Consumer Analysis - How Would Your Practice Stack Up?
It’s all about relationships. You’ve likely heard that line many times. No matter what the profession, relationships are important. But in dentistry, they are critical. Relationships build or break the practice. The relationships you establish with your patients as you are addressing their oral health care needs and wants can last a lifetime. Once they are in the practice, these patients get to know you and your team. They appreciate what you have to offer.
But what about the individuals who are considering your practice, but haven’t made their first appointment yet and have no established relationship? They are looking at their dental options from a consumer’s point of view. And like it or not, they are judging your practice against others and basing that judgment on criteria you may not feel is fair.
As most of us in the business of providing a service know, consumers have very high expectations. If you had to step back and take a good hard look at your practice from the consumer’s point of view, what would you discover?
Conduct a “Consumer Analysis” of your practice and compare it to two other practices that you are competing with for patients. Develop a series of criteria and score your practice - or ask a friend or relative to score your practice - against the others. Use a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Then step back and honestly consider how you stack up in the consumers’ minds, starting with convenience.
How conveniently located is your practice compared to your competitors? Is parking a problem, is your practice difficult to find, are their stairs patients have to climb? Do you offer convenient appointment times to accommodate busy schedules? Can new patients get an appointment within two weeks, or is the business staff telling them they’ll have to wait months? New patients will not wait two, four, six months for an appointment. If you don’t make room for them in your schedule promptly, you don’t want them in your practice.
What kind of a first impression does your building make? Will prospective patients say to themselves “That looks like a nice office,” or will they say “I wouldn’t want my car parked in that lot.”
If a prospective patient calls your office, what impression will your practice make? Is the person answering the phone helpful, or does the caller feel like they are just another interruption? Does the front office ask the caller if they can be put on hold, or are they just clicked into silence? Are they prepared to answer key questions that prospective patients are likely to have? Does the person answering the phone have a welcoming or annoyed tone to their voice?
Never forget that the employee answering the phone in your office represents the entire team. And in the first few seconds, the caller is making judgments about the quality of your care and the helpfulness of your staff. It may not be fair, but it’s reality. If you have even a glimmer of doubt about the impression your practice makes with callers, ask a couple of friends to pose as prospective patients and give you feedback on their telephone experience.
Flaunt your expertise. Brag about each other. You simply cannot overemphasize the expertise of the doctor and the team. Take every opportunity to convey the message of excellence and quality. If a patient asks a team member if the doctor is good at a particular procedure, answer with an emphatic “Yes! S/he is the best.”
The new patient packet and the practice website should give information about the entire team’s training and experience, particularly the doctor’s. Routinely, inform patients about continuing education classes staff have participated in. This is as simple as placing an 8x10 frame at the reception counter that highlights the staff member’s accomplishment. For example, “Please join us in congratulating Dr. Jones for her recent certification from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.”
Name your price. Make it easy for patients to accept treatment and pay for that treatment. Provide clear financing options that are both practice friendly and patient friendly. Partner with a patient financing company, such as CareCredit. These firms provide excellent financing options that benefit both doctor and patient. Pay attention to the seemingly insignificant details. They have a huge impact on whether the consumer/potential patient makes an appointment with you, or with the dentist down the street.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
Time to Buck Up and Stop Enabling Problem Employees
Enabling is doing for others what they are capable of doing for themselves. The origin of the word comes from the treatment of substance abuse. Friends and family make excuses for unacceptable behaviors. They might call the alcoholic's boss to say they are sick with the flu when they are really hung over, or they refer to a teenager's drug use as “just a phase.”
The use of the word “enabling” has expanded beyond addiction and into the workplace. Thinking that they are helping or being kind, dental leaders ignore bad behavior and performance problems. Here’s one example I’ve heard on many occasions: your hygienist has a habit of retreating to the lunch room when she has a no-show or open slot in her schedule. You are annoyed that she’s reading a magazine when she could be assisting teammates with their workload but you don’t say anything. After all, she’s a good producer and you don’t want to upset her. You overlook her actions despite the fact that your frustration is mounting.
