Is Cross Training Hurting Your Practice?
On the surface, cross training seems like a great idea. Everyone on the team can step in and help out whenever needed, and they’re more than happy to do so. Yes, this seems like a great system – but unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
For cross training to be effective, you need to establish certain protocols. When I ask dentists about these protocols and the training that took place to prepare team members to step in when needed, the answers I get are typically long on generalities and short on specifics. They think team members just instinctively know what needs to be done and will do it. While that would be nice, it just isn’t realistic.
Even if team members have been with your practice for a long time, chances are they don’t automatically know how to perform other team members’ tasks. Let’s say your assistant, Susan, has worked at your practice for three years. Yes, she’s good at her job and is always willing to help when she can, but that doesn’t mean she understands the specifics of scheduling, is prepared to properly handle patient phone calls, or knows how to collect from patients. She needs to be trained to effectively handle these duties.
Sure, your business manager probably spent 10 or 15 minutes quickly going over a few tasks with Susan just in case she ever needed to help out. This is not what I would consider training and is not nearly enough to make Susan confident and effective if she ever does need to step in for the office manager. The truth is, while this is a common approach to “cross training,” it typically causes more problems than it solves.
With this system, no one is held accountable. If everyone on the staff is expected to collect from patients, who is responsible when revenues are down? If the schedule is a mess, leaving the doctor running from patient to patient at a break neck speed and still not meeting daily production goals, whose job is it to fix the problem? Bottom line: When everyone has their hands in everything, no one is accountable for anything. This leads to confusion and can damage your practice.
That’s why it’s so important to create results oriented job descriptions with clearly defined performance measurements before you even think about cross training. But if you’re like most dentists, the thought of creating job descriptions makes you cringe. You think they’re a waste of time, but trust me, they’re not. They give your team members a roadmap to success while also holding them accountable for specific systems and tasks.
Job descriptions leave no question about who’s responsible for what. Team members know which systems they’re accountable for, so instead of just being expected to fill in when needed, they have the opportunity to take ownership and really excel in their role. They’ll no longer just focus on getting the job done. Instead, they’ll strive to meet and exceed performance measurements. They’ll be happier and more productive, and that means a more robust bottom line for your practice.
So what should a job description include? The job title, a summary of the position and a list of the position’s responsibilities and duties. I suggest including individual performance goals that complement practice goals, such as maximizing the hygiene schedule, increasing collection ratio, growing case acceptance and improving accounts receivables.
It’s also important to list standards for measuring results. If you expect the front desk staff to schedule to meet specific production goals, for example, they not only need to know what those goals are, they also need a strategy and the necessary training to achieve those goals. Give them the tools and guidance they need and they’ll be much more likely to experience success.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying team members shouldn’t be able to help when necessary. They absolutely should step in when someone is out sick or on vacation. Just remember your team members won’t automatically know what to do, and if you throw new tasks at them without proper training, it will only create stress and cause problems in your practice.
To be effective, team members should be properly trained to take on tasks they don’t typically perform – and 10 to 15 minutes on the fly just isn’t enough. Developing protocols and providing this training will help ensure tasks are completed properly and that your practice continues to run smoothly even when someone is out of the office.
Next week: How to effectively cross train your team
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Grow Your Practice by Focusing on Patient Relationships
Dentistry is about building relationships. It’s about connecting with patients and taking the time to develop a rapport. If you’re only focused on crafting beautiful restorations or fabricating perfect porcelain crowns, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your patient base and your bottom line.
Now I know this is something many dentists struggle with. They’d much rather focus on the dentistry – but the problem is, your patients want more. They want to feel like you know and care about them and that you have their best interest at heart. They want to feel connected to your practice, and if they don’t, they won’t have any problem making their next appointment at the practice down the street.
So how do you start building patient relationships and setting yourself apart from other dentists? Follow these tips.
Provide Exceptional Customer Service
- Make sure you and your team members greet every patient by name
When you implement any idea on this list, it shows you actually like your patients and want them to feel comfortable when they visit your practice. They’ll love these extra touches, making them not only more likely to come back, but also to refer you to family and friends.
Provide Patient Education
Offer Incentives to Make Treatment More Affordable
This same doctor also implemented an “On Call Program” for patients who live close to the office. These patients are called on short notice and if they are able to come in, they receive a 10% adjustment to their fee. Patients can see the doctor at a reduced cost, while she easily fills any open slots left by last minute cancellations or no-shows.
You can also play what I call “Let’s Make a Deal” with your patients. Let’s say Mrs. Taylor needs two crowns in the same quadrant but simply can’t afford them both. Consider offering the second crown for half the fee as a courtesy to the patient.
Work With Other Businesses
Your patients are the reason you come to work each day. Without them, you’d have no practice. That’s why it’s so important to provide exceptional customer service and create and maintain patient relationships. Take the time to ask patients about their families and their jobs. Educate them about their condition and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Work with them when they’re struggling to pay for needed dentistry. Show them you care, and you’ll build a strong base of patients who not only accept treatment, but who also refer you to family and friends.
Do You Have Them at "Hello"?
If you have seen the movie Jerry Maguire, you will remember the famous line from the character Dorothy Boyd, played by Renee Zellweger, when Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire gives a long winded speech to prove his love for Dorothy and she says, “You had me at Hello”.
“In less than a second, the time it takes to say ‘hello’, we make a snap judgment about someone's personality”, says Jody Kreiman, a UCLA researcher who studies how we perceive voice. “On hearing just a brief utterance, we decide whether to approach the person or to avoid them.” Such rapid appraisals, she says, have a long evolutionary history. It's a brain process found in all mammals.
Independent studies have shown that 55% of telecommunication is vocal tones, 7% is body language, and 38% is words. Words communicate confidence, knowledge and influence. Body language is the smile and posture of the person on the phone. Voice tone conveys volume, speed, accents and pitches, the speaker’s mood, and whether they are listening to the caller. There is an old adage that goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Most people are on their best behavior during exercises demonstrating phone techniques. It is when they are tired, stressed and angry that the real emotion comes through the line to the caller. The worst time for telephone finesse and etiquette is on a busy day when all the lines are ringing at once and only one person is fielding the calls. There’s also the “afternoon slump” at about 3:00 PM when the front office team is tired and needs nutrition. An angry caller can upset the mood of the nicest phone voice. It can take a few moments to get the enthusiasm and smile back into the vocal tone.
Being prepared with scripting for the most common situations that arise in a dental practice can help the telephone team stay on a smooth course of communication. Let’s look at the following recorded telephone exchange:
(Office=O) Thank-you for calling Dr. Smith’s dental office. How can I help you?
This potential new patient was put on a short call list and wasn’t offered an appointment sooner. As a result, the patient went elsewhere.
Here are some observations about this call:
Perhaps if the dental office had called the patient back, made a reasonable attempt to accommodate and attempted to sincerely build rapport, the patient would have appointed.
Want to learn how to make the best impressions with finesse and get patients into your schedule? Call McKenzie Management today to schedule a dental business training course that specifically meets your needs.
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