8.24.12 Issue #546 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Test Your Telephone Effectiveness
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Do your patients feel welcome and glad that they called your office, or do they feel like they are just another interruption to your already busy day? Take the quiz and find out.

1. How many rings will I have to sit through before someone answers?
a) 5 rings or fewer (1 point)
b) 3 rings or fewer (2 points)
c) 1-2 rings (3 points)

mailto:info@mckenziemgmt.com After 2 rings, patients are wondering if the office is closed. A real person should answer your phone by the second ring or by your voicemail system by the fourth ring. Do not use answering machines. They are outdated and sound terribly unprofessional. Voicemail is affordable, professional, and messages can be easily changed.

2. How do you answer the office phone?
a) “Hello” (1point)
b) “Practice name only” (2 points)
c) “First name and practice name” (3 points)
d) “Good afternoon, this is Alexandra Elizabeth Stephanopolis. Thank you for calling Dr. Richard VanMeter’s Office. How can I help you?” (4 points)
e) “Thank you for calling Dr. VanMeter’s office. This is Michelle. How may I direct your call?” (5 points)

A, B, and C are too abrupt and don’t provide enough information. D is too wordy and discourages callers from identifying themselves because they feel pressured to get to the point rather than say their name. In addition, the person answering has to think about whether it is before or after noon. E gives the caller information and provides immediate assistance to address their specific concern. 

3. At what point do you get the patient’s name and phone number?
a) If the patient wants to schedule an appointment (1 point)
b) After the patient indicates why they called (2 points)

As soon as the patient is finished talking (never interrupt), their name and phone number should be repeated if they have been given. If not, request them. Obtaining the patient’s name will often secure a commitment if they are uncertain about whether they should schedule an appointment. After scheduling the appointment, restate the patient’s name, phone number, and appointment time. Also request or confirm the patient’s address.

4.  Have you ever said, “Please hold” to a caller?
a) Yes (1 point)
b) No (2 points)

Never put a caller on hold without asking for their permission and waiting for their response. “Mrs. Jones, may I put you on hold while I check on that?” Putting customers on hold without their consent makes a very poor impression. How many times have you placed a call to a business, the receptionist answers and instantly puts you on hold. You cannot even grunt before you are cut-off.

5.  Approximately how long do patients typically have to wait on hold?
a) 2 minutes (1 point)
b) 1 minute (2 point)
c) 30 seconds (3 points)
d) 15-20 seconds (4 points)

Studies show that after only 17 seconds, callers on hold become annoyed. How many patients have you annoyed today? However, patients are far more understanding if the business assistant explains why they are being asked to hold and provides the estimated time required. Knowing beforehand how long they can expect to wait reduces the chance of annoyance. Another option to prevent frustration is to offer the caller the choice of either holding or hanging up and having their call returned within a brief, specific time period.

6. Do you provide patients information while they are on hold?
a) No (1 point)
b) Yes (2 points)

Educating the patient is essential in reinforcing the importance of professional dental care as well as informing patients about other services the practice provides. No matter what size your practice, it’s likely that, at least occasionally, patients must be placed on hold. Use informative messages that enlighten patients about services you provide.

7. Do you always make it a point to thank the patient for calling?
a) Yes, when I think of it (1 point)
b) Yes, always (2 points)

How did your office score?

14 points or lower: Get Help Now
Sorry this number has been disconnected or is no longer in service. Serious telephone training is in order.

15-17 points: Room for Improvement
Please hang up and try your call again. There are areas that need prompt attention, but no need to disconnect the phone, just yet. I can provide you on-line training for your team, live for as many as you can fit around your computer monitor. Look HERE for more information.

18-20 points: Very Good
Congratulations, you are engaging in very good telephone communication. The key is to ensure that everyone on staff consistently uses best telephone practices.

For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having Sally McKenzie Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Donít Let Rip Currents Get You
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

I love being at the ocean on a summer day. There’s nothing more relaxing than the warm sun and irresistible sea fragrance. Although life feels carefree when I am at the beach, I also am aware of the potential dangers. As I watched lifeguards rescue swimmers from a rip tide last week, I thought about the parallels with leadership.

Rip tides or rip currents do not pull people under the water; they pull people out to sea. Each year American lifeguards rescue more than 60,000 people from drowning. Of these, more than 80% are rescues of people caught in rip currents. People pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills. Just like rip tides, there may be hidden currents in your practice. If you keep your cool and know what to do, you’ll be safe.

1. Be Aware of the Signs
As the practice leader you can’t afford the luxury of being just “The Doctor.” Trouble may be lurking in your office and you don’t want to be blindsided. Keep attuned to what your employees are saying and doing, because there are warning cues. It might be some petty bickering between the clinical and administrative staff, or a complaint from a patient. Pay attention. When small problems are not addressed in a timely way the results could be hazardous.

2. Keep your Feet on the Bottom as Much as Possible
With your feet firmly on the sea floor you’ll avoid being swept out to sea. You are the boss and the buck stops with you. The responsibility for what happens in your practice begins and ends with you. Be responsible. Be courageous. You will discover that your team truly respects you for it (even if they don’t like it).

3. Expect the Unexpected
When the water of a rip current finds the depression in the ocean floor and rushes back out to sea it gives the appearance of a deceptively smooth surface. Don’t be fooled because things seem fine in your office. A lack of conflict within your team is not necessarily a good sign. It’s better to see lively debate. If people are afraid to disagree with you, there will be undercurrents that can erode your best designed plans.

