Follow These Tips to Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows
Cancellations and no-shows are really starting to become a problem for your practice. In fact, you can’t remember the last time you had a day free of broken appointments, and it’s not only taking a toll on you and your team, it’s killing your bottom line.
You know you need to reduce the number of broken appointments that wreak havoc on your work day, but you have no idea how. I know it’s frustrating, but don’t worry. I’m here to help. If you make a few changes, you can significantly reduce broken appointments in your practice, and that will help you reach daily production numbers and grow practice revenues. Here are a few tips to help get you started.
Don’t miss opportunities to educate. Look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate. Implement an information on-hold program to educate patients when they call the office. Provide education chairside, and reinforce that with educational materials at the appointment desk and in the waiting room. Sending a statement or other piece of mail? Include an educational brochure about oral cancer or how to prevent periodontal disease. When you send your patients an email, include information about a service you provide or an article on the oral systemic link. By educating your patients, you help them to understand the importance of dentistry and the services you provide. This creates value, and when patients value their appointment time, they’re much more likely to show up.
Show them you care. When patients are 10 minutes late for an appointment, give them a call and ask if they’re OK. Not only does this show you care about their well-being, it gives you the opportunity to educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health and keeping their appointments.
Not sure what to say? Try this: “Mrs. Jones, this is Sara from Dr. Sullivan’s office. We were expecting you for a 10 a.m. appointment today and were concerned when you didn’t arrive. Is everything okay?”
And while you have them on the phone, work with them to reschedule that missed appointment.
Offer more flexible hours. Patients often find it difficult to break away from their daily responsibilities, which is why so many cancel at the last minute or forget about their appointments entirely. Consider extending your office hours to accommodate these busy patients. Open for early morning appointments a few days a week, or see patients during evening hours. Many patients would also appreciate the flexibility Saturday morning hours offer, and seeing patients on Saturday would set you apart from practices that are only open during the week. Bottom line, if you make it easier for patients to fit an appointment into their schedule, they’ll be more likely to keep that appointment.
Flag unreliable patients. Once a patient flakes out twice, I suggest flagging him or her as unreliable. That means you contact these patients when an opening comes up, rather than putting them on the schedule in advance. When flagged patients ask to schedule an appointment, politely say you’ll contact them once there’s an opening. You might say something like, “Mr. Clark, we seem to be having trouble coordinating a time that works for your schedule and ours. I don’t have any appointments available at this time. However, I do have all your information and will contact you when there’s an opening.”
Go over appointment details. It’s important to be thorough when scheduling patients. Don’t just give them an appointment card and send them on their way. Instead, say something like, “Mrs. Jones, you have a one-hour appointment scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6th. If you can’t keep this appointment, please call our office at least 48 hours in advance to give another patient the opportunity to see the doctor at that time.”
Confirm appointments. Your patients are busy people who might forget they have an appointment with your practice – especially if you’ve scheduled them six months out, an outdated practice that often leads to cancellations and no-shows. Train your Scheduling Coordinator to find out every patients’ preferred contact method, and to confirm their appointment two days in advance.
Communicate your policy. Having a cancellation policy isn’t enough. You have to communicate that policy to your patients. Remind them of your policy every time they schedule an appointment.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Becoming a Fortune Leader
Leadership is one of the most oft talked about organizational concepts. The reason for this, I believe, is fairly clear. Without a great or even an effective leader, companies, businesses and organizations do not go very far. They do not compete well against others, and they do not offer anything terribly meaningful to the customer (i.e., the patient). Each year, numerous Leadership Summits and conferences are held around the world. Take for example a well-known name such as Fortune, which is of course well known due to their great leadership. Let us review some of Fortune’s 2015 Leadership Summit presenters to find out what we’re talking about when we talk about leadership.
• Nir Eyal authored a book entitled “Hooked,” which describes a straightforward process for ensuring a company’s success. The key ingredient, according to Eyal, is consumer engagement. In other words, how to create a habit in your customers so they return. According to Eyal, the key steps to the success of a business are growth, engagement and monetization. For a company to grow, it must make money. For a company to make money, it must engage its customers so they return, spread the good word, and pay more money. This line of thought might seem a little too heavy on the “MBA” side for the dental industry, since after all, dentists are healthcare providers, right? Nonetheless, even healthcare providers, if they want to be successful, must consider whether they are “hooking” their patients or not. How are you creating customer engagement?
• David Meerman Scott spoke about his book: “The New Rules of Sales and Service.” He points out that these days, businesses have an opportunity unlike any time in the past to send messages immediately to their customer base using the Internet. An idea he talks about in particular is “news-jacking,” in which companies think of a way to get into the news based on what is already in the news. Are you marketing your service? How might you pair the service you provide to something that is already being talked about? How do you find out what people are hearing, or in what they are interested? If you cannot imagine how you would have time to add this task to your list of to-dos, consider hiring someone, or contracting with a company to adopt this marketing strategy to your business model.
