6.20.14 Issue #641 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Do You Have Communication Stop Signs in Your Office?
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant

We all know that one of the primary components of a successful practice is communication. But what is communication? Written, verbal, and non-verbal are all common forms of communication in a dental office. But more important than what forms of communication are being used is how they are used - and what may be keeping your practice from achieving open and positive communication.

Written Communication
In your office there are chart notes (either paper or digital), financial option forms, routing forms, treatment plans, statements, insurance forms, instant messages between computers, hand-written notes on your desk, sticky notes, etc. I would challenge you to review all your written forms of communication for clarity - not only for you and your team, but also to confirm that your patients fully understand the message you are transmitting. When was the last time you actually reviewed your financial options? Do you know what your disclaimers say on your treatment plan estimates? Do you have a place on your statements for your patients to include their credit card numbers if they choose to pay with that option? Do your routing forms also include all outstanding treatment procedures? Do you even use routing forms?

Even simple messages that are placed on your desk should include the date the message was written, who wrote it and what the details are. If the message is a phone message, it should also include the caller’s name, their telephone number and the reason for their call. How many times have you had a sticky note placed on the monitor in your office that said “Call Bob Jones”? Teach your team how to take messages for you if you aren’t using a voice mailbox.

Treatment plan estimates should have a disclaimer regarding their expiration. Include the possibility that the proposed treatment may change during the course of treatment, which the patient will be informed of at the time. Your financial options forms should include the treatment proposed, three options for payment including CareCredit with 0% interest, as well as the consequences of non-payment, making sure that you follow the guidelines of your state pertaining to interest, collection fee, etc.

The messaging options on some of the practice management software can be helpful.  It also requires one to be able to turn and see the message and then type a response when necessary. This can be a challenge.

Verbal Communication
No doubt that verbal communication can leave a lot “unsaid” if you or your team members are not clear in the delivery of the information. Often, the message is not clearly heard - causing inaccurate actions to be taken or passed on. Remember the telephone game where you tell one person a story and the story is repeated to several other people from one to another? The ending story is always completely different from the initial story through interpretation, misunderstanding, not remembering the entire story, etc. This is exactly what happens when you inform one of your team members of something important opposed to announcing the information to the entire team at one time during the morning or monthly meeting.

And what about how information is communicated among your team members? With the help of temperament testing, verbal communication can be made more clearly and with no conflicting emotions when the team understands the importance of using words such as “we” opposed to “you”, and “I feel” opposed to “you are”. Inappropriate words are hurtful and long-lasting when the message could have been delivered in a more “user-friendly” manner. 

It is so important for business team members to have a smile on their face when they answer the phone, as a smile can be “heard” in their voice to the caller. The proper inflection as well as sincerity of the message is also important in order to make that caller feel cared for. Do you listen to your business assistant answer the phone? Does she or he have a script, such as “Thank you for calling Dr. Gooddentist’s office. This is Mary. How may I help you today?”  Saying “morning” or “afternoon” can be difficult when the phones are ringing off the hook and one must remember if it is really morning or afternoon. Make it easier by changing the message. Wireless walkie-talkies are encouraged for efficient and effective communication among all the team members.

Non-Verbal Communication
More is communicated through non-verbal communication than through written or verbal. Think about expressions, gestures, lack of response and attitude. Often we are not aware of our own non-verbal forms of communication such as crossing our arms when we are receiving information, indicating that we are not really interested in hearing what the other person has to say, or rolling our eyes, indicating nothing positive, I am sure. Conduct an open discussion with your team regarding the way that you communicate non-verbally to see if it is positively or negatively received. Ask them to share with one another and make it fun without finger-pointing.

Of course, there is also the “let’s just not talk about it at all” form of non-verbal communication. Maybe the problem will go away, the tasks will simply get done by some wand waving, or the team can simply read my mind! Take time at your next monthly meeting to discuss ways of improving inter-office communication. Review your written forms and messages.  Use more “we” instead of “I” and use “feel” instead of “think”. I “feel” that it will be time well spent.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Consulting Coaching Programs can help you implement proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com

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