Office Manager Not Meeting Expectations? Here's Why
You finally did it. You asked your star front office employee, Sarah, to be your office manager, and she was thrilled to accept the promotion. At the time, you were confident Sarah could handle the responsibilities, and you were relieved to know you’d no longer have to deal with those time-consuming business tasks that took you away from what you truly love – the dentistry. Yes, it seemed like a great idea at the time, but so far Sarah just isn’t living up to your expectations. In fact, if you’re being honest, you’d have to say it’s been a bit of a disaster.
Unfortunately, this scenario plays out in many practices. The dentist decides it’s time to hire an office manager, promotes from within and then regrets the decision. The once reliable team member the dentist thought was a perfect fit for the position just can’t handle the responsibilities, and that not only leads to a lot of frustration, it also costs thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
The problem is, many dentists throw what they consider “good” employees into the office manager role without any training or guidance. They think because the team member was good at her previous job, she’ll know exactly what to do as your new office manager. As nice as that would be, it just isn’t the case.
Yes, these employees may seem like they have the potential to make the shift to this higher level practice position, but often they just don’t have the skill set or level of competency needed to be an effective office manager. The position involves far more than just answering phones, scheduling and preparing financial arrangements. Your office manager should serve as your practice’s Chief Operating Officer, and should be skilled at working with numbers, have the ability to access and understand practice reports and be prepared to manage the office’s human resources. The list of potential duties goes on and on.
Before you hire an office manager, you need to make sure the employee has the proper skill set and is prepared to take on the level of responsibility the role requires. If you don’t, no matter how much this employee excelled in her former role, your once excited new office manager will soon feel overwhelmed. She won’t perform to your expectations, and if she doesn’t quit in frustration, you’ll be forced to let her go or restructure the team so she’s no longer assuming the manager role.
You can avoid this messy, costly situation if you take the time to find the right person to take over as your office manager, rather than promoting a loyal employee because you think she deserves it. One way to do that is to develop a detailed job description outlining your expectations for the role. I find that most doctors don’t do this, mostly because they really have no idea what duties they want their office manager to carry out, or what skill set their office manager needs to be successful.
I understand this isn’t an easy task, but it’s an important one. The position is unique to every dental practice, so you must determine exactly what you need your office manager to do to help the practice succeed. From there, create a detailed job description that best meets your practice needs. This will serve as a road map to your office manager’s success, and will help avoid any confusion about what the positon entails. Not only that, it will help avoid the frustration and lost revenue that comes with promoting someone who just isn’t a good fit for the job.
And, of course, you have to provide your office manager with proper training. Even if the person you hire has the right skill set and temperament for the job, this team member still needs guidance. I know this can be difficult for dentists, because most aren’t sure what it takes to be a good office manager, they just know they want someone to take over the business responsibilities so they don’t have to deal with them anymore. That’s why I offer an Office Manager Training Course through McKenzie Management. This program will set your office manager up for success, and provide the confidence needed to excel in this role.
A good office manager will help you run your practice more efficiently. You just have to make sure you hire the right person for the job. Resist the urge to reward good employees with a promotion to a job they’re not qualified for. Take the time to find someone with the right skill set and temperament to take over this important role. If you provide this team member with proper guidance and training, you’ll reap the benefits that a skilled office manager can bring to your practice, giving you more time to focus on the dentistry while providing your patients with the best care possible.
Next week, 5 things every successful office manager needs to know.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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7 Reasons Dental Offices Don’t Achieve Success
Working as an instructor of dental business systems, frustration mounts when solutions to help solve the many problems that can arise in a dental business are dismissed. I often hear “that won’t work in my office” followed by many negatives to justify this train of thought. Unfortunately for dental practice ownership, the number of loan defaults have risen from .4% (about 20 years ago) to as high as 5% recently. Struggling doctors give many reasons for this, yet down the street in the same demographic there are dentists with dream practices. How is this possible?
No two dental practices are the same, yet we see many of the same issues and challenges in all of the offices we work with. The following are the seven most critical areas holding dental practices back from reaching their potential.
1. Fear of Fees
2. Poor Management of Working Capital
3. Fear of Competition
4. Low New Patient Numbers and Retention
5. Lack of Written Financial Agreements with Patients
6. Poor Customer Service = Poor Patient Retention
7. Not Tracking the Practice Revenue
Need help? Call McKenzie Management today and get the prescription for a successful practice.
Passing the Baton to Your Business Team
Watching sporting events such as the Summer Olympics reminds me of the dedication athletes must have in order to endure long practice hours, physical pain and putting aside their personal lives to achieve a lifelong dream. I find team sports intriguing because the entire team must perform at their maximum ability ALL at the same time in order to win the gold. Not just one person carrying the team, but each team member bringing all they have for that period of time.
Dental offices face the same challenges on a daily basis. You are competing for the gold every day, providing the best possible dentistry, reaching daily production and collection goals, and managing your practice with dignity and fairness as an athletic coach would do.
Have you heard that a team is only as strong as the weakest link? This is also true in your dental office. That is why systems for accountability are so important – to find the weak link and make them stronger, which in turn strengthens the entire team.
As with any team sport, there are many areas where weak links may be evident if you know where to look. How many times have you heard an employee complain, “Susie doesn’t pull her weight, I feel like I have to cover for her all the time.” Maybe Susie doesn’t know she isn’t performing to the expectations of her teammates and needs professional training and a specific job description so you, as her coach, will know if she is a weak link or not.
This summary below covers a specific possible weak link in your practice – the hand off of your patient from the clinical team member to the business team member.
When is the baton dropped at the front desk?
Your team players pass the baton every time they walk a patient to the front desk to be checked out and have another appointment made. How many times do you think the baton is dropped? My experience working in many dental offices is “often”, and you likely have no idea – unlike the track coach who can witness it visually. Ask your clinical team members how many times they have walked their patient to the front desk, only to find no one sitting in the check-out area. Baton dropped! Ask your business team members how many times a patient just “shows up” at the front desk from the clinical area with no escort and no routing slip. Baton dropped!
How do you avoid the baton drop?
Start by understanding the importance of the patient being handed off to your business team initially. Wonder why money is not collected? Wonder why you are not as busy as you would like to be? This could be a place to look for a weak link and a dropped baton.
When your patient is dismissed from the treatment room, it is imperative they are personally escorted by one of your clinical team members to one of your business team members in the business area (preferably your Schedule or Treatment Coordinator). Next, the clinical team member must reintroduce the patient to the business team member by handing a completed routing form to the team member, reviewing what treatment was performed to add value to the visit, and verbally indicating what needs to be scheduled next, along with how much doctor and assistant time or hygiene time is needed. This step is to reinforce the recommended treatment by the doctor or hygienist. BATON PASSED!
BATON RECEIVED. Now the business team member takes the baton and runs with it. She/he inquires as to how the patient is, maybe even bragging on any anterior dental work that was performed today. Next is to collect any monies owed for the visit and finally, to schedule the next visit, reiterating the information that was already shared by the clinical team member.
With money collected, an appointment made and finances reviewed – over the finish line and you have a WINNER! Remember, practice makes perfect. Do some role playing during your next monthly meeting so your baton doesn’t get dropped at the front desk.
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