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  04.28.05 Issue #164

Your Most Effective Marketing Tool: Superior Service

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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"I want a marketing plan that will attract more new patients. I want an advertisement that will bring in better patients. I want patients interested in comprehensive treatment." I want, I want, I want. Some practices will spend tens of thousand of dollars on marketing campaigns convinced that they can buy all the patients they want with clever ads, gorgeous brochures, or witty radio jingles.

Oftentimes these practices will see terrific initial success. Patients are flowing in. The schedule is full. The doctor is happy and convinced that marketing campaign was just what the practice needed. Then the cancellations begin. The patients don't schedule the recommended treatment. They took advantage of the whitening offer, but never returned. A few months down the road little has come of the grand marketing investment.

What went wrong? Too often practices consider marketing as a purely external activity. Yet the most critical promotion your practice can invest in has nothing to do with the catchy ad or fancy collateral pieces. Your single most effective marketing tool is the superior service you and your team offer long before and long after the fancy brochure fades.

Look first to build upon the patient's basic expectations. Reliability - they expect to have a doctor and team they can count on. Timeliness - they expect the office to run reasonably on time. Information - they expect to be able to ask questions and receive clear answers. And they expect you to deliver what you promise.

If your razzle-dazzle ad campaign says yours is a state of the art dental practice and the patient walks in to find vintage 1980s, you've lost them. If you claim state-of-the-art, make sure you deliver from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they drive away. Otherwise, the patient will feel they've been misled.

Don't expect new patients to wait months for you to fit them into your busy schedule. If you claim to welcome new patients, you better be able to see them within a week.

Examine the new patient experience in its entirety. Review how new patient calls are handled. What may be standard operating procedure in a practice could come across as insulting to a prospective patient. For example, the new patient who calls to schedule an appointment and is greeted with the question, "Do you have insurance? No? Let me tell you our financial policy" immediately feels unwelcome and defensive. Educate them first on the excellence of the doctor and team. Get into the rules and regulations later.

All new patients should be sent a packet of information within 24 hours after the appointment is made to welcome and educate them about the office. This includes a brief letter from the doctor indicating his commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. The letter also emphasizes specific qualities about the practice that set it apart from others, such as, the extremely high infection control standards, dentistry for the entire family, painless dentistry techniques, cosmetic dentistry, technology and a commitment to never making the patient wait more than 5-10 minutes, etc.

Welcome all patients to the practice by name when they walk in the door and regularly show existing patients that you appreciate that they have chosen your practice. Routinely seek feedback from patients, and make adjustments based on their comments.

Patients measure a dental practice by how the staff treats them and whether they feel as if this is a team that is working together effectively and is focused on meeting or, better yet, exceeding their needs and expectations. While some external marketing can be a helpful supplement, money cannot buy an advertising campaign that can compete with a service-focused team.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

Changing Lives One Smile At A Time

By Bete Johnson, Business Development Manager, CareCredit

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Dentists and their teams are in the enviable position of being able to positively impact people's lives on a daily basis. Today, dentistry is not just about teeth. It's about a person's health and self-esteem. Because of this, the practice's responsibility not only includes diagnosis and treatment, but also helping the patient accept recommended care. One of the best ways to do this is by offering a patient financing program.

Patient financing has been available in dental practices for over a decade, giving patients the ability to accept treatment with No Interest and Low Interest financing. According to Dental Economics patient financing is offered in over 61% of practices. There are several trends encouraging the offering of patient financing. First, there is the undeniable increase in patient demand for cosmetic and elective procedures. Today, patients are no longer waiting for their dentist to recommend smile enhancing procedures - they ask. And then there's technology. To stay current with technology and improve diagnostic capabilities requires a bigger investment by the doctor than ever before. And this equipment, whether it's a Diagnadent or Biolase laser, cannot sit idle in the practice. So doctors and their teams must not only educate the patient on the new procedures available, but also help them accept a new level of care enabling the equipment to pay for itself.

So how has CareCredit responded to these new and evolving needs of the patient and practice? By investigating, listening and learning. One reason we were recently found to be "best in class" by an independent research company is our commitment to responding to the needs of the dental community with solutions that work - and work hard for them. We believe it's about having the right product at the right time. So we watch the trends, listen to consultants, doctors, office managers and patients and test new product enhancements. And, if the new enhancements are proven to make it easier for our practices to do great dentistry, we made them available as quickly as possible. That's why we're often viewed as the innovative leader in patient financing. One new enhancement now available is the 18-Month No Interest payment option, which is really attractive to patients with larger treatment fees who still want to take advantage of a No Interest payment plan. And the new 9.9% patient interest rate on our Extended Payment Plan options is another enhancement. This new low interest rate does not fluctuate and is very competitive, even better than the rate on most consumer credit cards. Plus, we've increased our credit lines, especially for large comprehensive or cosmetic cases.

Another enhancement is our new Customer Service Center. This new service center was created because we understand quite clearly that healthcare financing is unique. When you have a dentist on the line who is dealing with a facial injury trauma and tooth loss, decisions and answers must come quickly. Ultimately, it's all about understanding our practices' needs and then responding with the right solutions. So you can help change people's lives, one smile at a time.

Care Credit has been a valued Affiliate Partner of The McKenzie Company since 2000.

