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Tips to Attract and Keep Loyal Patients
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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You spend a lot of time thinking about how to attract new patients to your practice. You work with team members to create one-time marketing campaigns, but they never seem to give you the results you’re after. Sure, one-off promotions might help get new patients through the door, but more often than not these patients never come back, resulting in a lot of frustration, wasted time, money and energy.

Not only are you struggling to attract new patients, your practice’s patient retention numbers aren’t anywhere near where they should be. Broken appointments are up and collections are down. Not exactly a recipe for a successful, profitable dental practice. This is a frustrating scenario, but one many dental offices face. They just can’t figure out how to attract and keep patients who understand the value of the dentistry they provide. The patients they do have struggle to make it to their appointments on time, or simply don’t see the value in going forward with treatment.

The good news is, I can help you turn this around. With a few changes, you can start attracting loyal patients to your practice, patients who trust your recommendations and who want to say yes to treatment. Here’s how.

1. Focus your Marketing
If you’re like most dentists, you don’t want to be bothered with marketing. You put together a special promotion or two every year and think that’s enough. I hate to break it to you, doctor, but it isn’t. One-time campaigns aren’t going to get you loyal patients. If you want to attract new patients who actually stick around, you must have a cohesive, consistent and continual marketing message.

You also need to understand the demographics of your market, and target your marketing efforts accordingly. You can’t just put together a bunch of random ads and expect new patients to start lining up at your door. Develop a brand, understand your market and deliver a consistent message. 

But marketing isn’t just about attracting new patients; it’s about keeping current patients as well. Continual marketing keeps your patients interested in the services you provide, which will keep them coming back to your practice.

When you make marketing a priority, you’ll notice an increase in new patients as well as loyal patients who are ready to go forward with treatment. This will boost patient retention numbers, production and your bottom line. If you’d like more advice on marketing and building a successful practice in 2015, please download my special report.

2. Improve Patient Education
When you educate patients about the services you provide and the value of maintaining their oral health, they’ll be more likely to trust you with their dental care. Not only that, they’ll be less likely to skip out on appointments or put off needed treatment. Use tools such as an intraoral camera or hand mirror to let patients see what’s going on in their mouths. Show them educational videos that explain recommended procedures, and ask them if they have any questions.

Rather than taking it on yourself, designate a Treatment Coordinator to go over treatment options with every patient before they leave. This person should then follow up with patients to provide more education about the importance of going forward with treatment, and address any concerns they still have.

You can also reinforce chairside education with educational materials in the waiting room and at the appointment desk. When you send a patient a statement, or any piece of mail for that matter, include educational materials such as a pamphlet about the signs of periodontal disease. Sending an email? Use it as an opportunity to educate patients about the importance of prevention, the latest news on the oral systemic link or any other oral health related topic.

Becoming a more education-focused practice will not only help patients see the value of dental care and what your practice provides, it will also show them you care about their well-being, making them much more likely to become loyal patients who sing your praises to family and friends.

3. Revamp your Recall System
Recall is one of the most important systems in your practice, yet it’s also one of the most neglected. If you’re ignoring your recall system, I can guarantee your patient retention rates are abysmal, and that’s hurting your bottom line. You have to make recall a priority if you want to grow your practice. The first step? Hire a Patient Coordinator who is accountable for the recall system.

Your Patient Coordinator should reach out to a specific number of past due patients each day, armed with all the necessary information needed to ensure these phone calls lead to appointments. Make sure your Patient Coordinator has access to the most accurate recall information and can update the system in real time. This person should be accountable for scheduling a certain number of appointments each day and expected to report progress at monthly meetings. 

Investing in recall will help you get inactive patients back in the chair, which will help you develop loyal patients who understand the value of the care you provide. And that, of course, will mean a boost to your bottom line.

Finding and keeping patients who value dental care can be challenging, but trust me, it’s well worth the effort. Following these tips will help you get there. If you need more advice, give me a call or send me an email. I’m here to help.

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Do You Need a Consultant?
By Carol Tekavec RDH

Dentists are an independent bunch. While many enjoy the collegiality of a local study club or the mental stimulation of seminars and meetings, dentists primarily work according to their own methods and mentality. And they mostly work alone.

You may be thinking, “Alone? I have an excellent assistant at my side who can practically read my mind. My front desk staff are on top of things. Plus I have two hygienists who work with me in the best symbiotic relationship ever. I am not alone!” But think about it. Who is responsible for all of the overhead bills, such as rent or mortgage, electricity, water, heating and air-conditioning, repairs, maintenance, insurance, taxes, supplies, licenses, computers, advertising, state compliance requirements, and payroll?  Your staff can help you keep up with these expenses and responsibilities by keeping you apprised of the office status. But you alone are the person who must make sure all of these needs are actually met.

How do you determine if your practice is functioning as well as it can? The first step may be to analyze the current practice numbers as best you can. At a minimum, you must take a look at month-to-month production for both dentist and hygiene, collections, case acceptance, and new patients. You should also look into supply and payroll expenses. If the numbers don’t add up in your positive column, there is room for improvement. For help with an initial analysis, McKenzie Management offers a free Practice Assessment and a free Overhead Assessment.

The next step might be identifying one aspect of the practice that could be improved and beginning there. Let’s say it appears that you are spending too much on supplies. Steps to correct this might be assigning one person to be the “supply sergeant”. Instead of everyone in the office ordering items as they see the need, one person can keep track of all orders in and out. Put a “red tag” on the next to last item in the supply closet, with the tag being placed in the “need supplies” box by the person taking that item. The supply sergeant collects the tags and determines what needs to be ordered. This person might shop sales or take advantage of “buy more save more” deals, or sign up with a discount program based on total annual orders. This way the office does not find itself with only one box of large gloves left and the need to order replacements by expensive next day air.