4. Don’t Panic
Once fear takes over, you lose a lot of strength. Over-expending your energy is akin to ultimate drowning. You need to stay calm. To escape a rip current, you should go with the flow of the water until the current dissipates. Once out of the current, swim back toward shore. The same is true in crisis. If you or your team are experiencing rough seas, your job is to re-stabilize the staff. You’ll need a clear head to know what to do.

5. Call for Help
Rip currents are especially dangerous for people who can’t swim or can’t swim well. Just as you would wave your arms or yell for the lifeguard, ask for help when you need it. The smart thing to do is learn to swim in advance of going in the ocean. As a parallel, be prepared and get training for yourself and your team when things are going smoothly. Don’t wait until you’re in deep water.

6. Take a Breather
It’s impossible to foresee every difficulty. And you can’t control everything. Life is unpredictable and your leadership will flow more effectively by accepting that truth. Know the signs of rip currents in your practice. Be pro-active and take precautions. Most importantly, learn to recognize the signs of exhaustion and take care of yourself. Insufficient sleep, poor nutritional habits, lack of regular exercise and substance misuse all contribute to worsened cognitive performance and brain health.

It’s best to learn how to identify and stay out of rip currents. However, if you get caught in one it’s relatively easy to escape. Call me and we’ll work out a “swim program” for you and your team.

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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Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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A Tale of Two Offices
By Carol Tekavec RDH

I get emails from hygienists around the U.S. expressing their opinions or asking questions. Recently I received two emails describing working conditions that could not be more opposite. One hygienist told about her wonderful general dentist, his wife, team members and office culture. The other described a terrifically challenging situation and was wondering what she should do. Here, briefly, are their stories.

Hygienist #1 wanted to detail the excellent conditions at the office she worked in, and expressed her satisfaction in finding a rewarding career situation:

Patients are happy when they come to our office. My dentist is professional and personable. He is able to visit with patients in a friendly way, but does not let that prevent him from presenting his treatment recommendations in a confident, no-nonsense way. Patients trust him from the start. It is easy for them to believe that he has their best interests at heart, and they typically accept his treatment plans without much discussion. However, if they have questions or concerns, he does not act offended or stand-offish. He tries to put people at ease and welcomes their inquiries.  Our work dynamic is wonderful.

As the hygienist, in addition to my treatment responsibilities, I perform perio assessments and caries screening, as well as identifying and photographing possible issues, such as cracked teeth, or failing restorations. I go over these issues with my patients during the course of their prophy or perio maintenance appointments, and make suggestions as to what our dentist may recommend. When he comes into the treatment room for the exam, the patients are already expecting a diagnosis concerning the possible problems we have identified.  Then our dentist either confirms that a tooth needs treatment and recommends a solution, or he says something to the effect of, “I see what you are looking at but don’t think anything needs to be done at this time. Good eye! Make sure we make a notation in the computer so that we check this area at the next appointment.” I feel supported and appreciated by the way our dentist explains his decisions and enjoy being an important element in making sure patients receive the care they need.

The dentist’s wife works at the front desk with us on some days and is a calm, happy, and encouraging presence. She also takes charge of ordering supplies, which is great because she can take the time needed to pursue “good deals” with the supply companies. This frees up other staff for clinical responsibilities. All of the staff members in our office work together as a team. We try to look out for one another and see where we can help keep patient care running smoothly and on time. When I talk about my pleasant office with other hygienists they are jealous. But it is all true. The good news is our dentist is busy and receives many patient referrals so I am hopeful he will need me for many years to come.

Hygienist #2 had a much different story:

I am very unhappy in my current job and wonder what I should do. I have been working in this office for a little over a year, and hoping that things would improve. But I am very discouraged. I should first say that my dentist is “good” in that he knows his profession well and provides skilled care. If he did not, my decision to stay in this office would have already been decided and I would be gone. The office is beautiful and we have the latest equipment. The problem is the overall chaotic and truly unpleasant work environment.

My dentist expects me to perform an assessment of the patient’s overall condition including any decay or flawed restorations, and I do this for all patients. We use an intraoral camera to document any findings. The problem is that after I have pointed out possible issues to the patient, my dentist criticizes either the photos or my choice in identifying certain teeth. He will say, “That’s nothing!” or “Look at this tooth on the opposite arch. That one really needs treatment!”

After I have performed perio charting, he will pick up a probe and go over several teeth until he finds a reading that differs from mine, and even if it is less than one millimeter, will point it out in front of the patient! I always feel rushed, and worry that whatever I do; it will be wrong. He is very moody and the rest of the staff and I never know if he will be calm or angry on any given day. We walk on eggshells. His wife works full time in the office and the two of them argue in the hallways where patients can overhear them. It is very embarrassing! We have staff meetings where guidelines for patient care are discussed, but the guidelines are never implemented. I am one of many hygienists and assistants who have come and gone in this office, and at one year, one of the longest “lasting” employees. Is there anything I can do? Or should I just leave the practice?

The differences between these two offices are stark. Regardless of having the most modern equipment or lovely surroundings, work atmosphere can make or break a practice. A team environment where all workers are treated respectfully rubs off on patients. They sense when trust exists between the staff and dentist, and tend to incorporate that trust into their own feelings about the practice. In addition, an office that has a “revolving door” of employees makes patients wonder what is wrong. It goes without saying that arguments within earshot of patients are never appropriate and will always make patients nervous. In addition, a good rule to follow is that criticisms of staff work should take place in private; complements in public. My advice for Hygienist #2 is to begin looking for a new position right away. There are many, many good practices out there, as can be attested by the description Hygienist #1 gave of her dentist and office. McKenzie Management works with these good practices all the time!

Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management.  Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?  Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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