Boost Employee Productivity and Practice Profits
I don’t need to tell you that it remains a lean and mean economy out there. While the situation continues to slowly improve, many dentists are particularly sensitive to protecting practice bottom lines. Yet, they struggle with how best to keep employees motivated and focused on achieving practice goals without breaking the bank. The good news is that while dentists often think in terms of money being a motivator and the best reward for a job well done, in actuality, that is not the case.
In fact, a survey by staffing firm Accountemps found that “frequent recognition of accomplishments” was the top non-monetary compensation named by full and part-time employees, with “regular communication” coming in second. Both activities can motivate your team and encourage productivity, without costing you a dime.
That being said, a finely tuned employee reward system is essential if your objective is to move your practice beyond average into the realm of truly excellent. However, it’s important to note that a reward system is not a bonus system. It can be tailored to recognize individuals, groups, and the entire team - but a couple of factors must be present in order for the system to succeed.
First, there must be a distinct relationship between what an employee accomplishes and the reward received. Second, the reward must be perceived as significant in order for the employee to have the desire to step up performance. Employees do not get rewarded for doing their jobs. You don’t reward Jill because she managed to show up on time for the daily huddle for a full week. It is her job to show up on time. You reward employees for going beyond what is expected. You reward them for excellence.Third, a reasonably short time span should exist between the superior performance and receipt of the reward. For example, if the collections coordinator achieves a 98% collection rate after 30 days based on a goal of 98%, the reward should be generated after 30 days, not at the end of a quarter.
Next, consider the types of rewards that will be appreciated most by your individual team members. Keep in mind that the perceived value of a reward by one staff member will not necessarily be perceived the same by another. It is not uncommon for doctors to select rewards based on what they value and enjoy, which may or may not be in the same category as their staff.
For example, you may think an evening at the opera would be fabulous. Your country-music-loving business employee may consider such a “reward” to be torture. Some would place a high value on a personal letter of recognition while others may not. Some may greatly appreciate the opportunity for continuing education or additional training on equipment. Others may be thrilled to be sent home early or tickets for the family to visit the zoo. And others may greatly appreciate a pedicure or massage or other special pampering. My point is that for a rewards program to succeed, you must make the effort to find out what the employees will enjoy and/or appreciate.
Although telling your employees you appreciate them should be obvious, the unfortunate reality of the workplace is that virtually no one does it enough - yet it can yield a huge return with minimal investment. A well developed system for rewarding your employees should be developed to maximize practice productivity as well as individual success. But don’t overlook the obvious. Say “thank you” often, make it sincere and do so in front of others. Don’t wait until you have an “official” rewards program to start emphasizing to employees that you value their contributions to the practice.
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Managing Talkative Callers
I am training a new scheduling coordinator and she spends way too much time getting to why the patient is calling and making the appointment. She is really nice, but her time management skills are very poor and I am doing her job while she is “chatting” on the phone. What should I do?
Betty, Office Manager
You say that you are training a new scheduling coordinator. Perhaps you are assuming she knows that she needs to wrap up the call quickly so that she can direct her energies to other calls coming in. It is time to train your new person to take control of the call and to direct the patient into an appointment time while still maintaining a friendly and warm demeanor. It can be challenging to control the situation when you have a “talkative” patient, but here are some tools to use to keep control of the caller.
Ask closed questions as often as you can to keep the responses short, such as:
The closed question requires usually one word to answer, thus moving the conversation along. Ask open questions when the answer requires detail such as:
Control the space between questions so that the caller has little time to interrupt you. You can do this without rushing the patient and still maintain courtesy. In the time between the sentences, use shorter pauses and then immediately ask your next question or make your next statement.
Do not invite unnecessary conversation, as this is like an invitation to the talkative caller to take control of the call. Often the talkative caller will engage in non-business conversations such as:”You sound like you have a southern accent, are you from the south?” To keep the conversation on track and steer the patient back to business, reduce the response and redirect back to making the appointment, such as: “No, I am not from the south. I have an opening tomorrow at 2:00 PM, will that work for you, Tom?”
