How Your Schedule Is Hurting Your Practice
If you’re like most dentists, you probably don’t put much thought into how your daily schedule comes together. You know it typically keeps you quite busy, except when cancellations and no-shows leave you with gaping holes. Those days are pretty chaotic and stressful, but then again so are the days you have a full schedule. You usually don’t have time for a break, let alone time to eat lunch, and you find yourself running from patient to patient just trying to keep up.
If this all sounds normal to you, it’s time to make some changes to how your schedule is put together. Your schedule shouldn’t be a source of stress and frustration. Instead, it should keep you productive and on track to meet daily goals. A hodge-podge of names and random appointment times isn’t going to get you there. In fact, a mismanaged schedule isn’t just causing you and your team stress. It’s hurting your practice and keeping you from meeting your full potential. Not convinced? Read on.
A poorly managed schedule costs you patients. Your patients are busy people. Most of them struggle to squeeze dental appointments into their busy lives, and they certainly don’t want to spend their afternoon waiting for you because you’ve fallen behind schedule, especially if it’s happened before.
If you keep your patients waiting, they’re going to be pretty annoyed when you finally do appear. They may even be making plans to find a new dental home. And because you’re still behind, you’re not going to spend much time getting to know them or providing education. They’ll be able to tell you’re in a hurry, and won’t bother to ask any questions. Chances are they’re not going to accept any treatment you recommend, and you can forget about them referring you to family and friends, costing you thousands of dollars in potential revenue.
Yes, even after you turn your schedule into a well-oiled machine there will be days you fall behind. But patients will be much more forgiving if it only happens once in a while. You have to take steps to fix this now, or your patients will start turning to the practice down the street.
If your office is known for long wait times, it’s likely because you’re overbooked and trying to follow a schedule riddled with inaccurate appointment times. When the Scheduling Coordinator only blocks out 60 minutes for a procedure that takes 90, it’s going to put you behind for the rest of your day. How can you fix this? Communicate.
Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator knows exactly how long both you and your assistant need to complete each procedure. Don’t play the guessing game when developing the schedule. Train your coordinator to mark the two times in different colors to avoid any confusion. This will not only save everyone a lot of frustration down the road, it will help keep you from being double-booked.
A hodge-podge schedule leaves little room for new patients. When potential new patients call your office to schedule an appointment, they usually want to come in as soon as possible. If they’re told they can’t see the doctor for weeks or months, I can guarantee you that even if they schedule an appointment, they’ll start looking for a doctor who can see them sooner right after they hang up.
New patients are critical to your practice’s success, and that means you have to leave room for them in your schedule. If you don’t, it’s costing you thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. Sit down with your Scheduling Coordinator and figure out the average number of new patients you see each month, then block out enough time in the schedule.
To get this number, I suggest looking at new patient activity over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients over that period, that works out to 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate demand. If demand increases, make the necessary adjustments.
Another way to make room for new patients, as well as current patients who want to schedule treatment, is to stop relying solely on pre-appointing. This gives you the illusion of a full schedule, when in reality many of the scheduled patients won’t show up for their appointment times. Think about it. Do you know what you’re doing on a Tuesday six months from now at 2pm? Neither do your patients.
A chaotic schedule keeps you busy, but doesn’t help you meet daily production goals. To create a successful, thriving dental practice, you and your team members must focus on meeting daily production goals. How do you determine those goals? Sit down with your team members and decide how much money you need to bring in each day to cover your financial obligations as well as meet your personal financial goals. Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator understands the need to schedule your days to meet production goals, not to keep you busy. Provide the training and tools necessary to succeed, and you’ll find that not only do your days run smoother, but you’re actually bringing in more money.
Managing the schedule can be a difficult task, but it’s key to your practice’s success. A chaotic schedule does nothing but cause you stress and cost you money. Want more details on how your schedule might be keeping you from true success and profitability? Click here to take my free assessment, and then let me know how I can help.
Next week, 4 ways to take back control of your schedule.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Customer Service, the "Ritz-Carlton" Way
There have been countless articles written about customer service and creating the "Ritz Carlton Experience" of attention to quality and service. Dental practices have added beverage bars, lemon scented towels, fresh flowers, team pictures, fresh baked cookies, popcorn machines, aromatherapy, water fountains, soothing music, Wi-Fi services, massage chairs and other spa services to make sure patients are happy and want to return. But sometimes these services, though thoughtful, are like putting a new coat of paint on a car without an engine.
Just what is the Ritz-Carlton Experience? The Ritz-Carlton has a 100 year history of an “unshakeable credo and corporate philosophy of unwavering commitment to service, both in their hotels and in their communities.” Their Vision Statement is to “Inspire life’s most meaningful journeys.” Their Mission Statement is to “Provide genuine care and exceptional products and services resulting in profit leadership.” They are considered the gold standard of customer service worldwide.
