Do You Have Likeability?
You’re good at what you do, but do people like you? More importantly, do they like those you’ve surrounded yourself with - namely your staff. It’s known as the “likeability factor.” Why does it matter? It matters because more and more, customers choose products, services, and business based on whether they like those that are selling them. Certainly, quality is important, but if two businesses are offering a similar product of perceived equal value, the business with the higher likability factor will enjoy more sales.
Consider “Dr. Barnes.” He is a very likable individual. His patients enjoy his sense of humor, his compassion, his kindness. He’s actively involved in his community, and known for his many charitable endeavors. Dr. Barnes hired “Gail the Business Coordinator” about 12 months ago. He’s been pleased with her organizational skills. She’s tenacious; give her a job and she gets it done. He appreciates that she provides him with necessary reports, keeps him informed, and runs his schedule like a drill sergeant. Dr. Barnes believes that she’s a good balance for him because he readily acknowledges that he’s a bit “scattered.”
The problem: Patients dislike Gail. She is the antithesis of Dr. Barnes. He’s a big teddy bear. She blew in on the polar vortex and seems cold to the bone. He wants to know how you are doing, she wants you to get to the point. He has time to chat, she’s always short on time. For the most part, existing patients have come to accept that they simply must tolerate Gail. For those less-than-satisfied patients, Gail made it easier to leave. While no practice wants to lose patients, in this case, the bigger concern here is the steady drop in new patients.
When prospective patients call the office, Gail is there to “greet” them. She is not rude, but she’s not friendly. Gail is direct and to the point. She doesn’t really like small talk because she has a list of tasks that must get done today, thus running through the new patient scheduling protocol needs to be wrapped up promptly. Those callers better have their information handy; Gail has work to do.
Gail is so focused on tasks, she’s oblivious to the fact that central to the business of dentistry is the business of people - caring for them and caring about them. Patients don’t want a transaction. They want a relationship. Gail is more comfortable with transactions. That’s part of the reason why Dr. Barnes believes she is good for his practice. She’s not. She could be, but at this point, she is completely unaware of how her natural demeanor is driving away patients. She’s not alone.
Most dentists are blissfully unaware of the patients’ experience outside of the confines of the dentist’s direct care. Consequently, they routinely make incorrect assumptions about their patients’ satisfaction with the practice and the staff. The truth is that what people will say to your face and what they actually think and do can be very different. You need to understand how patients, particularly new patients, view your practice.
Time and again, dentists call me asking what they can do to get more new patients. It never occurs to them that the new patients do call; they may schedule an initial visit, but they don’t keep the appointment for a number of reasons. If new patients are not in your chair, they are in someone else’s, and there’s likely a very good reason - perhaps several - as to why. More marketing and advertising might give you a temporary boost, but I can virtually guarantee you’ll be facing the same shortfall a couple of months down the road. You need to discover the “why” behind the loss.
There are no computer reports in your practice software to tell you how many prospective patients are driven away at the first phone call. Are your new patient policies so regimented they are not worth the trouble? Are the staff unaccommodating? Do they unknowingly give the impression that you are too busy for new patients? It simply doesn’t cross your mind that there is a problem, until you feel the financial impact. Yet your livelihood and your practice depend on knowing the why behind the numbers.
Next week, understanding the patient’s perspective.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone Skill and Customer Service - Do You Need Training?
In a dental office it is often thought that the people working at the front desk are solely responsible for customer service on the telephone. But customer service is everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO to the sterilization technician. Everyone on the dental team contributes to the organization’s reputation within the community.
Most dental offices use not only the telephone but email, fax, voicemail and social media to communicate with patients and other business representatives. Even with all those forms of communication, the telephone has not been replaced as a direct line to your practice. Think for a minute about what percentage of all customer/patient service is handled on the telephone. What percentage is handled face-to-face? Who on the team has more responsibility to satisfy patients and other callers such as referring dentists, laboratory technicians, sales people, dental supply representatives, insurance companies, IT support, etc.?
If your Scheduling Coordinator connects immediately with the caller, builds rapport and secures an appointment, but the patient is angered by the abrupt telephone manner of the Insurance/Financial Coordinator, would you say you had great customer service? If you are almost out of an item necessary for patient care that day and the dental assistant calls the dental supply representative demanding that the item be delivered today, is that good customer service? Do you think either of these people will refer patients to your practice?
