients use the yellow pages and are attracted by the services offered, hours and location. Some ask friends, co-workers or relatives for a referral to a good dentist. Other people immediately go online to see the practice website. This often happens prior to the person phoning the office. If you don’t have a website, you could come across as being “behind the times” in your treatment services or that your practice lacks detail in providing important information to the consumer. External marketing is what pushes the patient to make that phone call.  Where there can be a significant disconnect is when the patient reaches the dental office by phone and the personal relationship that was in its infancy suddenly dies after the initial phone contact with someone at the office. 

Selling an appointment to a caller takes skill at being able to create a two-way flow of communication between the potential patient and the dental staff member. Practices where people are skilled at this have a much higher new patient count and more satisfied patients in general.  Foremost on the mind of these talented staff members is to meet the patient’s need, not the practice’s need, and get them appointed promptly. 

For many companies, the salesperson represents the customer’s main link to the firm.  For many people, the salesman is the company. It is the salesman who is like a conduit through which information and trust flow, building relationships that last for years. In the dental practice, this “salesman” type relationship results in bringing patients back for their recalls, performing more treatment, and referring friends and family.

Before investing in external marketing products and services, take a long look at your most important internal marketing system, the people that answer the phone in your practice. Can they answer questions about the services and products that you provide with conviction?  Are they able to get new patients in within a week? Do they take the time to make a personal connection to the patient? Using positive language such as “we can take care of that for you” or “we are looking forward to meeting you and you will love the experience in our office” always helps to close the sale of the appointment and give the patient what they want.

Give your patients what they want and need - good customer service and great dental care. Give the gift that keeps giving, Advanced Business Training and Telephone Skill Training for your business team.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Improve Your Hiring Hit Rate

Research shows that most employers make a decision on an applicant during the first four minutes and 20 seconds of the interview. This susceptibility to first impression is natural, but hiring an employee based on ‘gut feeling’ is a reckless business move. There is more you should and can do to make an informed decision about the people who make or break your practice.

Recruiting and retaining employees is likely to be the most frustrating and time-consuming challenge in your practice. But keep in mind the cost of hiring the wrong person. The estimate, on average, is nearly $40,000 if the turnover occurs six months after hire. And that’s just the hard costs. Consider what a ‘bad apple’ can do to slow productivity and disrupt the flow of your office. Not to mention lost revenue from dissatisfied patients and the negative advertising that spreads like wildfire.

With such enormous evidence about the importance of good hiring, it is essential to devote time to your hiring processes. Certainly there are no sure-bet methods to guarantee an applicant will be a peak performer in your practice, but there are ways you can increase the probability of success.

Review Job Descriptions
Good hires need to have a clear understanding of the job you want them to do. Not only what to do, but how you want them to do it. Write out the specific duties and responsibilities of the position. Be concrete. For example, your business office manager needs to “pick up and sort mail.” Contrast that description with the following: “Mail carrier arrives between 12 noon - 2pm. Check for mail by 1pm each day, and each hour thereafter until it is delivered.” The more you spell out the exact details of how you want something to be done, the more likely the employee will meet your needs and expectations.

Standardize Your Interview
The interview is one of the most flawed parts of the hiring process. However, most employers place enormous weight on it. The firmness of a handshake, the directness of eye contact, or just liking the way a candidate looks may be important for success in your office. However, be aware that there is tremendous personal bias in the interview – we gravitate to the people we like rather than evaluating the person-job goodness of fit. Eliminate subjectivity as much as possible by structuring questions that are focused on the real needs of the job and your office environment.

Look Beyond The Resume
Technical skills and experience are important but you also need to pay attention to “soft skills.” Listen to how they answer your questions to determine if they are an effective communicator. Give them a conflict scenario and ask them what they would do. Inquire about the last “new thing” they did to ascertain if they enjoy learning. Test their reasoning by presenting a couple of logic questions. You have the greatest potential for strong performance when you hire someone with good thinking abilities as well as effective people skills.

Expand Your Selection Tools
With the increasing importance on interpersonal effectiveness for job success, employers who add pre-employment testing will have a strategic advantage. Recognizing the importance of such a tool, McKenzie Management has developed internet personality testing exclusively for dentistry. Partnering with the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (IPAT), the Employee Assessment Test strictly adheres to legal guidelines for employment testing. It assesses 12 essential personality traits so you know how closely your candidate or existing employee matches the profiles of peak performers in the dental industry. No more guessing. You have objective and scientific data to help you determine suitability for one of four dental positions. The process is simple with electronic administration and immediate results sent directly to your office. Through the years, I’ve learned that many personnel problems are the result of a poor job fit due to poor hiring practices. Good hires will ensure a more successful and productive office, better patient service, and new referrals. Confronting your own hiring processes is time consuming upfront, but the investment will yield large dividends. The pay-off is higher caliber employees who work harder and stay longer…and this ultimately helps your bottom-line!

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more 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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