Perhaps case acceptance is not what you wish. Who presents cases to patients? What is the primary barrier to patients saying yes? How might cases be approached in a more readily understandable format? Do money or insurance issues seem to be the problem?  Simply knowing that case acceptance is not good does not always provide any insight into why it is poor. Scheduling a staff meeting with the first order of business being to discuss case acceptance problems could be a start. Again, identify one thing that can be done today to make improvements. For example, instead of merely explaining a patient’s condition, use their intraoral photos and x-rays to illustrate.

If it appears that money is the problem, look into possible outside patient financing such as through a local bank or with CareCredit. Assign one person to learn how the financing will work and be able to explain it easily to patients.

In the area of hygiene production, we all know that a good goal is for 30% to be perio related. If it isn’t, do you know why? As a hygienist myself, I know that if patients are receiving full mouth periodontal probing and charting at least annually, the office has a good handle on perio conditions. If perio production is low, is this because patients are already under control? Should some be receiving scaling and root planing instead of prophys? Are new patients with perio being identified? Under-treatment of perio is a common problem, but over-treatment can lead to patient distrust. If you look at online general patient reviews concerning dentistry, you will be shocked by the distrust patients express concerning this issue. Many appear to believe that they have been diagnosed with periodontal disease simply for the dentist to charge more! 

These are just a few issues that can present themselves for improvement in any dental office. Although dentists may have the intellect and knowledge to correct these on their own, sometimes it makes sense to look into having a consultant come in to help. A consultant can analyze and make suggestions that may be accepted by staff more readily because they are from “outside”. The energy it takes to tackle problems can also be enhanced by a consultant. New ideas can be introduced. Helpful tips can be shown. It can be a good investment. Just be sure you know what the consultant will be providing for your office and staff, how long this person will be available to you, and what all the costs will be. All consultants are not created equal.

Your main job is to take care of patients and provide excellent dental treatment. A consultant might be the answer to help with the business side of your practice, so you can focus on what you do best.

Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?  Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Make the Right Hire the First Time
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Research shows that most employers make a decision on a job 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 can do to make an informed decision about the people you bring into your office.

Let’s imagine that you have two finalists for your RDA position:

1. Mary works in a nearby office but is being “downsized”. During the interview she seemed sharp and organized. Although she claimed that she is a team player, she appeared independent and aloof. Additionally you and all the employees who met Mary feel she is “too serious”. She has three years of experience.

2. Elizabeth seems to be in her late 20’s. She went through assistant training a few years ago and has worked for an agency, but now wants full time work. She has a smile that puts one at ease and a very attractive personality. More ‘bubbly’ than Mary, she presents as an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual. Everyone, including you, wants to hire Elizabeth.

Studies have shown that the interview is one of the most flawed parts of the hiring process. Applicants with good social skills frequently fare better than reserved or shy people. Furthermore, there is tremendous personal bias in the interview – we gravitate to the people we like rather than evaluating the person-job goodness of fit.

To strengthen your hiring accuracy, reduce subjectivity as much as possible. Interviews measure social skills, not job suitability. Individuals who create a positive impression are viewed as more capable than quiet or nervous applicants. Might this be the case with Mary and Elizabeth? How could you find out?

McKenzie Management’s Employee Assessment Test measures 12 essential personality traits so you know how closely your candidate or existing employee matches the profiles of peak performers in the dental industry. You have objective data to help you determine suitability for one of four dental positions. The test strictly adheres to legal guidelines for employment testing. Let’s look at the results.

Elizabeth’s report explained why everyone liked her so much. She is socially bold, dominant and extraverted. Interestingly, you now remember a comment Elizabeth made about her agency assignments; “No one appreciates how good I am”. Despite her million dollar smile and can-do attitude, the Employee Assessment Test confirms that she is overly confident and believes her way is best. She will be difficult to train and unlikely to be deferential. If she were hired into your office there are strong indications that she will be ‘high maintenance’ and potentially the ‘diva’. Employees with Elizabeth’s profile often cause workplace drama.

The test results indicate that Mary is an accommodating and socially cautious person. High in self-control, she needs to familiarize herself with people before she opens up. That explains why she was so reserved with you and your team. She scored high on conscientiousness, dependability and agreeableness. With time and mentoring, she will adjust easily to the culture of your practice. Combined with her experience, credible references and these test results, Mary is clearly the #1 choice.

Many personnel problems are the result of a job misfit due to poor hiring practices. When it comes to predicting human behavior, there is no silver bullet. But testing offers insights that interviews, references or work samples simply cannot. Testing helps you coach and motivate your employees in the way they each need, ensuring a loyal staff and maximum performance.

Confronting your own hiring processes is time-consuming upfront, but the investment will yield large dividends. Good hires will ensure a more successful and productive office, better patient service, and new referrals. With the increasing importance on interpersonal effectiveness for job success, dentists who add pre-employment testing to their hiring process will have a strategic advantage. The pay-off is higher caliber employees who work harder and stay longer…and this ultimately helps your bottom-line!

If you’d like a sample report of McKenzie’s Employee Assessment Test, email Dr. Haller at nhaller@mckenziemgmt.com.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at nhaller@mckenziemgmt.com

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

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