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8.15.08 Issue #336 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Telephone Skill Training
Hiring A Dental Hygienist
Dentist Coach

What Every Top-Notch Telephone Team Must Know
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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“To see ourselves as others see us.” These immortal words of Scottish poet Robert Burns have been used time and again to remind us that the way others view us is often quite different from the way we view ourselves.

California Cruzin'

The disconnect between the two can be dramatic, as illustrated recently by a company that sought to educate staff on the difference between the level of customer service employees perceived they were delivering and what customers actually experienced. The business went to great lengths to organize mystery shoppers to contact each company branch office and record phone calls. Shortly thereafter, the branch managers were brought together for a seminar on customer service. Each manager was asked to describe the best customer experience and explain what made it excellent.

Every employee recognized good customer service, and everyone wanted to believe that they delivered it in their offices. But when the telephone calls were played, the room was filled with people who, for the first time, were getting a glimpse of how they came across to others. It wasn’t easy for these employees to listen to themselves poorly handle one call after another. It demonstrated that even though these individuals understood well the value of good customer service, they weren’t necessarily prepared to deliver it.

A similar scenario is common in dental practices in every city in every state. Employees handling telephone inquiries from patients often believe that they are being just as helpful and pleasant and conscientious as they possibly could. Yet the reality is far different. Truth be told, most front office staff view the telephone as a source of frustration and interruption; try as they might, they are not trained to represent the doctor or the office effectively on the phone. Consequently, they are costing dental offices a fortune in lost patients and lost production.

Do you have any idea how your team members come across on the telephone? If not, find out. While you’re at it, invest in a 90-minute training program that will turn your business staff into a five-star, top-notch telephone team without ever having to leave the office. McKenzie Management’s Telephone Skill Training program addresses the longstanding challenge faced by business staff: How do you maximize the telephone lines to boost new patients and practice production?

The training process is straightforward and time efficient. The doctor completes a brief questionnaire providing a quick summary of the type of practice and any current policies regarding scheduling of new patients and emergencies. Then the practice schedules time with a McKenzie Management trainer for the three 30-minute sessions—no out-of-office travel, no overnight expenses required.

All the practice has to provide is a quiet area, a computer with Internet access and a telephone. From there, employees log into the training website. With a McKenzie Management Telephone Skills trainer on the phone, they are guided through the training sessions. The lessons are spread out over a three-week period to give the business staff an opportunity to implement one aspect of the training before introducing the next.

As an added bonus, employees will have the opportunity to learn firsthand how they come across to patients over the telephone. During the training period the practice will receive two additional mystery patient calls to help employees and the doctor assess their progress.

After each session the doctor will receive a feedback form with results of the session, including topics covered, support materials provided to the staff and recommendations for improvement.

Once employees complete the training they will have the skills to expertly handle patient objections. They will understand how to guide patients to appropriate appointment times. They will be well prepared to make a truly professional first impression with new patients. And they will learn how to better manage those stressful times when the phone is ringing, the patients are standing at the desk and the clinical staff is making demands.

In most cases, simply educating staff on effective telephone communication can significantly improve their approach. Moreover, it can prevent the loss of hundreds of patients and tens of thousands of dollars every year.

Next, week, burning your bottom line or the telephone line.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Angie Stone RDH, BS
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Hiring A Dental Hygienist?
Stop, Look And Listen

Do you know why your hygienist chose to be a hygienist? Did he/she choose hygiene because of financial rewards or because he/she has a passion for helping people keep their teeth? Maybe it was because his/her father was a dentist. This is a crucial question to ask when interviewing a potential hygienist for your practice. Why? Because you are looking for an applicant with not only superior clinical skills but also someone who can connect with patients, work as a team member and promote the practice. Looking for these qualities requires that you pay attention, not only to the verbal answers but also to the facial expressions and body language.

Take for example the hygienist who hesitates to answer questions and avoids eye contact while responding during the employment interview. This person more than likely is not smiling and is not offering more than one-word answers to your questions. But hygienists are hard to come by in your area and the hygiene department revenues are declining due to the open position, so you hire her. She seems a bit shy in the beginning, but you feel she will come around if you give her some time. The days go by and then the weeks and then the months. Patients are commenting that they don’t feel as if they are getting the same quality of service as they have in the past. The hygienist appears stressed out and unhappy. You don’t know what to do.

The trouble is this situation is all too common in dental practices. Even more troublesome is that this undesirable circumstance could have been avoided. The signs of trouble were there during the interview but were overlooked. The absence of eye contact, extroverted exchange and incomplete answers to questions were all red flags. These are all signs of low self confidence, possible “burn out” or poor communication skills; a successful hygienist needs to have an adequate amount of self-confidence and excellent communication abilities.

