Is Yours a 'Disposable' Practice?
Ours is a disposable society. Undoubtedly, you've heard that comment before and likely observed it many times. We take for granted that the products, the services, even the people that we rely on and interact with can be replaced. Today, it is often cheaper and less hassle to simply buy a new television than repair the old outdated one. Purchase a major appliance, and you are likely to find that at least some retailers will include the extended warranty at no additional charge. Why? Because they acknowledge that at least one major function of the product will likely go bad within a few years. It's now expected.
Evidently, a fair number of businesses are treating the customer as a replaceable commodity as well. Consequently, consumer loyalty is hitting the skids. Less than one-quarter (23%) of consumers felt "very loyal" to their providers, while 24% said they had no loyalty at all, according to a survey of more than 10,000 consumers by Accenture, a management consulting company.
Although we may expect excellent customer service, only rarely do we actually experience it. Many companies are well-versed in “talking-the-talk” of service, but a select few can “walk-the-walk” and actually deliver it. And it is for that reason that the vast majority of consumers see service providers as disposable as well.
The irony is that we've known for years that excellent customer service is the central ingredient in building and maintaining a successful business. So why is it that poor customer service continues to plague businesses driving consumers away? The main reason: Service providers of all types make promises they are not prepared to consistently deliver.
Dentistry is no different. Practices assert that patients have minimal wait, only to leave them sitting for 30 minutes. They claim to have “friendly and helpful staff.” Yet, they give little attention to what the words “friendly and helpful” mean to the patient. “Cheryl” the hygienist calls everyone “darlin,” as if she were the “Paula Dean” of dentistry. It’s not okay to call me “darlin” or “honey” or “sweety” or any other term of endearment. I’ve even seen situations in which elderly patients were referred to as “Gramps” or “Granny!” Patients want to be treated with dignity and respect. If you want to give them a name, I suggest using the one that belongs to the patient. Don’t mistake pet names for being “friendly.” For most, those words are like nails on a chalkboard.
On the flip side, there’s “Pat” at the front desk who is so busy filing electronic insurance claims she barely has a second to halfheartedly acknowledge the patient at the counter. The patient is uncomfortable because she feels like she must be doing something wrong and looks around for a sign or something that instructs her as to the “proper” way to check in, so as not to disturb Pat.
The dentist wants to improve production by increasing treatment acceptance, yet he doesn't want to consider the fact that his approach is often abrupt and off-putting for patients.
Certainly, it is much easier to expect excellent customer service from others than it is to take the magnifying glass to our own interactions with customers/patients. Yet, time and again, it is shown that those businesses consistently delivering quality customer service fare far better in virtually any economy. Consider a few statistics:
The top three drivers for investing in customer service training are:
1. Improve Customer Retention (42%)
Source: Aberdeen report - Customer Experience Management: Engaging Loyal Customers to Evangelize Your Brand
Patients simply will not put up with poor service. We live in a culture that is hyper aware of what good customer service should be. Practices, like most service providers, forget that they aren't competing against the dentist down the street. When it comes to customer service expectations, they are competing with Starbucks, Disney, and Nordstrom. When customers don't get what they expect, they will dispose of you and your business just as thoughtlessly as they will dispose of the paper coffee cup.
Next week, do you have the “Xcellence” Factor?
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Schedule to Your Production Goals
Dental practice owners consistently say that a primary factor in changing their revenue after working with McKenzie Management is simply: “knowing the numbers.” It seems so simple, and yet so dynamic.
Setting production and collection goals for your practice (as well as many other goals) is vital to success. The art of scheduling to a daily production goal for the dentist and the hygienist is paramount to the goal process. And yes - it is an art. It is similar to putting an ever-changing puzzle together.
Let's start with your schedule first, and let's assume that your goal is $3,000 a day.
Key #1: 10-Minute Units
What does this mean to you? If your goal is $3,000/day, this is $375/hour for an 8-hour day or $6.25/minute. When you schedule a $400 procedure for 60 minutes, you are making $6.67/minute. If you schedule the same procedure for 50 minutes, you are making $8.00/minute. This is a difference of $80/hour! Time is Money!
Key #2: Number of Assistants vs. Number of Treatment Rooms
Example A: You have 2 assistants and you stagger your appointments 10 minutes. This is easy because the second assistant can seat the next patient, review the consent form, place the bib, take the blood pressure and all the other preparatory steps that precede your entering the treatment room.
Example B: You have 1 assistant and you stagger patient appointments by 10 minutes. This is still effective and doable, but you must be willing to finish the patient without an assistant since your assistant must leave the treatment room to retrieve the next patient from the reception room and prepare them for treatment.
