Be #1 on Your Patientsí List this Holiday Season
and Through the New Year
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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As the busy holiday season takes hold, patients become more and more distracted. The parties, the feasts, and the frenzied gift buying all take center stage during the next six weeks, not the dental appointments. Yep, it’s peak season for cancellations and no shows.
But this year, instead of bracing yourself with a cup of good cheer and leaving your year-end production to the mercy of the patients’ busy schedules, give yourself and your bottom-line one of the best tools on the market for ensuring that patients are in the dental chair as scheduled. It’s an automated telephone marketing system offered by Elexity that allows practices to easily and efficiently confirm appointments, which is absolutely critical no matter what the season. But what I like even more is that it enables practices to bridge the communication gap with patients throughout the entire year.
Appointment confirmation feature. Although confirmation calls have been proven to pay off big for practices, they are typically viewed as a time consuming chore, and the task is relegated to the list of things the staff will get to when they have time. Consequently, the calls are never made and holes in the schedule pound the life out of production goals, especially during the holidays.
That’s where Elexity comes in. The company delivers appointment reminders through a telephone network system to patients notifying them via phone and email of their appointment. The calls can be customized for each day so that they can go out from a day to a week in advance. The patients know who is calling because the calls are made with the caller-id of the office and the email is sent with the email address of the office. Best of all, the technology enables the practice to create a personalized message in your voice (or staff voice) so all reminders are delivered in the familiar office voice. The voice is warm and friendly and the message is clear and effective. The system doesn’t place any more demands on an already overextended dental staff nor does it have to be managed by the doctor.
Moreover, the program is persistent. Elexity will attempt to connect to the recipient 6 times. If the call goes into voicemail, a message is left for the patient. If after the 6th attempt the system has been unable to reach the patient, your office is notified.
Then there’s the added feature of marketing the practice in between routine visits that enables the team to stay in touch with patients throughout the year. A periodic greeting from the office will link the patients to the practice and the practice to the patients at various times in between regularly scheduled appointments.
A congratulations message on a noteworthy accomplishment, a Happy Holidays greeting, a patient education message to inform them of a new service or treatment, or a communication to notify them that they have unused insurance benefits remaining, are subtle means of regularly reminding patients of your interest in them and are all available through Elexity’s Annual Patient Communications Campaign.
The beauty of the service is that the messages are pre-recorded by the doctor and/or team member, so the patient hears a familiar voice. The phone calls don’t tie up the practice phone system. And the best part, aside from recording a few patient messages, the distribution details are handled by Elexity. The service requires virtually NO staff time, yet patients feel as though you are personally communicating with them every two to three months.
To reinforce the telephone messages, Elexity also provides periodic email messages to patients. Like the telephone messages, these appear to come from the practice but require almost zero staff time. Essentially, it’s a full year of electronic marketing at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional marketing.
So during this “most wonderful time of year” and throughout the coming New Year, give yourself the gift of a full schedule and solid production with the help of this innovative marketing tool.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.
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Patient Retention and the Power of Scripts
Whether it is knowing what to say when a patient cancels his/her two hour bridge appointment for the second time, to knowing how to present implant versus endo options to the patient with a low dental IQ, we are often frantically searching for words that don’t come to mind easily thus endangering the “trust” connection necessary to retain the patient in the practice.
The Advanced Front Office and Office Manager Training Courses at McKenzie Management provide several written scripts to help give you this confidence in most dental situations. Customizing these scripts to fit your practice philosophy or “Mission Statement” can be incorporated into the training.
Why Scripts? There are several advantages to scripts. Here are five advantages:
- Scripts give the speaker confidence. The script or “a planned series of sentences” Prevents the speaker from becoming flustered, defensive, forgetting the main thought or the objective and saying filler comments such as “um, um or let me think, or I am not sure etc” Once you have learned what to say, you can change or add words to make it better depending on the circumstance or the patient.