Another important observation to make is how enthusiastic the applicant appears to be. Is the tone of her voice energized or is it monotone ? If a hygienist is burnt out on the practice of dental hygiene she is not going to be an effective clinician. Your practice will suffer the consequences in lost production due to the unmotivated hygienist and decreased patient retention.

Other than verbal and visual cues, you should also administer a temperament type assessment to each applicant. Research shows that people with certain tendencies make more effective dental hygienists. One of the tendencies that appears to be a strong predictor of success is that of extroversion versus introversion. Extroverted hygienists are usually more effective than introverted hygienists due to the fact that extroverts are invigorated by having contact with people. Introverts are often exhausted after eight hours of having to be social. This will make them appear burnt out and uninterested in their work. Selecting the applicant with the temperament type suited for a dental hygienist may result in a long-term successful employee.

For a better interview ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer from the applicant. Ask him/her to discuss a case that he/she had great success with, or ask about a product that he/she recently discovered and how it could benefit your practice. Present a scenario involving a fictional patient and ask how the applicant would handle it. Inquire about continuing education courses and what topics seem the most interesting. The answers to these questions will give you insight as to what kind of an employee/hygienist he/she would be and if he/she would be a good fit for your practice.

Interviewing for clinical hygiene positions should be more than, “How much money do you want?” and “When can you start?” Is it any wonder that hiring the wrong person ends up costing the practice several thousands of dollars and lost patients? Isn’t it time to step up and improve your interviewing practices so the correct employee is hired the first time around?

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Influence: Gaining Commitment and Getting Results

What does it take to get employees to do their jobs? You pay them well. They’re experienced in the dental field. But little things still don’t get done unless you tell them what to do. It takes away from your time when you should be seeing patients. You wish you didn’t have to deal with employees but you can't get results by yourself. What do you do?

Before you attempt to modify other people’s behavior you need to acknowledge their motivations. As the Dental Leader, your job is to mine that information, and then influence the factors that inspire your employees to higher levels of productivity. What motivates mature workers is frequently quite different than what drives the “Millennial” generation. The point is that all people are different and your leadership goal should be to help each individual to meet her/his own needs as well as the needs of your practice. We call that influence.

“Influence is the power and the ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking by direct or indirect means.” The foundation of effective and constructive influence is relationship building. By gaining trust and respect from others, you increase your ability to win their cooperation and collaboration. For the purpose of this article, I will assume that you have positive relationships with your staff and that there is general harmony in your practice.

The next step is to determine the influence strategies you use, and what tactics are best for each of your staff. There are three primary approaches: head, heart and hand.

Head Tactics: Logical Appeals for Organizational Benefits

  • Objectively and logically explain to the person the reason for the requested action.
  • Offer factual and detailed evidence to show that your request is feasible.
  • Explain clearly and logically why the change is the best possible choice of all competing choices.
  • Explain the logical process for how potential problems or concerns will be handled.

Head Tactics: Logical Appeals for Personal Benefits

  • Explain how a requested action is likely to have long-term benefits to the person’s career.
  • Assist the person in gaining more visibility and a better reputation in the organization.
  • Make the person’s job easier or more interesting.

Heart Tactics: Emotional Appeals for Individual Goals and Values

  • Show the person how the requested action meets his/her individual goals and values.
  • Describe the task with enthusiasm and express confidence in the person’s ability to accomplish it.
  • Link your request to a clear and appealing vision the person can fully support.
  • Appeal to the person’s self-image.

Hand Tactics: Cooperative Appeals for Collaboration

  • Provide the necessary resources (i.e., time, staff, materials and technical support) that the person needs to accomplish the task.
  • Reduce the difficulty of carrying out the request by removing barriers to success.

Hand Tactics: Cooperative Appeals for Consultation

  • Ask for suggestions on how to improve a tentative change in order to create a win-win outcome for all parties involved.
  • Ask for ideas about how to carry out the requested action, and incorporate those ideas into the process.
  • Thoughtfully respond to employees’ concerns and suggestions.
  • Involve employees in the larger process of deciding how to carry out your goals.

Hand Tactics: Cooperative Appeals for Alliances

  • Create alliances with people who are in support of the change.
  • Involve credible people to help you influence reluctant employees.
  • Develop strategic alliances by networking with key stakeholders who will help you in developing your influence strategy.

These are some of the primary ways you can begin to influence your employees. Remember…every person is motivated by something. As the Dental Leader, your challenge is to create an environment in which your employees choose to be motivated at work…and to sustain interest and attention every day.

Next article: Putting the Influence Tactics in Practice: a 6-step model for success.

It is essential to know your own preferred style if you want to influence others successfully. Contact Dr. Haller at She’ll help you to identify your strategies and apply them effectively.
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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