Over time you might decide to address the issue. In the morning huddle you make a blanket statement about how “we need to help each other out more,” hoping that she’ll know you’re talking to her. She doesn’t catch your drift, and nothing changes. What’s worse is that other staff notice the hygienist getting away with this. They see her as a diva and your lack of action as favoritism. They feel resentful. This leads to potential turf battles and escalating conflict. At the very least, the morale of the office declines.
When you ignore wrong actions, you demonstrate a laissez faire attitude on rules and office standards. Ultimately things can get too far out of control, and when you blow up and finally take action you play out as the “bad guy.” Ms. Diva’s behavior is the lesser of the problems now, because you come across as overly harsh due to all that unexpressed anger.
Remember, enabling is doing things for someone else that they CAN and SHOULD be doing for themselves. You are not being kind or helpful when you avoid important conversations, because you prevent the other person from experiencing the consequences of their own actions. More importantly, you deprive the person from fully reaching their own potential. When you address problems quickly and constructively, you allow people to recognize and accept the responsibilities and consequences of their own choices, rather than enabling the continuance of unacceptable behaviors to the detriment of everyone involved.
The University of Virginia published the following questions on enabling. How many “yes” answers do you have?
1. Do you often become frustrated or angry at the inappropriate behavior of a problem employee?
Take accountability for any enabling behaviors you have. Stop trying to fix others, take control of yourself, and have the courage to change the things you can. And if you don’t know where to start, call me and we’ll develop a plan together.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
Start the New Year without the Same Hygiene Open Time
So many doctors are concerned about how much open time they have in hygiene. It’s not only open time, but also last minute cancellations and no-shows. They are asking questions like, “What can we do to keep the hygiene schedule full? How can we stop no-shows? What about all the last minute cancellations?” Sadly, there is not any way to stop them 100%. However, there are many ways to reduce them to the point that the hygiene department will be an asset to the practice and not a money pit.
Working in an office with four full time dental hygienists and going into many different offices, I see first-hand what can happen to a hygiene schedule that was full, but fell apart after answering the phone a few times. We recently had eight changes in our schedule on Tuesday for Wednesday, and were able to fill them all. The last appointment to be filled was at 6:30am on Wednesday morning. Wow! So what is the secret? Having a person on staff whose number one responsibility is keeping the hygiene schedule full. We will call this position the Patient Coordinator.
This has been written, spoken, and suggested by many consultants, but it is the hardest change for a doctor to make. This person needs to have excellent phone skills, know the computer software that you are using, the office philosophy, and have a good understanding of periodontal disease. This person is an experienced front office dental professional, and is crucial to the art of building and maintaining patients in your practice.
Many doctors, when they do decide to hire a person who is accountable to the recall system, often want to hire a high school student that does not have the skills or knowledge needed to do this job. The reason their number one responsibility needs to be on keeping the hygiene schedule full is because this will ultimately be what helps to keep the doctor’s schedule full. It is a snowball effect.
Even when the hygiene schedule is full, the Patient Coordinator should still be making phone calls to get patients scheduled. These are the patients that will help to create your “ASAP List.” They may not get an actual appointment scheduled to have a hygiene appointment until one month down the road, but the Patient Coordinator will say something like:
“Mr. Smith, I can make your hygiene appointment on March 4th at this time, but I will put your name, number, and appointment preferences on our priority call list and the minute we have any change in our schedule that fit your specific needs, I will call you and see if you are able to come in sooner. If I have to leave a message, you will want to call me back as soon as possible as we will be calling other people and whoever calls first will get the appointment. We will continue to call you until we are able to get you in.”
Having a priority list of other patients who want appointments lets the patient know that it is important to keep their originally scheduled appointment. Once a patient is put on this priority call list, they will also realize how many changes happen in your schedule and that you are committed to getting them in sooner. This helps you to show that their health is important to you and your dental team.
This list may also be utilized for people that just simply are not good at keeping their appointments. Rather than pre-scheduling these patients, they can automatically be put on the priority call list. Unfortunately, with many software systems the patient must have an appointment in order to be put on a “list.” So, what you may want to do is make them an appointment on a day when the practice is closed. All of these types of patients will have their appointment on that same day, and they will be called to help fill those appointments that are cancelled last minute.
By having a person that is accountable for filling the schedule and keeping it full, your practice will find new ways to get patients to come in for appointments. The Patient Coordinator will not only know your patients, but will also know the trends analysis of your practice.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
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