Why Would A New Patient Choose You?
You know good service and you know poor service. Walk into the electronics store and you expect, or at least you hope, that the kid wearing the store-monogrammed shirt will be able to answer your questions, help you find what you are looking for, replace or refund a product purchase, or address the issue that has brought you into the store. If that expectation isn’t met, you may be irritated, and it’s likely you will think twice about returning - after all, there is more than one store in your area that sells electronics. Competition is good when you’re the consumer. It’s nice to have options.
Your prospective patients feel the same. It’s likely that in your community, there are multiple dentists who could expertly address the oral health needs of any and every new patient. So what is it that prompts “Jill” to choose “Dr. Joe’s” practice over “Dr. Tami’s”? Similarly, why does patient “Jeff” insist that “Dr. Frank’s” practice is clearly the best? And, most importantly, what is it about your practice that appeals to the type of new patients you want to attract?
There may be a host of reasons why one practice scores low and another scores high on new patient appeal. For example, convenient hours and/or practice location, reputation for excellence, offering a variety of services and treatment options, affordable payment plans, and friendly staff are just a few of the essentials on the prospective new patient score card.
As you might expect, there are just as many reasons why a practice may have difficulty attracting new patients as well as keeping existing patients. For starters, practice hours may discourage people from calling for an appointment. If your goal is to increase numbers of new patients, consider the work and lifestyle habits of the patient population you want to attract. If you practice in a bedroom community where most people commute into the city and work 8am - 5pm, providing appointments in the evenings or on Saturdays may be necessary. If you are in a major metropolitan area, staggering the lunch hour or adjusting the workday so that your practice is fully staffed and prepared to offer more lunchtime appointments as well as early morning appointments may be essential to attracting new patients.
In addition to considering whether your hours encourage or discourage new patients, evaluate how accommodating your current scheduling structure is. When prospective new patients call, is there room in your schedule to appoint them within the next week? New patients are calling because they want your services now - not next month, and most certainly not in six months.
If your schedule is so booked that it is “impossible” to schedule a new patient within the next week, you likely have one or more of the following situations occurring: The office books patients six months in advance for hygiene. No one is tracking appointment failures and cancellations; consequently, the schedule looks artificially overloaded. No one is monitoring the numbers of new patient calls to ensure that the practice allocates a specific number of openings in the schedule during prime appointment times to accommodate new patients. In some cases, doctors will invest in marketing campaigns to encourage new patients, but fail to involve and/or inform the business staff, leaving them ill prepared to handle the increased phone calls.
Determine how much time you need to allocate in the schedule to accommodate new patients. Remember, new patient slots should be reserved during prime time. Those are the hours in which your practice experiences the greatest demand for appointments, typically in the late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays. If you make it easy for the patient to keep the appointment, they will feel confident in their decision to choose your practice.
Additionally, review new patient activity in your practice over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients, that would be 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate new patient demand. If you are planning to actively market your practice, you may need to make adjustments to ensure that your practice can meet demand. Nothing destroys your credibility quicker than an advertisement that claims your practice is accepting new patients, only to have a business employee tell eager callers that they will have to wait for weeks, if not months, to get in.
Next week, keep the new patient excitement going in your practice.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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Hire According To Your Management Style
Hiring again? Your treatment coordinator has just given notice and the challenge to fill the position is again on your agenda. Traditional methods of recruitment include networking and advertising via online sites such as Craigslist with the resulting endless bombardment of resumes to thrash through. The common complaint is: “I received over 200 resumes for the position and I picked the first 50 to look at and deleted the rest.” Often the reason so many resumes are received is that the job advertisement does not contain enough information to narrow the field of applicants to those that are best suited for the position. Listing what you want from the person as far as job duties is only part of the information necessary for a job applicant to choose the right job.
If there has been turnover in your practice in the past, it is important to understand why this has happened to make sure you do not set yourself up for costly failure again. How long did the previous person in the role hold the position? If it has been difficult to find the “right person” it may be a red flag that there are unrealistic expectations or that there is a management style in place that is contrary to the type of person you are hiring.
According to Wikipedia, “management styles” are: characteristic ways of making decisions and relating to subordinates. Management styles can be categorized into two main contrasting styles, autocratic and permissive. Management styles are also divided in the main categories of autocratic, paternalistic, and democratic.
If you state in the advertisement that you are looking for a “self-starter that can do the job with little to no supervision” and then turn around and closely supervise and question everything the employee does, this will upset strong and competent employees and turnover among the best subordinates will be higher.
The autocratic style of management is often seen in offices where the dentist manager makes decisions unilaterally and without consulting or regarding employees. This style limits the decision making freedom of employees and can foster a dependency on the leader. The autocrat or dictator runs a “tight ship” and requires the job done as directed. The dentist is sometimes seen as a micromanager in this style of management.