- Scripts add a professional “I know what I am talking about” touch to what you say to the patient. Understanding each procedure and product that you will be recommending to a patient is one thing but being able to explain it in understandable terms in a short period of time to a patient, is another. Many dentists have been told that they are too technical or “wordy” in their deliveries causing the patient to become confused and reluctant to schedule. Developing scripts that are concise, direct and easy for the layperson to understand is an important communication challenge.
- Scripts help the doctor and team develop better language skills. Spontaneous language does not have the power of developed language. It is easy to slip into bad language habits when you have not scripted what you want to say. For instance, in explaining to a patient why it is necessary to give you a 48 hour appointment confirmation, a spontaneous response might be “Ah, Mrs. Brown, we don’t like it when you don’t give us a warning that you are not coming in, ah, we, um, have expenses for the office and we are expecting you to come in, doctor was looking forward to seeing you.” A scripted response would be, “Mrs. Brown we understand that unexpected events may happen, however we request a 48 hour appointment confirmation for this type of procedure. The time is reserved for you and the doctor and his staff was prepared to see you today. Is there any way at all that you can keep this appointment today?”
- Scripts save time. Scheduling to production goals requires time management. How often I have heard a scheduling coordinator or business administrator spend ten to fifteen minutes on the phone explaining insurance coverage to a patient. Often going on a tangent about how insurance companies “rip us off” etc. Sticking to a rehearsed and scripted response will ensure the objective of the call instead of providing a “soap box” for an unsolicited rant about dental insurance.
- Scripts ensure consistency in communications in the practice. If everyone is on the “same page” the patient will get the same response from whomever they speak to in the practice. For instance if your scheduling coordinator says “Oh, that’s okay, we can reschedule you for another day.” However, your business administrator says, “Mr. Smith, I understand that things can happen beyond your control, we have that time reserved just for you, is there any way at all that you can keep your appointment with us today?” The patient is getting two different messages, which can be translated to lack of professional organization
In developing scripts, it is always important to define the objective of the script. Is it to educate, inform, schedule an appointment, get a bill paid, etc.? It
is an opportunity to choose the right words to convey the message and to rehearse each scenario before it actually plays out in the office.
Know what to say, when to say it and how to say it now. Join us for the Advanced Business Training for doctors, business administrators and front office
For more information about the Advanced Business Training and
Dentist Start-up Programs for your educational benefit, email email@example.com, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at www.mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here
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Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say!
Dr. Steve Smith – Case Study #61
Dr. Smith’s primary concern is high overhead caused by relocating his office and they are not producing enough dentistry.
Dr. Smith’s practice facts:
- 20 year old practice – 2 years in new location
- His patients are scheduled less than 1 week in advance
- 25 new patients per month
- 2 hygienists working 8 days a week
- Signed up for Delta PPO a few months ago in hopes of getting more new patients
Yes, it was unfortunate that Dr. Smith was forced to relocate after the expiration of his long-term lease. The building was being sold. His lease payment at the previous location was much less than the new lease agreement that he has agreed upon in his new location. It is also written to inflate each year for a few years. I suppose the assumption is that his practice will continue to grow each year.
“Nancy, I feel like I am trapped. I am not making enough money to pay the bills. I would sell this practice in a moment and work for the person that buys it, but I also like being my own boss.”
- The Schedule – It was obvious that Dr. Smith was not getting enough restorative production on the schedule, as he was only scheduled out a few days.
- Team Meetings – They held morning huddles and monthly meetings. The feedback I received from the team was that he was non-participatory and seemed as though he didn’t really care about making changes.
- Lack of daily production goals – Every day was like riding a roller coaster. Some days they produced $1,200 and worked like honey bees. Other days they produced $5,000 with only a few patients.
- New Patients – The practice averaged 25 new patients per month. Keep in mind that “new patients” are those patients that are seen for a comprehensive exam and are also seen in hygiene and go into the recall system. This is more than sufficient for a 1-doctor practice, under “most” conditions.