Sometimes in trying to get information, patients will begin to tell you their life history in the dental office. Of course we are interested, but again, once you have enough information to make the appointment you will need to redirect the caller back to the appointment, such as: “Mr. Brown, we look forward to hearing more when you come in for your appointment, I have an opening Tuesday, June 3rd at 3:00 PM, will that time work for you?”
Learning to recognize a caller’s behavior takes excellent listening skills, and knowing what to do with these callers takes some skill and experience. Often a detail-oriented caller can be hard to manage, just as a talkative caller can be. The difference is that the detail-oriented caller is focusing on accuracy. S/he wants a detailed response in order to make a decision about making an appointment in your office. The detailed caller wants to know the how, why, what, when and who of the situation.
For instance, Mr. Brown wants to know about implants: “Yes, I am looking for a very experienced dentist in implant crowns. I want to know where he went to school, how long he has been placing implant crowns, if he has references and what his implant crowns cost?” This type of call usually takes a while to complete and if you are not prepared, it is not wise to “wing it.” A recommended response would be: “Thank you for calling Mr. Brown. In order for me to collect the information that you are requesting, I will have to do some research and give you a call back. Can you be reached after 4:00PM today?’’
When analytical callers have to make a decision, they want a lot of information - and the information needs to be accurate. They appreciate the fact that you are willing to research before you give them an answer.
No two callers are the same, but the skill of a well trained business coordinator or scheduling coordinator will be able to spot this and keep control of the conversation and direct the caller into an appointment smoothly, quickly and with a smile on her/his face.
Does Your Hygienist Have ALL The Info Needed To Help Sell Your Dentistry?
Mr. Smith is in the office today for his hygiene appointment. He has a treatment plan that has not been completed for veneers and a couple of crowns on the maxillary anterior teeth. At one of his past appointments, he wanted to know what he would need to make his teeth look the way he wanted. You did a wax up and went over with him what would need to be done. The financials were gone over, and he said he would think about it and get back to you.
He is now in your office and the hygienist has asked him if he has made a decision about whether he wants to go ahead with treatment. He states that the only thing at this time that is stopping him is money. The hygienist makes a notation in the chart and moves on. But if she would have gone one more step, the patient might have scheduled for the treatment as he left the office.
You’re probably wondering how often this scenario happens in your office. Is your hygienist really educated about what financial options are available to your patients? No, we do not want the hygienist going over financials. However, she can mention what different options are available and let the financial coordinator know that Mr. Smith still wants to do the veneers and crowns, but is holding off because of money (if Mr. Smith is all right with that).
Not only should the financial coordinator be aware of what credit options are available to your patients, but the entire staff should have an idea of what is available. They should at least be able to inform the patient of what companies you use.
The conversation may go something like this: “Mr. Smith, we have many different ways to help you move forward with the treatment you want. We work with a company called Care Credit, and because our office has signed up for many different plans we may be able to get you a financial plan that is no interest if paid in full within 6 to 18 months. You will need to make minimum monthly payments. Is this something you are interested in learning more about?”
When Mr. Smith says yes, the hygienist might respond with: “Care Credit is a credit card for healthcare providers. Once you have the account, it is not only good here but also many veterinarians, plastic surgeons, and medical doctors accept it. Janey our financial coordinator is the most educated about Care Credit, I will have you talk to her before you leave so she can answer all of your questions. In the meantime, what other questions do you have for me regarding the actual treatment?”
Now the patient is prepared to receive more information from the financial coordinator. They have the option of filling out the application in-office if they would like to start treatment immediately, or they can submit a secure application online from the comfort of their home. The patient will need to choose either a no-interest plan or extended monthly payment plan. Both have a minimum payment required. They can use the card at over 140,000 enrolled dentist, cosmetic, veterinary, vision, and hearing practices. They should also be made aware that they can use it over and over again, with no need to re-apply as long as they are current and in good standing.
Once the patient has been made aware of the available options, the financial coordinator may offer to help fill out the application in your office and get their appointment scheduled. If your hygienist and entire staff are not educated on the different financing options available to your patients, the treatment may not ever be completed!
By knowing enough to move forward with the financial conversation at the chair, it opens up many avenues. Now, the patient may move forward with their treatment and you will get paid for the treatment provided.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
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