How do they do it? The hotel business is a tough one, with enormous competition. As one who has stayed in countless hotels for both business and vacation travel, I can say from experience that there are places I would never go back to again. The main reason for this is often the obvious lack of training that hotel staff have received, resulting in poor service reflecting in a declining, decaying hotel.
The Ritz-Carlton leaders figured out a long time ago that you cannot maintain the most luxurious hotels and services without highly trained and committed employees. The reason for their gold standard is their “Succeed through Service” skills-based mentoring program and their award winning employee training and developing programs. Some of the training to be an employee at the Ritz-Carlton includes the following modules: Social Skills and Etiquette, Successful Presentation Skills, Power of Teamwork, and Application and Interview Skills.
From the Social Skills & Etiquette module: “It’s all about First Impressions = Provide a Warm Welcome = Eye Contact, Facial Expressions (smile), Energy in your voice and a Polite Greeting.” It takes 43 muscles to frown and only 17 to smile, yet there is far too much frowning in a dental practice. It isn’t necessarily the fault of who is at the desk, it’s more a question of was the person at the desk trained in customer service and telephone skills?
I have asked patients many times: What is the first thing you notice about the dental office when you go in? Nine times out of 10 it is the greeting or lack of greeting by the front office or dental assistant. “I am not noticed until I am there about five minutes; both of them are looking down at their computers.”
As a business that is all about creating beautiful smiles, it would seem obvious that patients could at least get one when entering the practice. I have observed many offices that give away clinical services instead of providing great service. Small things do count, but discounts, free services and other giveaways do not offset bad customer service. I was once offered a free night at a hotel to make up for the poor customer service I had received. I wasn’t interested, as I wanted to leave at that point.
Long-term, committed patients are what dental practices should strive for, yet there isn’t a lot of time spent on establishing relationships to create loyal patients. Often it is these patients who are taken for granted in favor of the troublesome and problematic patients who zap energy and enthusiasm from the practice. Work on retaining the patients that you want by showing them you care. Listen to their concerns and move toward making corrections in your practice to suit them. Learn to create your own comprehensive marketing and professional relations department, or consult with McKenzie Management to learn how to attract and keep patients in your practice. You can take a complimentary assessment on our website HERE to evaluate how effective your current marketing efforts are.
Surveying your active patient base through online reviews and making changes in the practice to improve overall patient satisfaction will show that you truly care about what matters to your patients. To improve customer service, treatment acceptance and advance your dental business skills, call us at 877-777-6151 today and get started. We will provide you with a customized road map to success.
Monitoring with Office Codes
Remember the “ticks” we used to use (and maybe still do) to add up how many patients were seen last year who had root canals, or how many patients came every three months for their periodontal maintenance appointments? Good news! If you have dental practice software in your office then you can track anything, as long as you can post it to the patients’ accounts.
To be more specific (and depending on what software program you are using), there is a report you can create that prints a list of all the various ADA and office codes that have been posted to patients’ ledgers for any given period of time. This wonderful report shows the number of times the code was used and the dollar amount that was generated.
Why do you need to know this? Maybe you don’t. But maybe you do, and you don’t know it. Remember, “You only know what you know, and you don’t know what you don’t know!”
What is an “in-office” code? It is a code created by you, which means you determine the description of what it means. This code can be posted to an account with no fee and does not generate a claim to the insurance company. It is simply a way of monitoring different things. How many times have you reviewed your schedule in the morning to see patients listed, but you do not know what they are coming in for because there is no service code or note? This is a good reason to use in-office codes. Below are some examples of how you may want to implement these in-office codes.
Issue: A patient comes in because a tooth has a sharp edge after you performed a composite restoration. EVERY patient should have something posted to their ledger when they are seen, so you have a record of them being in the office that day. You have no intention of billing the patient for this service.
Issue: You re-cement a temporary crown for your patient. No fee and no code.
Issue: You would like to know how many calls your Insurance Coordinator is making daily to insurance companies.
Issue: You want to know how many calls were made to past due recall patients.
You can see how simple it is to create and use these codes for anything. Now, how do you extrapolate the information? Let’s say you want to know the following:
1. How much time did your Insurance Coordinator spend last month “dialing for dollars” to insurance companies regarding outstanding claims 15 days and over?
By generating a Production Report from your software that lists all the procedures performed for a specific period of time and by whom, you will have answers to all these questions:
1. Your Insurance Coordinator placed 300 calls to insurance companies last month to follow-up on unpaid claims.
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