Example C: You have 1 assistant and you don't overlap your patients because you prefer that your assistant stay with you throughout the procedure and assist with the dismissal process.
All of these options are okay. But what is NOT okay is when you are working with 2 assistants and you are not overlapping. This is a waste of assistant time and is only increasing the salary overhead for your team. Take a look at your schedule if you are not overlapping right now. If you are seeing 8 patients/day of various lengths, by overlapping the appointments 10 minutes, you can pick up an average of 70 additional minutes! This is an additional $437.50 based on a goal of $3000/day.
Key #3: An Artistic Schedule Coordinator
This means that the scheduler must be able to look at the day and determine if it can handle more “less production” appointments or do they need to go onto another day. Pre-blocking for “high production” may be helpful, but can also be a hindrance because not every patient can come in during the time that is blocked. An artful scheduler can simply look at the day and see where to put high production and mix with low production appointments in order to achieve the daily goal.
To simply “fill holes” will not consistently achieve the daily goal, and can also create very hectic patient days with low production.
Hygiene schedules are an excellent example of this concept. A day of all patients needing radiographs will achieve the daily goal. But when all those same patients are scheduled 6 months + 1 day, that day will not make goal since no one will need radiographs. An artistic hygiene coordinator understands the necessity of having half the day with patients needing radiographs and the other half that do not. It is also much easier for the hygienists.
What about that 3rd treatment room that you have? The business team doesn't care what you do with it! They should only schedule you for 2 treatment rooms. If you get behind and the assistants want to use it - that is their call. In fact, you should call us at McKenzie Management 877-777-6151 and we'll show you how to increase your patient base to fill that 3rd room!
Dental Insurance - What to Tell Your Patients
I have always recommended you play down the fact that you are a dental insurance expert in your practice - that way your patients will not blame you if the coverage is less than they expected. This is still good advice, and even more so in the existing state of dental insurance coverage. Your patients should be educated about the product their employer has purchased for them or that they have purchased for themselves, but sadly few know much beyond “I get two free cleanings a year.”
When you present the treatment plan and the estimated costs, you can also provide a printout of their coverage with the qualifying remark, “This is the information that your insurance company provided to me. It is the same information they would give to you should you ask for it. If you do not agree with anything, please call them and speak to a representative.”
The system of verifying eligibility and benefits before the patient crosses the threshold into your practice is very important in building trusting relationships. If you are fee for service, you may be saying “Our practice is not about insurance.” Okay - but patients with coverage are all about insurance, because dental benefits are often the motivator for seeking care.
Coverage through an employer-sponsored plan is often more comprehensive and cost effective than buying an individual plan. Many retirees are finding this to be true as they try to find affordable dental insurance that gives them the benefit level that they are accustomed to getting. Take, for example, this patient who will be retiring this year. She sent me the following email:
“I asked my dentist if he recommended any dental insurance for when I retire, and he told me there is no insurance - they basically just sell you a maintenance policy. You don’t get more than what you pay for up front. He said you would be better off taking $50 a month or whatever you feel will pay for what you need and putting it aside in an account. If you need it, it’s there, if not it is still there and you can spend it on whatever you want.”
C. C. Retiree
This is good advice in that the patient may pay $600 or more for a policy with a $1000 per calendar year maximum. Most people get their cleanings and exams covered but balk at paying the co-payment for other services such as a crown even though the plan would pay 50% of the covered charge. The benefits do not rollover to the next year and the patient has essentially paid for what they got and the insurance has not paid anything.
There are plans being sold to the unsuspecting that tell the patient they are getting 100% coverage on the full tier of services, preventive to major. Of course, there is the per calendar maximum of $1,000 that is not mentioned, or the fact that it is 100% of the “fee schedule” owned by the insurance company. This “fee schedule” has nothing to do with usual and customary fees for the area or the doctor’s fees on file. The 100% payout for porcelain fused to high noble crown was $258 dollars, about the same as the lab bill would be. So if the dentist is charging $1200 for a crown the patients out of pocket would be $942. What a surprise if you were expecting no out of pocket costs for a crown.
Scheduling a new patient? Wait to the end of the conversation before asking the patient if they have dental insurance benefits. The focus should be on “how did you hear about our practice” and building rapport with the caller. At the end of the conversation you may ask, “Mrs. Brown, will you be using a dental insurance plan to help with the costs of your care?” If you are “not about insurance” then that shouldn’t be the first question asked of a patient that calls to schedule an appointment. Often patients who will be paying cash feel slighted if asked about insurance before you get their name.
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