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10.17.08 Issue #345 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Patient Confirmations
Consultant Case Study
Customer Service

No Patient. No Production. No More.
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Here’s the scenario: It all starts out very innocently. You’re busy with a patient, just working away, when your business employee, Mary, appears at the door to the operatory. She explains that your son’s pediatrician’s office is on the phone and they want to talk to you.

You page through the files in your mind. Why are they calling? Is there a problem? Is there a question, a concern? No, it must be an appointment confirmation. You tell your business employee to take a message. The next day, the same scenario occurs. Again you’re busy with a patient. She explains that someone from the pediatrician’s office wants to talk to you. You tell Mary to take a message. You promise you’ll call them back when you get a minute.

The third day, the same scenario, but this time you can take the call because your patient didn’t show. Yes, the pediatrician’s office has been trying to reach you for the past few days to confirm your son’s appointment, which was scheduled to take place 15 minutes ago. You missed it and now he’s going to have to wait another three months for his required school physical. Oops.

Certainly, situations like this happen to the best of us. Appointments get overlooked, left off the calendar—life just happens, and occasionally it catches us off guard. But compounding your embarrassment is the fact that you are all too familiar with the scenario from the other side of the table. You are painfully aware of the financial impact that, “Oops, I forgot,” can wreak on seemingly rock-solid production.

No question. Confirmation calls work when dental teams take the time to make them. They are even more effective when those making the calls use scripts and proven communication techniques. And when the staff is actually able to reach the patient rather than voicemail or a gatekeeper, yes, they can and do work.

But as you know, your patients are very busy (albeit well-intentioned) people. They intended to return the call; they intended to remember the appointment; they were sure it was scheduled for Wednesday not Tuesday. Yes, one good intention after another.

However, there is a way to reach these too busy yet well-meaning patients and it’s proving to be extremely effective. I’m talking specifically about email and text messaging. Studies show that more and more patients prefer to be contacted via email or text message when a practice is attempting a routine communication, such as an appointment confirmation.

It’s quicker, more efficient and, most important, reliable. Why? Because it requires considerably less patient time to reply to text and email messages than it does to look up a phone number, dial, wait on hold to talk to the right person, wait for the person to find the information that is relevant to the call, confirm the appointment, and wrap up the conversation. On average, a phone call takes some 7–10 minutes, as compared to just seconds for email or text messaging. What’s more, there are patient communication programs available today that take care of the entire confirmation process require absolutely no staff time and cost absolutely nothing. And in today’s economy, how can you argue with effective, efficient and totally free?

It’s called Dental Senders. This is a truly impressive patient communication package that enables dental practices to confirm appointments via email or text messaging, send special greetings to patients throughout the year, contact past-due patients and send informative newsletters to patients.

The best part of Dental Senders is that there is no burden on your dental team. The program synchronizes with your practice management software to identify upcoming appointments. The email and text messages can be sent out according to a schedule that works best for your practice, and your office is given a daily report as to which appointments have been confirmed and which will require additional follow-up.

Messages are personalized to include the patient’s name and the message is customized for your office. Patients can confirm their appointment, place the appointment on their electronic calendars, map directions to your office and refer friends and family.

What’s the catch? How can this be free, you ask, when other companies are charging upwards of $2,000 to $4,000 for similar services? The messages contain a small ad from dental industry leaders, such as Philips Sonicare. That’s it. No hardware. No software. No contract. Check it out for yourself at

Next week, bridge the gap between appointments.

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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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Need To Motivate Your Team?

Dr. Brian Glade—Case Study #435

Dr. Brian Glade’s concern and ultimate request was for assistance in motivating his dental team to better performance. His expectations were for a team that was

  • more productive and completed their jobs on time
  •  happier and more energetic
  •  enthusiastic about dentistry and promoted the practice

By "motivating" his team, Dr. Glade was hoping to increase his monthly production. Dr. Glade tried offering monthly bonuses to motivate his team but it is not that simple! The excitement soon wore off, although his expectation did not.

Dr. Glade's practice statistics:

Monthly net production for 2008—$75,450
Monthly net production for 2007—$74,500
Monthly net production for 2006— $75,800

From these statistics it is easy to surmise that Dr. Glade's practice has been stagnant for the past 3 years. No significant changes have taken place in the practice, such as additional hygiene days, a change in the number of new patients or a change in the number of days worked. His increased production for 2008 was not a result of his bonus structure but from an insignificant fee increase. If we were to review his office expenses, we would see an increase due to the bonuses; therefore, the actual net gain was less than the previous year.

Motivate Employees to Increase Production

Dr. Glade's final destination was increased production… but he was missing the road map. Motivation had nothing to do with it. His team members arrived at work every morning happy and willing to work hard for him. They wanted to increase production and make more money! So, what was the problem? They didn't know how! Their lack of knowledge was perceived by him as a lack of motivation. Every morning at the meeting, he gave the same speech: "Okay people, we need to increase production today."