The permissive/persuasive or paternalistic style of management allows for and encourages feedback from the staff, but the decisions are still made by the dentist as the CEO of the organization.
A democratic style of management allows the employees to take part in decision making of the practice with a majority vote on certain issues with the dentist ultimately responsible. The leadership in this form of management must be defined with a strong vision of the practice goals otherwise there can be power struggles and a confusion of who is really in charge.
A laissez-faire style of management defines the dentist boss as more of a mentor and motivator with a staff that manages their own areas of the practice. The staff members know their jobs well and perform without a lot of direction because they share the vision of the leader. This style of management fosters creativity. However, without a strong leader the risk would be loss of focus or direction, especially if there are new hires that have difficulty fitting into this loosely run system and need more supervision.
If the dentist sees himself/herself as a permissive or paternalistic style manager but has employed an autocratic style office manager to run the business area, this can cause miscommunications resulting in turnover. There will be a conflict in what type of employee is hired. For instance, the autocratic office manager may hire a person that waits for direction and asks permission before completing any task. The dentist may see this person as lacking initiative and decision making skills.
Stating in the job ad what style of management directs the organization will help many job seekers make decisions about your job offer. For instance, if your office has an autocratic style of management: “We are seeking a person that will firmly execute the job duties as directed by management. Our expectations are that you be accountable for your job duties and complete the tasks on time by the end of each day.”
For a permissive style of employment or a style that encourages feedback and participation in management: “We are seeking a competent, self-motivated individual able to make sound business decisions to improve practice performance and communication with our patients. Active participation in practice building events and staff meetings required.”
Need help managing and hiring the right team? Contact McKenzie Management today for more information about our programs designed to meet your practice needs.
Uniformity in the Office
Should there be “uniforms” for the office team? This is a good question and has varied answers depending on the doctor, the team and the patients.
Business Attire vs. Scrubs in the Business Office
The second reason is to distinguish the business team from the clinical team for the patients. There is an exception, and this is when there is a business team member who assists in the clinical area throughout the day. However, this is not to say that the business person could not easily wear a long-sleeved and cuffed lab jacket over their business attire and still be OSHA-compliant.
Who chooses the business wear and who pays? Another good question. If the doctor buys, the doctor should have the final say in the decision making. In fairness to the business team, if the doctor is providing scrubs for the clinical team, an equivalent amount of investment should be made for the business team. It is all about being fair!
What do they look like? Catalogs such as Lands End, LL Bean, Coldwater Creek, etc. offer a large selection of business attire in a range of sizes for all needs. Some doctors purchase a nice blazer with the practice logo embroidered on the shoulder in a color that blends with the office décor. The employee is then responsible for providing their own slacks and shoes, as well as a nice blouse or sweater. Depending on the investment made for the clinical uniforms, either a different colored blazer could be purchased or a couple pairs of slacks, etc. Remember to keep the investment equal for all team members.
A subject that many dentists despise addressing is the employee that tends to wear t-shirts and other variations of tops that are not professional in a dental office. In other words, they would be more appropriate for the nightclubs or a stroll along the beach. “But how do I tell her?” You buy unified business attire that dictates how the tops are designed…end of discussion.
Regarding shoes in the business area - flip flops are not appropriate business attire in a professional dental office. Again, the doctor states “I am embarrassed to say anything about her flip flops.” Doctor, it is much easier to talk about the inappropriate shoes opposed to the low-cut blouse. If the doctor is buying the shoes, the doctor can dictate the style and color. If the employees are buying, the doctor determines the required color and any other specifications and the rest is up to the staff member.
Let’s move on to the clinical team. You are going to select your uniforms for the next 12 months. Remember that not everyone looks good in some styles, so choose uniforms that have the same color but a variety of styles so everyone feels comfortable when they seat their first patient. How many sets do you need? One for each day that you work, unless you have an on-site laundry and someone is doing the laundering every day. Then you can get by with 2-3 sets, but you will need to buy them every 6 months so it all comes out the same “in the wash,” so to speak.
The doctor is required to provide long-sleeved cuffed lab jackets, gowns, tops or whatever it is going to be. It appears that most offices wear short-sleeved scrub tops and long-sleeved lab jackets over their scrub top. If you are in doubt about being OSHA compliant, visit the ADA or OSHA website for more details.
To a consultant, there is nothing more professional than to attend the morning meeting on the first day and see the entire team dressed in similar styles and the same color (the doctor, too). I know that patients appreciate knowing they have chosen a dental practice that is professional and cares about their appearance as much as the high quality of their dental services.
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