Why Staff Conflict is Costing You Patients
Yes, you’ve noticed the tension between some of your team members. You have no idea what’s causing it and you’d prefer to keep it that way – they’re all adults, after all, and surely they can work out their problems on their own.
This is how many dentists view staff conflict. It makes them uncomfortable, so they’d rather ignore it than help find a solution. They convince themselves the problem will magically go away on its own, and the team will once again find harmony. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Ignoring conflict will only make it worse, and could do a lot of damage to your practice.
The truth is, unresolved staff conflict costs you patients, reducing your production numbers and killing your bottom line. Don’t believe me? Here are three ways staff conflict is sending your patients to the practice down the street, and why you have to intervene when you notice tension among your team members.
1. It Makes Patients Uncomfortable
The last thing you want is for patients to overhear team members venting about their problems. Your hygienist might mention how the dental assistant never sets up the room the right way, or how the doctor is running behind because the Scheduling Coordinator doesn’t know procedure times. Patients don’t want to hear these complaints as they’re sitting in the chair, and this type of behavior certainly won’t help them feel connected to your practice. It just creates an awkward situation that makes patients want to run out of your office as soon as the appointment is over.
Like it or not, many patients are nervous about coming to your practice. They don’t want to be there in the first place, and if they walk into a negative environment, I can pretty much guarantee they’ll never come back.
2. Customer Service is No Longer a Focus
When practices are experiencing conflict, that doesn’t happen. Team members become too wrapped up in the conflict to think about customer service, and just want to get through the day. They’re unhappy with their work environment and it shows with every patient interaction. It becomes clear to your patients they’re not the focus, and when that happens, they start looking for a new dental home that will put their needs first.
Start looking at every patient interaction as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service. This is how you create loyal patients and grow your bottom line. Don’t let petty arguments between team members get in the way of practice growth, and ultimately your success. Address the conflict before it gets out of control.
3. It Impacts the Quality of Care You Provide
Your team members should be focused on delivering top-notch care, and providing patients with the education they need to make important decisions about their oral health. They should be connecting with patients, and talking with them about the services your practice provides. None of this happens when team members find themselves working in a negative environment, distracted by conflict. If you want them to start focusing on the patient again, you have to put an end to whatever’s causing that conflict.
Conflict is inevitable. As much as you’d like to, there’s really no avoiding it. But it’s how you handle that conflict that matters. Instead of ignoring it, sit down with your team members to find a solution. Be a leader, and use the conflict to create positive change. This will keep the conflict from boiling out of control and damaging your practice, and will remind your team members that you’re all working together toward one common goal – practice success and profitability.
Still not comfortable addressing staff conflict in your practice? I’m happy to help. Consider contacting me and taking my Conflict Competency Training. This assessment instrument deals with conflict behaviors in the workplace and can help you and your team members improve the way you respond to conflict. And trust me, when you deal with conflict head on you’ll have happier team members, and that will lead to happier patients and a more robust bottom line.
Next week, How to get staff conflict under control
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Feeling Overwhelmed? It’s Time to Empower Your Team
Running a dental practice can be exhausting. Not only do you have patients to treat and a business to manage, you also have to keep track of your staff members’ to-do lists. You’re constantly reminding them how to perform their daily duties, because if you don’t, you’re certain nothing will ever get done.
You’d love for your team members to take control of their responsibilities and finally start thinking for themselves. The stress of keeping them on point is getting to you, and it’s clear something needs to change. You’re overwhelmed, and it won’t be long before you totally burn out.
If you find yourself nodding your head as you read this, it’s time for you to empower your team. Every successful practice has a strong team behind it, with everyone doing their part to help meet practice goals. But for this to happen, your team members need guidance from you, the practice CEO. They also need your trust. If you don’t think they can ever do anything right, then chances are they won’t.
Once you empower your team to perform, you’ll have a much more efficient, profitable practice. Your team members will be more confident, and that will show in the way they interact with patients. You’ll be much less stressed, with more time to focus on delivering top-notch care.
Ready to empower your team? Here’s how:
Write down protocols. To ensure team members know what tasks need to get done routinely, make a list and then train team members to perform these duties. Assign tasks to specific team members and have them write down protocols step-by-step. Then, make sure they can perform the tasks to your satisfaction.
Hold them accountable. When you assign tasks, let team members know they can delegate if they choose, but ultimately they’re responsible for the tasks getting done – and getting done correctly. This eliminates any confusion. Team members will know exactly what they’re accountable for, empowering them to take ownership.
Develop job descriptions. While most dentists would rather not talk about job descriptions, they’re vital to your practice’s success. They outline exactly what a team member’s role is, as well as performance measurements and your expectations. You simply can’t expect tasks to get done if they’re not assigned to a specific person. In that situation, everyone expects someone else to do it. Job descriptions eliminate this problem. Develop job descriptions for each role, then hand them out to every team member.