- Business Systems - Because the Practice Coordinator had worked in another McKenzie office, many of the McKenzie systems were in place. The A/R was healthy, as was the outstanding insurance claims, collections over the counter, etc.
- Business Staff – 2 experienced team members at the front desk. One employee had been with the doctor for over 9 years and was familiar with the patients. She also was very confident in presenting treatment to the patients. She has recently changed her position in the office from Dr. Smith’s primary assistant to managing the business area.
- Recall System – This area needed some work because there were no specific job descriptions at the front desk. As usual, this system was not in place as it should have been.
Overall, the practice ran very smoothly. The doctor was seldom behind schedule, the team was experienced and knowledgeable and the office was beautiful. The patients could watch TV or their favorite movie. However, all these “high-tech” luxuries were keeping the team from talking with the patients about dentistry,
After spending two days observing the team’s performance, as well as listening to the doctor’s dialogue with the patients, it was evident to me what the problem was. Dr. Smith lacked confidence!
- Recall System – Assign a “Hygiene Coordinator” to manage the recall system. Currently, neither business team member is held responsible for this position. Job Descriptions are imperative in a dental office.
- Morning Meetings – These short daily meetings must be organized and cover specific issues of the day, such as outstanding treatment. In Dr. Smith’s office, many patients had incomplete restorative treatment. However, when the hygienist would mention these to the patient, Dr. Smith would “overrule” her. This should all be clarified at the morning meeting to avoid the hygienist from losing her credibility.
- Doctor’s Presentation to the Patients – this is the area that is “killing” the practice. As I listened to Dr. Smith present his diagnosis with the patient, these are the words that I heard:
A patient does not want to here “adequate”. They want to hear “best option”. Dr. Smith should not “think” – he should “know”. The tooth either has decay or it doesn’t. Patients have no idea what an “ML Resin” is….they do understand a “2-surface tooth-colored filling needed because of the cavity”.
I also observed Dr. Smith changing his diagnosis once the patient had been anesthetized. The patient was prepared for a crown and he elects to restore the tooth with an MODBL composite. I have to question the doctor’s “wishy-washy” approach to dentistry. My concern is the patient’s loss of confidence when these changes are made.
Dr. Smith shared his concern for the time needed to properly diagnose the necessary treatment. I recommended a change in the way new patients are scheduled to allow “dedicated” time with the patient for proper diagnosis. For those patients that have more extensive treatment needed, reschedule the patient to present the diagnosis so changes are not required in the near future.
Review the outstanding treatment during the morning huddle, using the computer so the photos and x-rays can be reviewed. Do not conduct the morning meeting in the sterilization area where there is no computer. Confirm the treatment as being accurate so the hygienists can present it to the patients and Dr. Smith can re-confirm and support her. Allow Sandy, the 9-year veteran, to “sell” the treatment to the patients. Dr. Smith and the hygienists do not like to “sell” and Sandy is excellent at presenting treatment and getting it scheduled.
I asked Dr. Smith not to be the “nice guy” and downgrade his treatment recommendations. When he recommends a crown instead of an MODBL and this is what is “sold” to the patient because it is the best option for them, stay with it.
Please understand that I am not saying that treatment recommendations don’t change…sure they do. What is important is that your team understands your reasons for change, as well as the patient. EVERYONE must be on the same page in order for the office to work in unison. Say what you really mean and don’t downplay it. Do what you say unless there are clinical reasons to change your diagnosis.
At my revisit with Dr. Smith 6 months later, he has learned to remove his indecisive words from his clinical presentation and has become more consistent with “staying the course” of treatment. As a result, his production has increased over $10,000 a month. Sandy has been instrumental in presenting and selling treatment in the consultation room instead of simply passing the patient to the Schedule Coordinator at the front desk.
If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email firstname.lastname@example.org
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