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7.25.08 Issue #333 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Do You Offer Outstanding Customer Service?

Dr. Bruce Brogan—Case Study #154

Dr. Brogan’s Concerns:
Many dentists are concerned about the current profitability of their dental practice. Dr. Brogan wondered, short of “giving away” dentistry to his new and existing patients, what to do to guarantee that he didn’t lose his patient base to “Dr. Freebee” down the street.

Practice Facts:

  • Family practice that accepts a few PPO plans/fee for service
  • 21 new patients a month
  • 13 years in practice at same location
  • 2 full-time front office employees
  • 6 days of hygiene
  • $60,000 a month in production


  • Not enough hygiene days! Patients are not staying with Dr. Brogan because they wait too long for an appointment. Here is the math to support this statement:
    • 21 NP/mo x 12 mo/yr x 13 yrs = 3,276 patients
    • Assume that his retention rate is only 50% = 1,638 active patients
    • Patients are seen only 2x a year = 3,276 hygiene appointments needed
    • 6 days/wk of hygiene at 9 patients per day working 48 weeks = 2,592 available appointments.
  • Too many team members working at the front desk! This may initially appear to be good customer service but it drastically affected his current profitability. With efficient systems in place, Dr. Grogan’s business area could be easily managed by one full-time person. He employed 2 full-time employees.
  • Customer service was poor due to the “chit-chat” that was taking place between the two front office employees. Patients were arriving for their scheduled appointments and the employees would be deep in a discussion about American Idol. The patient was not greeted with a smile and, “Good morning, Mrs. Jones. It is so good to see you. Thank you for coming to see us today.” The patient was ignored as she stood at the counter waiting to be recognized. More staff does not equal better customer service.
  • Dr. Brogan was not offering any patient-centered services in the reception area, such as:
    • A complimentary beverage area in the reception area with coffee, tea and water
    • A variety of current magazines (no more than a month old)
    • A flat-screen, wall-mounted TV playing a dental education DVD about the services provided in the practice, with closed captions turned on
    • A “before and after” photo album, preferably of his own patients
    • Reading glasses for patients who may have forgotten theirs
    • Comfortable and relaxing music—not a local radio station playing the Top 40 hits
    • An arrangement of comfortable chairs and/or sofas
    • Natural lighting that is not overwhelmingly “sterile”
  • Dr. Brogan offered no special services in the treatment rooms, such as:
    • Tinted glasses to help patients close their eyes and relax
    • DVD players with headphones or other “audio analgesia”
    • Neck or back pillows for comfort
    • A clean cotton blanket (removed from a plastic bag) to keep the patient warm if requested
    • A non-cluttered treatment room that doesn’t appear to be “dirty”
    • A professionally framed “dental arts” poster promoting dentistry
    • Demonstration Models to assist in educating the patient about a treatment plan
  • It was observed that patients were waiting more than 10 minutes in the reception room with no attention given to them by front office personnel. Patients will leave a dental practice when they feel that they are not being attended to, especially women—and when women leave, so does the entire family!
  • The phone was answered with, “Dr. Brogan’s Office,” instead of, “Thank you for calling Dr. Brogan’s office. This is Barbara. How may I direct your call?” The first question was about whether the patient had insurance coverage—hardly inviting and pleasant.

Dr. Brogan was encouraged to walk around his office and review what is seen through the eyes of the patients, keeping in mind some the areas that could be improved to make a “wow” impression. You should ask for feedback from your employees regarding what changes they would make if the practice were theirs.

Sit in a treatment room chair and experience what the patient experiences. Is the chair comfortable? Is there silver electrical tape on the arm to cover a tear? Is aluminum foil being used as a barrier? Patients perceive aluminum foil as a form of repair or a way of covering up something that they should not see. Are the lenses over the light bulbs on the chair and overhead clean and void of dead bugs or spatter?

Write specific job descriptions so employees are more efficient with their time and accountable for finishing tasks.

Evaluate the Hygiene Department protocols for profitability. Establish systems to improve patient retention to at least 80%. Dr. Brogan had no idea what kind of recall cards were being sent, or when the patients were being confirmed, or if there was a system at all. A discussion with his hygienists ensued to make sure that they were assessing and diagnosing with the same goals in mind.


Dr. Brogan’s practice was reviewed six months later. After implementing some of the changes that were recommended above, the doctor and team noted that patients were commenting on the “special touches” that they had added to make their visit more comfortable. “Your reception room is so nicely decorated; it is like a home away from home.”

Be conscious of your patients’ environment. Make little changes to show them that you care and want to keep them as valued clients. Tell them that you appreciate them taking the time out of their busy schedule to see you. Without them, you have no practice at all!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email

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