If the largest percentage of your business comes through per the telephone, wouldn’t it make sense to make sure everyone answers the phone the same way, listens to the patient/customer or vendor the same way and provides the most excellent service possible?
Take Dr. Techy; he spent thousands of dollars on his website to attract new patients and to serve his existing patient base. Patients can send an appointment request, fill out forms and get all the information they need about the practice without picking up the phone – except of course for information that cannot be provided without a telephone conversation, such as individual insurance eligibility information and individual financial options. Websites have general information such as “We are in network for the following insurance plans” or “We accept almost all dental insurance PPO plans.” Information to file a claim properly is seldom received correctly over an online form because the patient does not know what the correct answer is to most insurance questions.
A new patient calls Dr. Techy’s practice after visiting the website and downloading the forms. He wants to know if they take his insurance. Dr. Techy has employed an Insurance Coordinator to answer these questions, however she is out sick and Mary the Hygienist is helping the Scheduling Coordinator. Mary takes the call: “Dr. Techy’s dental office, how can I help you? I am sorry I don’t know anything about the insurance, I don’t usually answer the phone, and I am just helping. I will take your name and number and our insurance person can call you back. I think she will be back in tomorrow but I am not sure.”
The following scripted responses should help give better customer service:
Or: “Thank you for calling Dr. Techy’s dental practice. This is Mary. How may I direct your call?”
Toxic Talk Tears Apart the Team
Teddy Roosevelt’s only daughter, Alice, was famous for saying “If you haven't got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” Her words speak to how exciting it can be to hear a juicy tidbit or scandalous rumor. Gossip can be intoxicating. But it can also result in a hangover that will impact the entire office. If you want people to want to work next to you, it is wise to stay off the office grapevine.
People gossip for many reasons. It’s fun. It is a way to make conversation and friends. For many people, passing along the latest buzz is engrained in their culture or upbringing. However, we all know that gossip has a much darker side. It is often used to exact undue influence and unfairly advance an agenda. It can be wielded for vengeance or used to deflect blame.
Nowhere is gossip more prevalent than around the “water cooler” - that proverbial spot in every office where people gather to complain about bosses and dish on co-workers. In today’s digital age, that water cooler is just as likely to take the form of an email or text-chain as it is to be a physical location in the office. Email gossip cannot be overheard as a conversation can be, but it does create a permanent record of every disparaging word.
Oftentimes, workplace gossip originates from a disgruntled employee. It is common for this individual to seemingly always feel that s/he is being treated unfairly, whether real or imagined. S/he may seek a measure of revenge by talking negatively about others. It can also be an indicator of much bigger management system shortfalls.
If “Emily” is “venting” again because “Liz” isn’t doing her job, this is a clear indicator that the practice lacks clear job descriptions and accountability among the team. Additionally, if gossip is creating regular distractions in your office, it can be an indicator that you need to establish a system for conflict resolution, so employees can address issues and concerns in a safe and constructive environment. Moreover, “gossip” can also indicate that the practice lacks a clear chain of command and poor communication from the leadership. Where there is a lack of information, gossip, rumors and innuendo will fill the void. This is particularly true during times of change or uncertainty and employees feel that they are being kept in the dark.
Left unchecked, gossip’s profoundly negative effects spread far and wide, as what might have been a small sliver of truth spins further and further away from reality. With each telling, details become more exaggerated and the tone more malicious. It is in many ways like that old game of telephone, where an initial message becomes increasingly distorted as it is passed from ear to ear.
Don’t ignore gossip or dismiss it as being inconsequential. Stop it in its tracks. Immediately. Tell the person who is spreading rumors that you don’t feel such talk is appropriate. If you know for certain that what is being said is false, offer proof to discount it. And most of all, do not repeat what you’ve heard. Even if you preface the story by stating that it is false, you are still perpetuating the gossip.
You can also help to diminish the damaging effects of gossip by alerting those whose character is being maligned. While it is important to respect things told to you in confidence, if the intent of sharing the information is to smear or humiliate someone, then the greater responsibility is to let the targeted person know what is being said about them. This will allow them an opportunity to clear the air and ensure that no repercussions arise as the result of false information.
If you are interested in exploring options available for your team to “cure” the gossip, contact us here at McKenzie Management and mention this article.
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