Are You Neglecting Your Practice?
It can be difficult to admit when you’re struggling as a dentist, especially if you’ve owned your practice for the last 15 to 20 years. Maybe times aren’t that great right now, but you know you’ll get through it – so you ignore the problems your business is facing and instead choose to only focus on the dentistry.
I’ve found this type of owner neglect is pretty common. After all, most dentists didn’t go to school and spend years perfecting their craft because they wanted to own a business. They did it because they wanted to treat patients.
The problem is, if you don’t take care of the business side of practicing dentistry, you won’t have many patients to treat. Like it or not, there are challenges that come with owning a dental practice. Not facing these challenges only makes them worse, whether you’re talking about practice finances, staff concerns or a host of other problems that can pop up in a dental practice.
Dentists tend to allow their practice problems to multiply until they become completely overwhelmed. They start to worry about their future, but have no idea what to do or where to turn to get their practice back on track. They know it’s time to take a good hard look at their business, but that doesn’t mean they know where to start. That’s where I come in. I can help you take a close look at the critical systems that feed your business and determine how you can improve them. And I suggest you start with how your team members handle telephone calls.
The way your team interacts with patients over the phone can have a huge impact on your practice. Saying the wrong thing will keep potential new patients from scheduling that first appointment, or an existing patient from going forward with needed treatment.
While team members are often annoyed by patient phone calls and consider them a distraction, they’re actually an opportunity to grow the practice. Team members should be trained to answer the phone with a smile and always focus on offering patients the best customer service possible. Patients never should feel like they’re annoying the person on the other end of the line or that your practice isn’t interested in helping them solve their problems. That will do nothing but send them to the practice down the street.
If you want an eye opening experience, I suggest you listen in on a few of the phone conversations your team members have with potential new patients. You’ll probably be surprised by what you hear, and not pleasantly. Many doctors who do this acknowledge that if they were the patient calling in, they’d hang up and never call back. They listen in horror as team members give patients bad advice on insurance, guess about fees and tell patients they’re just not sure if the practice offers certain services.
When team members don’t know what to say on the phone it costs you patients and money, which is why training is so important. McKenzie Management provides telephone coaching that helps team members improve their skills and ultimately get more patients on the schedule. It also helps them avoid scenarios like this one:
Patient Mike calls Dr. Taylor’s practice and business employee Connie answers. She’s friendly and conveys a pleasant attitude, which gets the call off to a good start. Unfortunately it goes downhill from there. Mike has an appointment scheduled for 1 p.m. this afternoon. It’s noon, and he’s calling to let you know he won’t be able to make it after all. Connie thanks him for calling and tells him it’s OK, and to please call back when he’s ready to reschedule. Mike assures Connie he will before hanging up the phone and going about his day.
Do you see the problem here? Not only does Connie make no effort to educate Mike about the importance of keeping his dental appointments and maintaining his oral health, she also loses the opportunity to reschedule him. Instead of letting Mike know the doctor has set aside time just for him, she gives the impression that canceling an appointment at the last minute is no big deal and he can call back whenever the mood strikes.
If this type of conversation is the norm in your practice, it’s a big part of the reason you’re struggling. Cancellations and no-shows cost practices thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year and team members must be trained to handle them properly. A pleasant tone isn’t enough. Proper training will help ensure team members are prepared for these and the many other calls that come in throughout the day, with the goal of getting more patients in the chair. This will do wonders for your production numbers and your bottom line, helping to take your practice from struggling to thriving.
Next week: 6 ways to re-energize your practice
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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