Eliminate the #1 Barrier to Change
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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No matter how logical your reasoning, no matter how well delivered your directive, no matter how sincere your motives, getting people on your team to change the way they do things is one of the most difficult challenges dentists face.
The reality of human nature is that we resist change. Even the most sensible ideas can be shot down – overtly or covertly – if they require fundamental changes to work processes and especially if an employee feels they are losing control. Control, after all, means power, job security, prestige, and the safety of familiarity. The individual who perceives they are losing control will likely fight the change vigorously.
Something as seemingly innocuous as suggesting a change in the way the telephone is answered may be met with puzzled looks and questions as to why any modification would be necessary. Asking an employee to take on new duties may be greeted by strong resistance, particularly if this person enjoys the comfort of routine. She/he will probably make excuses – everything from “I don’t know how to do that,” to “I don’t have time to do that,” to “Patients won’t like that,” and more.
Take the case of Dr. Jordon. He has asked one of his business employees, Nichole, to make follow-up phone calls to patients to remind them of their appointments 48-hours in advance. He also wants her to begin auditing the patient records to identify unscheduled treatment and follow-up with those patients as well.
Dr. Jordon’s goal is to improve patient retention and get treatment out of the records and on to the schedule. Currently, the office sends reminder cards prior to patients’ appointments. However, there are far too many no shows in both the doctor’s schedule and in hygiene.
The office also sends letters to patients encouraging them to schedule an appointment for recommended treatment. From Nichole’s point of view, the office is already following-up with patients. She sees phone calls as “overkill” and says it will seem like the practice is “pestering” the patients.
While some may contend that Nichole needs to be reminded just whose practice this is, in fairness, her resistance may be rooted more in fear than obstinacy. She is uncertain what to say. She feels awkward and vulnerable. It’s a new area that she does not have experience in, and she is concerned that if she doesn’t know how to make the phone calls properly, it will leave a negative impression with the patient. Consequently, her job security may be in jeopardy, particularly if the doctor plans to evaluate her based on her ability to get patients in the chair. All of those are valid concerns for an employee taking on new responsibilities or being asked to change the way they do things.
Nonetheless, the practice still needs Nichole to follow-up with patients. The best way to increase her comfort level is to provide her with scripts so that she is not left struggling to figure out how to approach patients. But be prepared for some resistance. Say the word “script” to the dental team and you may well be greeted with a chorus of groans, a fair number of “you-must-be-kidding,” as well as a smattering of sneers and sideways glances. Somewhere along the way, the idea of the script became taboo. The typical response to the mere suggestion of scripting is, “We’ll sound canned.” Or, “It won’t sound natural.” “What if I mess up my ‘lines’?”
Not a surprising reaction; after all, scripts are often mistakenly viewed as barriers to natural conversation when, in reality, they are tools for effective communication that build patient relationships and keep systems on track.
Next week, script your success.
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