Give them a timeframe. Team members must understand the importance of not only completing their tasks, but also completing them in a timely manner. Communication is key here; you have to make it clear when you expect tasks to be finished. Provide a timeframe, such as “before the end of the day.” Remember, just because a task is urgent to you doesn’t mean it’s urgent to them.
Develop a confirmation system. Often dentists ask team members to do something, then worry they’ll forget to do it. It lingers in the back of their mind, bothering them until they finally break down and ask. This is just another unnecessary source of stress, which is why it’s important to set up a confirmation system so you know exactly when tasks are completed.
Here are a few ideas you can implement today:
• Have every team member make notes in the same place on the computer. This could be in contacts, clinical notes, the journal, or anywhere else that’s easy for the team to access. Train them to mark when a task is completed. If the task isn’t completed in the timeframe given, go to the person responsible for the task.
• Tell team members to leave a sticky note on your desk with all the information you asked for, confirming the task was completed, when it was completed and the outcome. Designate a specific place on your desk to put the sticky note so it’s easy to find.
• Ask them to send you an email with the same information once a task is complete.
• Ask team members to give updates during the morning huddle and monthly team meetings.
• Tell team members to put a note in the patient’s record.
Encourage creativity. Create an environment where team members feel safe coming to you with ideas to enhance the practice. Listen to what they have to say and thank them for their comments – even if you don’t agree. If you’re not receptive to their ideas or if they think you won’t listen, they’ll stop communicating.
Let them know their ideas and contributions are important and give them positive feedback when they come to you with thoughts on how to attract new patients or improve case acceptance. Make them feel like the valuable team members that they are, and they’ll be much more vested in the practice’s success.As a busy dentist, you have a lot to think about. Whether or not your team is actually performing the tasks you assign them shouldn’t be on that list. It’s too exhausting, and will just lead to burnout. Empower your team to perform, and hold them accountable for their tasks. You’ll soon find that you finally have an efficient, confident team, leaving more time to focus on growing your practice.
End of Day Reports are the Dental Practice Lifeline
Every evening during the week I verify daily patient charges, making sure every patient on the schedule that day had an entry, whether it was a charge or not. I scrutinize every adjustment and balance the credit card receipts, insurance bulk payments and individual payments, ensuring the accuracy of reports. I am proud to finish at closing…only to have the reports pile up on the doctor’s desk to be eventually thrown in a drawer, file or envelope for the accountant or bookkeeper.
I recently asked the doctor if he ever looks at the reports, and he said “Not really, but occasionally. I trust that you are doing it right because my accountant would tell me.”
I am trusted as long as the accountant doesn’t find an error. I seriously doubt that the accountant checks the patients’ names against the procedure scheduled and checks for accuracy in dental insurance contract write-off and other write-offs and “discounts” that effect the collections. I am exasperated, and don’t want to waste my time on reports that are unnecessary.
- A Frustrated Office Manager
This is not a criticism of accountants or bookkeepers. It is simply a fact that their relationship is with the practice numbers that you give them, or they take your raw information and produce the profit and loss statements. They are not familiar with the dental office’s posting and adjustment protocols. The CPA will do an audit which has a primary focus of establishing your financial statement integrity. If there isn’t enough revenue to cover your costs of doing business, then a red flag will certainly go up. That’s why end of the day reports are the lifeline of the practice. It doesn’t have to be a huge time consumer to look at the following:
The Procedure by Provider Report will show you what was done and by whom. Look for procedures that were scheduled but not completed. Are the procedures listed to the right provider? For instance, are periodic exams listed as produced by the hygienist or the dentist? Check what was performed against what was posted on the account. What was posted is going out on a claim form if the patient is insured. Sometimes what was scheduled is not what was performed, but it wasn’t changed in the scheduler and got posted and then filed to insurance. What are your checks and balances against this behavior? Your front office person doesn’t know that the composite filling on tooth #2 was changed from a DO to an MOD with a pulp cap.
The Adjustment Report will show write-offs in the form of insurance contractual write-offs to courtesy write-offs. If there are thousands of dollars under miscellaneous write-offs/adjustments, you need to customize this to see what is truly happening to the money. If you see an adjustment that you don’t understand, ask about it.
The Deposit Slip Report gets the most attention because it lists money that is going or went to the bank today. Look at this side-by-side with the procedure by provider report to see that there is a corresponding payment for every production today. There should be payment in full for cash patients or estimated coinsurance and deductibles for insured patients unless it is a fully covered benefit.
Check to see that thank-you notes go out to patients who referred new patients, and you might make a note to call patients who had more difficult procedures to find out how they are doing.
There are more reports, but these are the main ones to keep attuned to the pulse of your practice. Looking over these reports at the end of the day does not mean you do not trust your business team. It means that you care about whether there are anomalies to the day or inaccuracies that could affect the practice and the patients. It’s just good business. Make it a habit to sit down for five minutes at the end of the day to review the daily reports with your Business Coordinator. She/he will be more careful with detail and accuracy if it is known that you actually look at and study the reports.
Want to improve your business skills? Call McKenzie Management today and sign up for Office Manager Training in your town or at our Training Center in La Jolla, CA.
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