• Paul Akers writes about “2 Second Lean,” helping us boil down and understand how to make “Lean” management successful. You have probably heard of “Lean” or “Six Sigma” as a change management method used by leaders. What many companies that use Lean fail to successfully implement, however, is the total participation of their organization. When literally everyone in a company participates in identifying and eliminating waste, and lives the process rather than doing it as a part of their job, companies see tens of thousands of dollars come back to them year over year. You can learn a lot about Lean via the Internet. Toyota was the first to implement it and their huge success is largely attributable to the Lean way of doing business.
• Christine Comaford wrote a book entitled “Smart Tribes.” In this book, she discusses trust and how leaders need to engender it through creating and sustaining senses of safety, belonging and mattering. In companies, leaders who engender trust find that they have loyal followers, so they spend less time dealing with employee issues and more time on doing the work and growing their business. Christine mentions the importance of providing positive feedback about what is going well and what you as the leader want to see more of. Another important tactic toward building trust is to talk about “who we are together” as a team, or in other words, what is our dental practice all about? Are you focused on trust? How could you make it more central in your leadership practice?
• Finally, Nick Nanton writes about “Story Selling,” which speaks to a company’s brand being the story. He describes the process for creating a compelling story which will hook the customer and align the staff toward a common goal. The four steps in this process include: 1) “overcoming the monster,” describing what you’ve had to deal with along your company’s path; 2) “rags to riches,” which demonstrates your growth; 3) “the quest,” which appeals to the archetypal Hero’s Journey; and finally 4) “rising from the ashes,” which shows your perseverance and ability to withstand great adversity. Have you developed and articulated a story about your practice, or how you got to your position?
These are just some examples of the latest leadership topics. They will hopefully cause you to think a little bit deeper about yourself as a leader, in addition to how you want to apply yourself as a great leader using some of these techniques.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.com
Six Tips for Hiring a New Hygienist
The hygiene department is so essential to a productive dental practice, it is imperative that hygienists are on the same page as the dentist when it comes to patient care. Dentists and hygienists who have worked together for many years usually enjoy a close relationship that allows for a common professional face for the office. This is as it should be. However, what happens if a hygienist has to leave? How do you find a new one? What should you be looking for in that new hire? How have things changed in the past two or three years regarding the pool of possible applicants? What about social media? And, what are some possible “red flags”?
1. Online websites are excellent for placing ads for new hires. Craigslist and Indeed are typically good sites to start with. A nearby dental hygiene school, the local dental hygiene society, temp agencies, and your local ADA group can also be sources. Ask for a resume and references.
2. Determine what you think are the most important attributes for your new hygienist and list them in your ad. For example: Must be well versed in perio identification and treatment, licensed for local anesthesia, and focused on gentle care. If you will accept new graduates, list this as well. If an experienced practitioner is preferred, mention it. There are many hygienists looking for that perfect office. Your pool of applicants is likely a large one.
3. Social media such as LinkedIn is a dedicated business networking site and offers the easiest access to resume-style information. It’s helpful to have a practice/company page for people interested in your practice. It can also provide the opportunity to place an ad. Larger social media sites such as this offer access to an extended database while providing an industry focus. Social media is a two-way street. You are looking for great employees and employees are looking for a great place to work.
4. Other red flags include a poorly written resume, no references provided, inappropriate references, and incorrect phone numbers or emails. If a person does not avail themselves of the many available templates for arranging a resume and/or has misspellings or poor grammar, this can mean the applicant does not pay attention to detail. If references are not included when they have been requested, this means the person is not taking the necessary time to read your ad, or that references may not be available or may be poor. If references are listed, but when you call them they turn out to be someone who is unwilling to accept phone calls from potential employers, this can mean the candidate has less than stellar communication skills. At the very least a listed reference should be willing to give a reference. It is not credible if the references are friends or family members. A reference must be someone who can speak to a person’s work. Phone numbers and email addresses for references must also be correct! If the candidate did not double-check prior to sending them to you, it can raise questions about whether or not they really are looking for serious employment.
5. If you have navigated all of the items listed above, you will probably have selected a few candidates to interview. How can you determine what type of personality you want for your new hygienist? McKenzie Management offers Online Employee Assessment Testing to help you determine if a hygienist, or any other potential employee in the office, will be a good fit with you and the rest of your staff. These tests do not determine a single “right” personality for a dental office. After all, many different personalities can be successful in a dental practice. However, they do help determine what may be “right” for your particular situation.
6. Discussing salary can take place during the interview. You may ask the candidate what salary they are expecting, but have a range of amounts in mind that you are willing to consider before you begin. Know what an average salary range is in your area. This can often be obtained from a temp agency or through an employment office in your city. A qualified candidate may also offer a salary range as what they desire for starting pay. It is a red flag if all a candidate wants to do is discuss pay and/or vacation during the interview.
As an employer, you still have a large group of possible qualified candidates for your dental hygiene position. There are more applicants than there are available jobs. You can afford to be “picky” and select the hygienist that will work best in your office. Take the time to do it right!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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