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Ready for Change in the New Year?
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Chances are, your team members are pretty set in their ways. They’re comfortable with their routine and have no interest in changing how they complete their tasks, even if implementing small changes will make their job easier and help grow your practice. This isn’t because they’re not interested in being more efficient or increasing production numbers. Your team members want to do their part to move the practice forward. But the fact is, most people are resistant to change. It’s simply human nature. That’s why team members will often shoot down even the best ideas if they require fundamental changes to their work processes.

Changes to their routine might make your employees feel threatened, leaving them worried about their ability to perform their role and, ultimately, their job security. I’m not even talking about drastic changes. If you suggest something as simple as altering the way team members answer the telephone you’ll likely be met with puzzled looks and questions as to why the change is necessary. Employees might also resist if you want to add a new task to their list of duties. They’ll come up with a variety of excuses in an effort to avoid the change to their routine, such as “I don’t have time to do that” or “Our patients won’t like that.”

Let me give you an example of how this might play out in your practice. Practice production is down and you’ve decided it’s time to do something about it. You’ve tasked your loyal team member, Sarah, with making follow-up calls to remind patients of their appointment times two days in advance. You’ve also asked her to begin auditing patient records to identify unscheduled treatment and then call those patients as well.

While this is a great way to reduce cancellations and no-shows and grow production, Sarah wants no part of it. Why? She’s afraid these calls will do nothing to encourage patients to make an appointment and will annoy them instead.

But that’s not the only problem. Sarah has no idea what to say to these patients, and she’s truly afraid her job could be in jeopardy if she says the wrong thing – especially if she knows you plan to measure her performance based on her ability to get patients in the chair. It’s no wonder Sarah doesn’t want to take on this new task.

This is where proper training comes in. Sarah won’t be nearly as nervous about making these calls if you give her the tools needed to succeed. And in this case, she needs well thought-out scripts.

Scripts will prepare Sarah, and your other team members, for any situation that comes up while talking with patients over the phone. They won’t have to fumble around for answers to questions or figure out how to tell patients why it’s so important to move forward with recommended treatment; it will all be right there in the script.

Now I know some people think scripts make conversations sound canned or unnatural, but I’m here to tell you the opposite is true. Scripts make effective communication possible. They can help you build patient relationships while also increasing production and growing your bottom line. 

Just remind team members that it’s important to keep these phone calls conversational. They certainly don’t want to sound like a robot while talking with patients about scheduling treatment. Have team members practice using the scripts together, and record conversations to listen to later. This will help them further improve their telephone skills, which will make a big difference when answering new patient phone calls or following up with patients to schedule treatment.

For your practice to grow, your team members must be open to and prepared for any necessary changes. Otherwise, any change you attempt to make won’t be successful and everyone will fall back into the same old routine. In Sarah’s case, that means developing scripts that help her naturally talk with patients about scheduling treatment. Armed with scripts, she’ll no longer worry about losing her job because she isn’t comfortable making calls. Instead she’ll focus on scheduling more patients for treatment, which will in turn grow practice production and revenues.

Not sure how to develop scripts? These templates should help. If you need more guidance feel free to contact me. I know change can be difficult. Just remember you don’t have to do it alone.

Next week, Create scripts that lead to positive change 

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

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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Laurie Hardison
Senior Consultant
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Be Prepared if an Employee Leaves
By Laurie Hardison, Senior Consultant

Employees decide to leave for many reasons. Maybe their spouse accepted a job in another state, or they’ve found another position that’s closer to home. No matter the reason, finding out an employee is moving on can be stressful – which is why it’s important to develop a plan before it happens. Putting systems in place will make this transition smoother for you and the rest of the team, and will help you avoid the many hiccups that often come when a key employee suddenly decides to quit.

So how can you prepare your practice for this inevitable situation? Here are a few tips.

Ask employees to create “must have” checklists. Chances are, you don’t know much about the daily activities that happen in the business area – so finding out an employee is quitting will likely leave you in panic mode, wondering how your practice will survive. To avoid this stressful situation, ask business employees to create a list of everything needed to effectively perform their job. Here’s what that list should include:

• Passcodes and log-ins for the computer, insurance websites and collection agencies.
• Computer back-up information.
• Written instructions on how to work all the various equipment in the business office, including the answering machine, printer/copier and scanner. It’s also important to have a list of repair contacts as well as suppliers for paper, toner and software support.
• A copy of all the stationery and other paper supplies that must be ordered periodically along with information about where these supplies are ordered from.

