Damage Control 101: What To Do When It Hits The Fan
Dental teams have control over 90% of the reasons why patients leave, and every new patient costs the practice six to seven times what it costs to keep an existing patient. However, few dentists make any effort to know how patients really feel about the care the entire practice is delivering. In fact, for most, no news is good news, and many are lulled into a false sense of security. Don’t ask, they won’t tell.
And you’re right. Most dissatisfied patients will never say a word. 96% of unhappy customers (patients) don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back - 1st Financial Training Services.
While you may be blissfully unaware of what unhappy patients think of your practice, others are not. In fact, according to White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a disgruntled customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience, and around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20. And if they are posting their dissatisfaction on social media, those numbers grow exponentially.
They might have their records sent elsewhere, giving you a clue that they aren’t exactly thrilled with your business. But most unhappy patients will just fade away. So it can be particularly jarring when one of them actually makes the effort to tell you.
Understandably, the human reaction often is to assume a defensive posture or dismiss it as being inconsequential - just one of those difficult patients trying to muck up your otherwise serene view of the practice operations. The last thing you want to do is stand there and accept it, yet it’s the one thing you must do, and do it well. Why? Because the complainer is actually on your side, whether you or they realize it.
Difficult as it is to believe, this gripe is an act of genuine respect. It tells you that the patient values your practice enough to create an uncomfortable situation in order to salvage or repair this professional relationship. They really don’t want to just walk away; they are willing to stick their neck out to help you fix a problem.
Instead of putting up your guard, invite the patient to sit down and discuss the matter. The point of this exchange is to transform patient complaints into positive relationship-building experiences, which they can be if you view them not as indicators of poor service but opportunities to provide better service. From there, follow these steps to manage the complaint:
1. Listen. They want to tell you what went wrong. Give them the opportunity without interrupting. Remember this is not a personal affront; it’s a business concern that the practice now has the opportunity to address.
2. Pay attention to your body language and your facial expressions. Be careful not to indicate irritation or frustration in your demeanor. If you think of yourself as calm and concerned it will come across to the patient.
3. Take notes detailing the experience or situation.
4. Apologize sincerely to the patient for the problem, even if you do not feel the practice is at fault. Blame isn’t your chief concern, addressing the problem is.
5. Communicate. Tell them that you will look into the matter.
6. Follow-up. If it requires follow-up with the patient tell them that you will get back to them within a specified time period, such as by the close of business tomorrow, and do so.
7. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.
8. Investigate the matter further to get the full picture. Evaluate it and consider an appropriate solution.
9. Talk to staff. If the complaint is the result of a practice system, consider bringing the matter up at the next staff meeting and ask the team for input on how it can be addressed to avoid similar complaints in the future.
10. Take action. Don’t just gather information and do nothing. Implement steps and procedures to avoid a recurrence of the same or similar problem.
Avoid putting yourself in a state of perpetual “damage control.” Get ahead of potential problem areas by regularly asking for feedback from your patients. Ask the patients if the practice is truly patient friendly. Are the staff welcoming and helpful? Is the financial policy clear? Are appointment times convenient? Ask yourself if patients are treated the way you would want to be treated. The information you gather is literally worth a fortune in patient retention.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Avoid ‘Selfie-ism’ on Your Team
The term “selfie” has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s a photograph taken with a digital phone camera held at arm's length that is generally uploaded to a social media source. President Obama was caught snapping a selfie during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service (no political commentary on that funeral faux pas). More recently Ellen DeGeneres took a group selfie with other celebrities at the Academy Awards presentation. Why even Pope Francis has been in a selfie!
Selfie-ism is everywhere these days and there’s nothing wrong with self-expression…if kept in check. If not, there’s narcissism, a personality trait that describes individuals who believe they are special. They have a sense of entitlement that can wreak havoc on your practice. They are not good team players!
The single best measure you can take to avoid narcissism on your staff is to hire conscientious, stress-resistant and cooperative people. Employees who are carefully screened for positive work attitudes are significantly more likely to be flexible, collaborative and open to feedback. This leads to more harmonious interactions between staff and more positive relationships with your patients.
Be forewarned - narcissists excel during interviews. They know exactly what you want to hear, feel and see in a candidate. If you rely on traditional interviews, be aware that they are subjective. Interviews measure social skills, not job suitability. Individuals who create a positive impression are viewed as more capable than quiet or nervous applicants. Because they are not objective, interviews are the least accurate predictors of job success. Narcissists can be charming, extraverted and agreeable. But once on your payroll, they will assume a grandiose sense of self-importance that creates competition and conflict.