Reinforce Your Bridge to Treatment Acceptance

By Dr. Allan Monack

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Is there a moat or a bridge between you and your hygienist? Oftentimes dentists view their hygienist as just another employee - an important one, yes, and a fellow producer, certainly. But they frequently overlook the fact that, next to the dentist, this person is likely the most influential voice in the office and a vital partner when it comes to treatment acceptance.

The hygienist is typically the first clinical link between the doctor and the patient, making it all the more important that there be a strong communication bridge and not the great divide between the dentist and the hygienist.

Treating the hygienist as an essential partner in improving treatment acceptance will go a long way in reaching your production objectives. In many cases, it is the hygienist who first introduces new patients to the periodontal and restorative options available. And it is the hygienist who also should be continually reiterating or reinforcing those options with existing patients. Take a few steps to develop strategies to enhance treatment communication among the doctor, the hygienist, and the patient.

First, the hygienist must have a comprehensive understanding of restorative and periodontal procedures that are performed in the office. And, equally important, the hygienist should be fully trained and comfortable discussing those treatments.

Next, it is essential that the hygienist involve the patient in the diagnostic process. This should allow the patient to see the condition of their oral health and encourage two-way communication. Through co-discovery, the hygienist educates and informs the patient of their oral health needs and possible treatment options.

Also during this process, the patients should be asked specifically what their oral health concerns are, if they have specific questions, or if they are curious about any treatments they may have heard of. In laying the foundation for excellent treatment acceptance, it is imperative that hygienists ask patients about their smile because most patients are completely unaware of the functional reasons why they should invest in restorative and esthetic dentistry, and they will never raise the issue themselves.

In some cases, a patient will just assume that the dentist doesn't do cosmetic or other procedures because they are never mentioned. Or they will assume that the doctor does not consider the treatment appropriate because it hasn't been recommended or even suggested as an option for the patient.

Now consider the handoff. After the diagnostic tests are completed, the hygienist explains the findings to the dentist in front of the patient. She/he also informs the dentist of the patient's interest or questions regarding other treatments. The patient hears the findings again, which is important for patient comprehension and reinforces the value of the diagnosis. The dentist examines the patient and confirms or alters the diagnosis as necessary without undermining the hygienist's credibility. If the doctor does not agree with the recommendation, then he/she explains the alternative and why it varies from the hygienist's. If the explanation is handled in a tactful and positive manner, the patient will not be concerned or doubt the recommendation.

Once the patient comprehends the diagnosis and understands what procedures are necessary to address their oral health needs and wants, the goal is for the patient to accept recommended treatment.

If you sense the patient is reluctant, it is important to isolate the reasons why and address those. The most common barriers are fear, money, and time. It is essential that patients understand the benefits of treating conditions prior to experiencing symptoms. We owe it to our patients to tell them that the number one benefit to proceeding with diagnosed treatment prior to symptoms is it will cost them less money, result in less pain, and make fewer demands on their time in virtually every instance.

In addition, patient financing programs, such as CareCredit, enable the patient to secure a payment plan immediately and remove one of the most troublesome obstacles to treatment acceptance: money.

Create a strong communication partnership with your hygienist. Train the hygienist to involve the patient in the discovery process, to ask questions, and take the time to listen. With input from the hygienist, provide the patient clear diagnoses and options. Show the patient the possibilities for treatment they may have never considered. Create value at every step during the exam, and develop an oral hygiene experience for the patient that lays the foundation for superior treatment acceptance.

How Much Of A Raise
Can I Afford?

Your employee wants a raise. You're not sure how much to give or even if you can afford to give a raise.

This form will help you to mathematically determine how much of a raise your practice can afford while keeping your total salary overhead in line with the industry. Instead of making an emotional decision, make an informed decision of how much the practice has to collect in order to give a raise.


Sally's Mail Bag

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Dear Sally

I do the payroll in my husband's office. First, I am concerned about the hours the hygienists are clocking in.  Last year their production was 25% of the office production and their compensation was 35% - 37% of their production.  When I figured out the hours for last year, they saw patients for 1,544 hours but they were paid for 1,898 hours.  If I subtract vacation and holidays they had 300 hours more than they produced or they were paid for 37.5 days more than they worked.  This year, they seem to be clocking in almost 10 hours a day but they see patients for only 8 hours. They run late and into lunch and they are going over charts for the next day after work.  They are paid hourly. Are these excessive hours? I think they are taking advantage of my husband and the office. What do you think?

Hygiene Hostage

Dear Hostage,

I would stop paying the hygienists hourly, get rid of the time clock and pay them a daily wage. I don't necessarily look at the fact they were paid 37.5 more hours than they worked as "their problem" but possibly a problem of your recall system and/or lack of accountability at the front office to keep the hygienist's schedule booked to production goals. This is common for us to see this as consultants but it's not necessarily because they are taking advantage of the clock. You could also have more days of hygiene per week than what you need or a malfunctioning recall system that has a high rate of cancellations.

Hope this helps.


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Date Location Sponsor Speaker
Apr. 29 Roanoke, VA Roanoke Valley Dental Society Sally McKenzie
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May 13 Rapid City, SD South Dakota Dental Assoc. Sally McKenzie
May 18 Westlake, CA
Conejo Academy of Dentistry Sally McKenzie

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