2.24.12 Issue #520 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Does Your Practice Have the "Xcellence" Factor?
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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When it comes to customer service, there's an interesting twist that occurs depending on what side of the table you are on. When you are the customer, you expect service to be superior. The same is true of your patients. They expect that same level of excellence whether they are standing at the counter, sitting in the treatment chair, calling on the phone, or waiting in the reception area. However, when the situation is turned, too often staff forget the importance of excellent customer service.

When we work with dental practices that struggle with customer service, we typically find two common themes:

1. Staff think they are delivering at least “good” customer service.
2. They have a host of excuses for why they can’t deliver better customer service - too few employees, too little time, not enough money, poor technology, and the list goes on.

In most cases, it comes down to a lack of awareness and a lack of professional training.

Dental teams muddle along trying to figure out the best way to handle this “tricky” patient situation or deal with the “complainers” or just consistently convey a friendly and helpful attitude. In the past, weak customer service was a problem that might affect a practice over time, and through word-of-mouth the practice’s reputation might suffer. But my, how times have changed. Today weak customer service is a problem that could affect you not over time, but overnight. Before social media, when customers were dissatisfied they would tell between 9-15 people. With Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and the like, the few dissatisfied people in your patient ranks can tell hundreds, if not thousands of others, in mere seconds. Never has it been more important for the entire team to consistently deliver excellence. Read on.

The latest American Express Global Customer Service report, which was released in May of last year, showed that people feel businesses are slacking when it comes to customer service. In fact, 60% believe that businesses have not increased their focus on providing good customer service, which is up from 55% in 2010, and 26% think businesses are paying less attention to service.

Additionally, nearly 80% of those surveyed indicated that they did not make an intended purchase because of customer service. Consider this in terms of treatment acceptance. How many patients were ready and eager to move forward with your treatment recommendations only to be treated poorly when they called to schedule the appointment and subsequently cancelled? How many new patients came to the office once, only to be “educated” on the practice’s strict payment policies and never make another appointment?

Ours is a culture of high expectations when it comes to customer service. But what is important about the survey is not the numbers of individuals who willingly leave a business because of poor service, but the percentage of those ready to invest in businesses that provide quality customer service. What is particularly interesting about the survey is that it revealed Americans are willing to spend some 13% more with businesses that provide excellent customer service, up from 9% in 2010. Some patients may not be spending as much as they used to, but one thing is certain. They are more likely to invest in your services provided that quality customer service is consistently delivered.

Nearly 60% of customers will try a new business or service provider if they believe the customer service experience will be better. This is an opportunity waiting to be seized. Can your practice provide the customer service experience that the majority of patients are looking for? Turn this number into new patients, satisfied patients, and long-term patient retention. There is a goldmine waiting to be tapped in superior patient experiences.

We've been touting the importance and value of customer service for decades, but never has it been more critical in separating the average dental practice from the truly excellent. If you are interested in improving your customer service, call me at 877-777-6151 or email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

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

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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Computer Training Is Equally Important For Back Office
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

With so many offices going chartless, computer software training is very important - not only for the front office, but also for the doctor, hygienist, and assistants. It used to be that the front office staff spent most of their time on the computer, so they received a majority of the software training. However, that is no longer the case. The entire team needs to be trained on the software system that you use in your practice.

There are many different levels of experience when it comes to working with different dental software. Many times, it is not the software itself that is limiting - but rather the knowledge the person has when it comes to what the software is capable of, and how to make it do what you want.

When hiring new staff, even if they are trained on the software you are using, they may need additional training. Somebody already on your staff may be able to do this training, as it is custom to your office and what they do. The new team member will need to know the location for all of the information that is stored in the chart. It is very important that everybody in your practice puts specific information in the same area.

For example, it is recommended to have “a reason for return” listed in the patient’s record. The reason for return needs to be put in the same place, by everybody on your team, so it is accessible by everybody. Particularly if a patient is calling to cancel an appointment, the person taking the phone call should be able to go directly to the reason for return and use this information to encourage the patient to keep their appointment, or at least get back in as soon as possible.

The other opportunity for training is making sure the new staff member knows how to do everything they “say” they know how to do. Consider this part of their interview and a pre-employment test. The skills they present and their actual working knowledge may make a difference in whether you hire them, and if you are willing to train them further.

One push of a button, or lack of pushing a button, may cost dearly - not only in patient retention but overall production to the practice. I have been in offices where the computer was not set up for all of the recall patients that need to be monitored. There should be a system set up for bite wing x-rays, full mouth series of x-rays, prophylaxis, periodontal maintenance and any other procedures that are recommended in your office on a routine basis.