Step #1: Provide team members with the tools they need in order to perform their duties. This could include a practice management consultant, a computer software trainer, and a dental supply company trainer for new technology or even a CareCredit representative to demonstrate the best way to communicate the benefits of financing.

Step #2: Establish a goal so they know when they are a "winner." With the appropriate education, the employees understand how to use their tools more effectively and efficiently. Together, they establish goals associated with their respective job descriptions.

  • For example, an assistant may have a goal of 3 additional full-mouth series per day. She/he has learned how to use the routing slip to determine when a patient’s last FMX was taken.
  • A hygienist may have a goal of recognizing the possible need for sealants on at least 1 patient per day. Dr. Glade has purchased a decay-detecting laser to assist him/her.
  • The financial coordinator's goal is to contact 3 past due accounts per day. She/he has learned how to more efficiently use the computer to access information.
  • The schedule coordinator’s goal is to schedule the doctor to a goal of $3,900 a day. This will increase his production by 10%. She/he learned how to use the computer to calculate the dollar value scheduled for any given day to meet goal.
  • The hygiene coordinator's goal is to schedule the hygienist to $1,200 each day, using the same techniques that the schedule coordinator learned.
  • Dr. Glade was instructed and coached to more effectively present recommended treatment to his patients for increased case acceptance.

Step 3: Recognize and celebrate each team member's victory. This is done every morning at the meeting. Review the previous day's goals for each employee and "congratulate" them on a job well done. Improved statistics repeatedly reveal the truth that employees work for recognition as well as a monetary reward.

After eight weeks of establishing their roadmap, putting gas in their tanks and arriving at their daily destinations, the practice production increased 13%... 3% more than expected. Is it because the consultant "motivated" Dr. Glade's team? No. Good employees are self-motivated when you follow the 3 steps outlined above.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Poor Inter-office Communication Equals Poor Customer Service

Economic times are tough right now and until it turns around the pressure is on more than ever to fill those open time units and call patients who haven’t walked through the door for more than two years. It is easy to say that you are making an effort and even easier to say that nothing helps after you have combed through every chart twice. Stress can lead to frustration, and then to complaining about the boss or co-workers’ faults and blaming them for bad times.

Telephone Skill Training has helped many a practice improve its customer service skills to potential patients who call to make an appointment. Learning the finesse of attracting new patients and keeping them coming back at recall is necessary for the survival of any practice.

Some trainees have voiced confusion over why their employer signed “them” up for the Telephone Skill Training course.  Some even verbalized that they didn’t need the training, or that it was prompted by a team member who had since been laid off, or that the doctor caught them on a bad day and doesn’t know what it is like working at the front desk. These statements were proven to be false after the training sessions were completed and it was determined that the person who thought they were the best did not score as highly as they should have with the mystery callers. There is always room for improvement or for a tune-up of existing systems. (This failure to see that customer service could be improved is another form of poor customer service—inter-office dissention—that can be palpable to the patient as a negative experience.)

It is naïve to think that patients don’t pick up on the tension and the discord that exists between team members. It is easier to cast blame on another team member instead of examining the system and exploring ways to improve. For instance, if you have 30 to 35 patients checking in and out during the day and you have one front office person in charge, it would make sense that this person would be challenged to give the best customer service when answering the phone.

Consider one example of a mystery patient call that was placed to an office. It was answered quickly and pleasantly but then the patient was put on hold for 4 minutes. The office did not have another person to take overflow calls nor did the scheduling coordinator keep the caller posted on wait times. Having messaging on hold would certainly have been better than silence. How many patients would wait 4 minutes on hold?

McKenzie Management has added a valuable product to its arsenal of tools to help dental practices improve systems—the Mystery Patient Onsite Evaluation. Like Telephone Skill Training, this service provides valuable insight to your customer service from the viewpoint of a professional observer who walks into your office. This service is designed to identify the weak areas of customer service in addition to making visual and audio observations of the facility and the staff’s interpersonal skills. The mystery patients make physical visits to the practice three times over a six-week period to get the proper feel for what happens when patients enter the reception area of your practice. The professional mystery patient also prepares a 26-point report analysis about the experience.

The secret to having positive relationships with the boss and co-workers is not to blame or criticize but to analyze and address areas in the practice systems that need to be changed to get positive results. Often staff members do not have the professional training to judge what changes are in order to improve customer service in the practice.

Some suggestions would be to learn about what your boss’s expectations are of the practice, such as:

  • The doctor’s vision and goals for the practice future and plans to get there, including signing up the team for additional training courses in subjects that the doctor deems necessary to improve skills and systems.
  • The doctor’s preferred way to receive information from the staff and his/her communication style. Some doctors don’t like confrontation so consider an email or written note.

Schedule a meeting or performance review about your job description to define your areas of accountability and ways that you can contribute to meet practice goals. Take the initiative to look for areas where improving would benefit the patient and the team and bring them to the doctor’s attention.

Advance yourself to new levels of practice management and enroll in one of our valuable training courses today.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at

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

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