Is Your Business Coordinator Too Nice?
I am a hygienist in a small practice and we have a new hire that is really sweet and kind, but she is driving me crazy. My schedule is full of cancellations because when people cancel she says “Oh, that’s okay, how about tomorrow at 3:30?” She makes it look easy to get an appointment and makes it easy to cancel. I am tired of having to clock out and leave because of no patients but doctor says that the patients like her so what do I do?
Dentistry is a people business so we have to be kind, nice and accommodating - but dentistry is also a business that has bills to pay and salaries to support. Hiring a person who is kind and understanding but also communicates to patients that there are expectations and accountability associated with being a patient in your practice is paramount. Temperament testing in the hiring process has been advised by McKenzie Management for many years and remains as successful measurement of a person's likelihood of demonstrating personality traits necessary to do the job they are hired to do. This coupled with a written job description and systems in place that define how patients are to be communicated with when there are no-shows and cancellations will help your business coordinator with ensuring policies are followed in the practice.
When there are no standard operating protocols or systems in place, people will fall back on their personality to direct them in decision making. Your new business coordinator wants people to like her, and she is not aware of how this is affecting you and the practice financially. She may have been hired because of her personality and likeability. As a trainer in this arena for many years, my advice would be that this breakdown in system be pointed out to the doctor factually - not out of emotion. Prepare a report with data showing the number of lost patients off the schedule that were not replaced, and the numbers of hours that you have lost.
To remedy the situation, it would be necessary to make sure systems and scripting were created to train the business coordinator to communicate with kindness the rules of the practice regarding cancellations and no-shows. For example - if you are pre-booking appointments, these patients typically need a reminder two weeks and two days before with a call back confirmation request. Using e-reminders helps to remind patients that prefer e-mail or texting.
At the recall appointment, the hygienist should add value to the visit by demonstrating to the patient the need to return at the designated time. For instance, if the patient has good oral hygiene and is on a six-month recall, find another reason why it would be important for them to return besides the professional cleaning. Are there fracture lines, open margins attracting food, recession areas? Does the patient build up calculus rapidly because of exposed root surface? Sending a message that everything is okay does not ensure return of the patient on a timely basis. Often patients judge the length of time as being subject to the last good report they received and will postpone thinking they are okay to wait longer. If your parting script is something like the following, you will send a message of importance for the return visit:
Mrs. Brown, I am pleased with the results of your cleaning and examination today. I am going to keep you on the six-month return visit, however I may recommend a four month return if the calculus keeps building up as quickly as evidenced by the amount I found today. There is also a filling with an overhang that keeps attracting food and this filling will be assessed for possible replacement if the problem persists. Here is a mirror, let me show you the areas that I am concerned about. You will be receiving a notice two weeks before your scheduled appointment. If that does not work for you, please call us at that time to re-schedule as we need the time to find an appointment that suits your schedule as well as ours.
Communicating how the recall system works and the patient's responsibility within that system helps ensure fewer cancellations. We can all be kind and caring when there are systems and rules that guide our everyday operations.
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