It is also important that the recall interval is correct. If the patient had a Panorex or x-rays taken in another office because they went to a specialist, then a copy should be sent to your office and the person who receives it should update the interval based on the office x-ray protocol.

It is important that anyone on the team making appointments involving recall knows how to do it accurately. A good portion of the recall system could be lost if one click is made incorrectly. If a mistake is made, when you go to run a recall report to call overdue patients, there will not be any patients on it, or minimal. They will be lost in the computer system

Another common observation, when consulting with the hygiene departments of practices nationwide, is that the amount of people due back for periodontal maintenance is very low. This can be due to a combination of things. For example: the patient was root planed and then brought back as a prophylaxis instead of periodontal maintenance, because for years the periodontal maintenance code was not being used on a regular basis. Now the office is not sure how to approach all of the patients that should be periodontal maintenance appointments, but have been receiving the care without having to pay for it. Oftentimes, the person making the appointment does not link it correctly to a periodontal maintenance appointment because many software programs will automatically default back to six-month prophylaxis if the scheduler does not link everything correctly. This is just one example of why periodontal production may not be where it is recommended.

A word to the wise - when it comes to computer knowledge, time spent testing and training when hiring a new person is priceless. It is up to you as the leader of the team to decide how much time you want to spend bringing them up to speed with your office and how things are done. However, proper computer training now may save you a lot of money and time in the future.

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.

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Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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When Good Intentions Go Awry
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

You may be committed to developing a strong team and a more productive work environment - but we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Building a trusting and high-performing team is a process and it's important to avoid the potholes along the way. Many a well-meaning dental leader can inadvertently create an unhealthy workplace, so here are five common pitfalls to keep in mind as you navigate your route. 

1. Too Much Enthusiasm
You're passionate about dentistry. You love the work you do and you want to inspire your staff to be upbeat. Certainly, enthusiasm can arouse individual and team spirit. And enthusiasm can be contagious. But enthusiasm in and of itself isn't going to motivate anyone. To be a truly inspirational leader, you need to see things from the eyes of your employees. Use your enthusiasm to engage others, but ensure you take their perspectives into consideration. Talk with your staff, individually and collectively. Be open to their suggestions and be ready to listen to new ideas. Furthermore, make the effort to get to know the people around you. This creates a positive atmosphere that motivates, encourages and gives confidence.

2. Believe You Already Have A Strong Team
You held a team retreat “a few years ago” and everything’s fine. Be careful with this thinking. Although you were astute in recognizing the benefit of a team “event” - stay attuned to the on-going dynamics. People are complex and “esprit de corps” needs to be stoked, just like a good fire. It’s much like attaining good health. Once you’re there you need to continue to exercise and eat nutritionally. Don’t be complacent. Reinvigorate your employees with training or another retreat. A healthy workplace is a journey, not a destination.

3. Make Changes Without Asking Employees
Human beings need to feel a sense of control and autonomy over their life to perform best. And when we feel a share in the creation of something, we have stronger commitment to make it work. Invite your employees to provide input before you make any significant changes. Be aware that what one person thinks is significant may not be an issue for someone else. Something as benign (and well-intended) as replacing the old copy machine can send your Front Desk employee into a spin…because you didn't seek her ideas prior to buying it. Involve your staff in joint decision making. Give them the resources to make the changes necessary. Support the changes. When you let them have control over their job their performance will increase.

4. Mandate Consensus
Consensus is a risky goal. It's unrealistic to think you will ever have unanimous agreement on every aspect of the practice. In fact, the process can be detrimental because it reduces effectiveness. Employees tend to waste a lot of time in meetings and decision-making activities. Remember that diversity of thought is important for a high-performing team. The key is to strive for healthy exchange (respectful debate) followed by buy-in even when there are differences. Your responsibility as the dental leader is to support your employees and coach them to learn and grow. Help them to work effectively by harnessing their diversity.

5. Surface-Level Civility Is The Goal
There’s a lot of evidence about the negative impact of personal discord on team productivity. Civility is a key condition for teams to be successful. However, “can’t we all just get along” does not replace the need for genuine collegial trust. Enforcing politeness without underlying respect actually exacerbates negative feelings and erodes relationships. At first glance, surface-level politeness and trust may be indistinguishable. But over time, other uncivil behaviors will emerge - excluding colleagues, gossiping, passive aggressive actions. Civility is a good starting point. In fact, you may need to issue sanctions for disrespectful behavior as you help your team to sustain politeness while developing genuine respect for one another.

Your employees have a tremendous impact on your practice. You know the importance of transforming them into a high performing team. Focus on employee development and avoid these pitfalls on your way to a more successful outcome. Call me at (877) 777-6151 if I can help.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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

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