Ask employees to create “how to” checklists. While all the above items are important to keeping the business side of a practice running, you should also have a list of protocols that cover how various business procedures are performed. This should include how to:

• Generate weekly statements
• Generate insurance claims (e-claims and paper)
• Manage the recall system
• Keep patient records current (when to purge the inactive records)
• Manage accounts receivables
• Make appointments
• Run reports to complete monthly practice performance statistics
• Print routing slips
• Post payments
• Create a treatment plan from the computer  

To make this easy, I suggest creating a form for each task. Keep these forms in a 3-ringed notebook along with an example of each report when applicable, or establish a community office “Dropbox” account and store them on the cloud. This will not only help you survive when an employee leaves, the checklists can serve as great training tools for whoever takes over the role.

Don’t put it off. Now is the time to ask employees to create these checklists. After they put in their two weeks notice, it will be nearly impossible for them to develop these lists as well as complete their other tasks. If you do find yourself in this situation, consider asking the employee to stay after hours or come in early to complete the lists, and then pay him or her for the extra time.

Instead of waiting until the last minute, ask employees to put together these checklists as they have time over the next two months. Make it clear you’re not expecting them to leave, but that the lists can be beneficial to the practice if there is ever an emergency.

Include the clinical team. I know I’ve mostly talked about the business team here, but it’s important to develop checklists for the clinical side of your practice as well. Ask your Clinical Coordinator to create both the “must have” and “how to” checklists. These should include protocol sheets for tray set-ups, sterilization, supply storage, inventory control and other tasks that are performed daily, weekly and monthly. Trust me, these lists will make your life so much easier when one of your clinical team members decides to leave.

The thought of losing key team members can be stressful, and is something I’m sure you would rather not have to deal with. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable. Team members will move on, and you’ll have to replace them. These checklists will help make that transition much smoother, and will even make it easier for you to train the right person once you have him or her on board.

Need more help creating these checklists? Please feel free to contact McKenzie Management. We’ll give you the guidance you need to successfully develop lists to keep your practice on the right track, even when you lose employees.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Consulting Coaching Programs can help you implement proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com

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Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
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What is Your Strategy to Attract New Patients in 2016?
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

Most dental practices would love to have more patients and are constantly searching for creative and better ways to attract new people. When doctors ask about how to attract new patients, what they are really saying is “how do I attract cash patients or patients who have out-of-network PPO dental insurance benefits?” These patients actually choose you because of customer service more than the PPO patient that chooses you because you are on the list of contracted providers and you are conveniently located.

Principles of attracting new patients haven’t changed in decades – it’s finding the right formula for your particular practice that is the challenge. Certain methods to advertise and market externally may work well for your colleague across town, but fail miserably for your practice. No cookie-cutter approach ever works as well as a demographic and psychographic study of the target market for a dental practice.

Generational differences have an influence on whether a patient will choose your practice. People are living longer and want quality health more than ever before. In one practice you may be treating four generations all from one family. Grandma is 93, her daughter is 67, her grandchildren range in age from 42 to 28 and her great grandchildren are 8 and 13. This encompasses the Traditionalist, Boomer, Generation X and Millennium generations.

Each generation has particular health concerns and desires in how they want to be treated by their dental practice. When searching for health care providers, there will be certain things they are looking for, and consequently you need to provide these things in your practice. Some Boomers, more Generation X and most Millenniums want you to have an online presence with a good website, reviews and ratings and other social media platforms. They want to be able to contact you with texting or email instead of paper or phone.

Most dental software can give you the basic demographics of your practice. For instance, what percentage of your patients are over age 77? If you want to attract this group, you may want to visit assisted care facilities, retirement homes and nursing homes and meet the administrators and staff and drop off brochures and business cards with your contact information. You will be doing maintenance and repairs of existing restorations, gum line decay, dry mouth situations, implants, fixed and removable prosthetics, crowns with build-ups and extractions, preventive care and periodontal services.

If your practice numbers point to a larger percentage of children and teenagers but you really want to treat the over-forty group, what will you need to do to attract this group? This group often needs more periodontal services, crowns, fixed bridgework and implants, TMD and sleep apnea services. Become involved in the community where your practice is located.  Being a member of the Chamber of Commerce plus local business groups like Kiwanis or Rotary gives you visibility and information affecting the people in your demographic.

Have a smile for everyone and always have your “nice face” on, no matter what is going on. Building a strong brand of customer service can attract new patients, and is even more powerful in keeping patients coming back. One of the best internal marketing suggestions I can make is to call patients at night after a treatment appointment that requires anesthetic. This is extra care that sends a big message.

The most important dental marketing strategy of all is team training. As a dentist, you are probably committed to continuing education – but are you educating your team on the consumer benefits of choosing your practice? Does your team believe you need more new patients, or do they view that as more work? Does your team understand the value of each prospective new patient call and do they believe in your services? Are they able to clearly and knowledgably explain how great your practice is to a new caller? Remember, the person who answers the phone at your practice is the practice. Their enthusiasm about you, your office and the services you offer will make or break your practice growth.

Want to learn about strategically building your practice numbers? Call McKenzie Management today and sign up for a Business Training Program.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’sTraining Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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