Perhaps you rely on resumes and believe that this improves your hiring accuracy. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 90% of all resumes contain false information! Narcissists tend to inflate their skills, abilities and knowledge. You may rely on reference checks, convinced that talking with previous employers will give you useful insights. Forget it. Former employers generally reveal nothing of significance. In fact, in many states it is illegal to give any information except for dates of employment. And if a narcissist were terminated for poor performance in her last job, do you really think that employer is going to tell you? The most likely information you’ll get are dates of employment.
With the staggering cost of hiring a narcissist, you owe it to yourself to find a better way to evaluate potential employees. The solution is to match the applicant’s personality to the job. McKenzie Management has done that for you. We conducted personality-based job analyses for four dental positions - Dentist, Front Office, Hygienist, and Clinical Assistant. First we identified experts in the dental field who have direct and current experience with each job, its duties, responsibilities, and requirements for successful performance. These ‘subject matter experts’ then completed work style surveys for each of the four positions. The surveys consisted of questions about the requirements for effective performance using a rating scale of Unhelpful, Not Required, Helpful, or Essential.
The end result is the Employee Assessment Test. By having the candidate/employee answer 107 questions online, you can tell how close your candidate matches peak performers in their job description.
Studies show that employee assessment testing outperforms traditional interviews 4 to 1 in predicting job performance. As a complement to your selection process, testing is a proven, effective method of hiring team players. The Employee Assessment Test strictly adheres to legal guidelines for pre-employment testing and is available only through McKenzie Management.
If you’ve had the misfortune of already hiring a narcissist, you know what a difficult management chore that is. They project overblown self-confidence and self-esteem when in fact they are fragile in both regards. If you criticize narcissists, they will likely act as if their feelings are hurt and they're humiliated, or they'll become extremely angry and lash out (never in-between). Be concerned about lawsuits as you try to rid them from your practice.
High conflict personalities in the workplace are experiencing a stratospheric increase. Expand your hiring process and include the only reliable and scientific means of identifying and avoiding the selection of a narcissist into your ranks. And if you’d like some guidance on managing one already onboard, give me a call. I’m here to 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 (877) 777-6151 or email email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
What Is Your Hygiene Department Really Doing?
Dr. Mike’s practice is running great. Mary the hygienist has been working there for many years and the patients are happy with her. She has been probing and taking any x-rays that have been put into her schedule. Dr. Mike recently decided to add one more day of hygiene. He hired Susie the new hygienist, and has allowed her the autonomy to revamp the hygiene department.
After working only one day, Susie discovered a lot of work that needs to be done. There have not been any probings recorded for the last six years on the patients in Dr. Mike’s practice. There are notes here and there about individual pocket depths, but the probing charts do not reflect those changes over the years. There are clinical notes about #5 having a deeper 5mm pocket, but there is no written permanent record of what is going on with all of the other teeth in the dentition.
Susie does not know if these teeth have been probed at every visit, or not probed in the last six years. All she can go by is the six point probings last written and recorded in the patient record. She has to start probing all of the patients in order to bring their records up to date.
She has the front desk staff and assistants help her with the probings, dictating them so patients can co-diagnose their periodontal disease. Unfortunately, she finds that many of the patients need to have root planing. Patients are asking questions such as, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this earlier?” and “How did this just happen?”
Going over periodontal disease, what the probings are and what they mean before you probe will help patients with co-diagnosing their disease. In addition to the probings, Susie also finds that it has been the protocol of the practice to refer all of the scaling and root planing to the periodontist. Luckily for the practice, Susie would prefer to do the scaling and root planing herself, before determining the need to refer the patient out to a periodontist for possible surgery.
Many general dentists refer scaling and root planing. This results in a lot of lost production that your hygiene department could be producing. It is recommended to keep as much of the scaling and root planing in-office as possible. Some patients will need multiple extractions, and in these cases a periodontist may need to do an evaluation before any treatment is completed. The office should have a protocol in place of when to refer patients when root planing is performed in your office. Of course, the doctor will make the final decision.
As Susie continues to look at patient records, she finds there has been no system for recording patients’ x-rays, and there are no specific notes in the charts outlining individual patient needs. A large number of patients have not had a full mouth series taken in the last 6 years. The office should have a standard x-ray protocol in place that the staff is able to work from, and individual needs should always be noted in the patient’s records.
These are two of the major areas where production is lost in hygiene. Be aware of what is going on in your hygiene department to help prevent lost production.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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