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10.17.08 Issue #345 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Poor Inter-office Communication Equals Poor Customer Service

Economic times are tough right now and until it turns around the pressure is on more than ever to fill those open time units and call patients who haven’t walked through the door for more than two years. It is easy to say that you are making an effort and even easier to say that nothing helps after you have combed through every chart twice. Stress can lead to frustration, and then to complaining about the boss or co-workers’ faults and blaming them for bad times.

Telephone Skill Training has helped many a practice improve its customer service skills to potential patients who call to make an appointment. Learning the finesse of attracting new patients and keeping them coming back at recall is necessary for the survival of any practice.

Some trainees have voiced confusion over why their employer signed “them” up for the Telephone Skill Training course.  Some even verbalized that they didn’t need the training, or that it was prompted by a team member who had since been laid off, or that the doctor caught them on a bad day and doesn’t know what it is like working at the front desk. These statements were proven to be false after the training sessions were completed and it was determined that the person who thought they were the best did not score as highly as they should have with the mystery callers. There is always room for improvement or for a tune-up of existing systems. (This failure to see that customer service could be improved is another form of poor customer service—inter-office dissention—that can be palpable to the patient as a negative experience.)

It is naïve to think that patients don’t pick up on the tension and the discord that exists between team members. It is easier to cast blame on another team member instead of examining the system and exploring ways to improve. For instance, if you have 30 to 35 patients checking in and out during the day and you have one front office person in charge, it would make sense that this person would be challenged to give the best customer service when answering the phone.

Consider one example of a mystery patient call that was placed to an office. It was answered quickly and pleasantly but then the patient was put on hold for 4 minutes. The office did not have another person to take overflow calls nor did the scheduling coordinator keep the caller posted on wait times. Having messaging on hold would certainly have been better than silence. How many patients would wait 4 minutes on hold?

McKenzie Management has added a valuable product to its arsenal of tools to help dental practices improve systems—the Mystery Patient Onsite Evaluation. Like Telephone Skill Training, this service provides valuable insight to your customer service from the viewpoint of a professional observer who walks into your office. This service is designed to identify the weak areas of customer service in addition to making visual and audio observations of the facility and the staff’s interpersonal skills. The mystery patients make physical visits to the practice three times over a six-week period to get the proper feel for what happens when patients enter the reception area of your practice. The professional mystery patient also prepares a 26-point report analysis about the experience.

The secret to having positive relationships with the boss and co-workers is not to blame or criticize but to analyze and address areas in the practice systems that need to be changed to get positive results. Often staff members do not have the professional training to judge what changes are in order to improve customer service in the practice.

Some suggestions would be to learn about what your boss’s expectations are of the practice, such as:

  • The doctor’s vision and goals for the practice future and plans to get there, including signing up the team for additional training courses in subjects that the doctor deems necessary to improve skills and systems.
  • The doctor’s preferred way to receive information from the staff and his/her communication style. Some doctors don’t like confrontation so consider an email or written note.

Schedule a meeting or performance review about your job description to define your areas of accountability and ways that you can contribute to meet practice goals. Take the initiative to look for areas where improving would benefit the patient and the team and bring them to the doctor’s attention.

Advance yourself to new levels of practice management and enroll in one of our valuable training courses today.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at

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

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