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Create Scripts that Lead to Positive Change
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Change certainly isn’t easy. Most people, including your team members, fear change because they have no idea how it might affect their lives. They’re afraid even small changes will result in a loss of power that could threaten their job security. This, of course, makes them resistant to altering their routine or adding new tasks to their list of duties. 

But it’s important to remember that positive change can bring many benefits to your practice, including an increase in revenue. Making one small change could be exactly what you need to grow production or your patient base. It could be the difference between scheduling patients for treatment or losing patients to the practice down the street.

The trick is, you can’t just thrust change upon your team members and expect them to respond. Many supervisors do this and it sets their team up to fail. When it’s time to make a change in your practice, talk with team members about why the change is necessary and how it will affect their daily routine. Ask for their input, and provide the training needed to succeed. Prepare team members for change and they’ll not only be less resistant, they’ll also be more effective and confident in their ability to handle the change.

Let’s go back to last week’s example. You want to get more past due patients on the schedule so you’ve tasked team member “Sarah” with calling these patients, as well as following up to remind them of their appointments two days in advance. Sarah thinks this is a bad idea and tells you so. Patients will just be annoyed by the calls and will feel like they’re being hounded, making the extra effort all for naught.

The truth is, Sarah’s real concern has nothing to do with how patients will feel about the calls. She’s never done this before and simply isn’t comfortable calling patients to talk about treatment. She has no idea how to encourage patients to keep or schedule appointments, and she’s nervous she’ll end up saying the wrong thing. She’d much rather stay in her comfort zone, so she’s doing her best to come up with excuses to keep this off her to-do list.

If you want Sarah to make these calls, and to be effective when she does it, she has to become comfortable with the idea. Explain to her why these follow up calls are so important, and how they can help improve practice production and grow your bottom line. But that isn’t enough. Provide Sarah with proper training as well as written scripts

You’re probably wondering what exactly these scripts should include. Scripts basically offer a general template that tells team members what to say when talking with patients. For example, one of Sarah’s scripts should outline what she needs to cover when she calls patients about scheduling past due appointments. She can personalize these calls by noting a particular area of concern and then reinforce the need for treatment based on patient information in the chart. This personal attention not only shows patients the importance of scheduling treatment, but also that your practice cares about their wellbeing.

Scripts can benefit pretty much everyone on your staff. When it’s time to make collection calls, scripts can help even the most nervous team member to properly request payments. Scripts make it possible to effectively communicate with new patients calling the office for the first time, to reach out to patients with unscheduled treatment and to handle patients who don’t show up for appointments. They also help team members provide better patient education, which leads to increased treatment acceptance and a more robust bottom line.

Another benefit? Scripts help keep communication in your practice consistent. Everyone knows what to say, how to say it and when to say it because they’re prepared. They don’t have to think on their feet and worry about fumbling for the right words. They can read through the scripts with other team members, a practice that helps them become more confident in their telephone skills, no matter the patient communication scenario they’re faced with.

While it’s true most people are resistant to change, if you provide team members with the tools they need to succeed, making the right changes can bring many benefits to your practice. Prepare your team members for change and they’ll start to view it as a positive experience. The proper training and tools will set them up for success, and that will only mean good things for practice production and your bottom line.

Still need more guidance? Check out these templates or contact me and I’ll help you develop the best scripts possible for your practice.

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
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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What it Takes to Lead
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. For example, practiced leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question. Many people wonder how good leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure. The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of different circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures. More so, the decision-making process requires an acute understanding of the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns. Knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes. Here are 12 valuable tips to consider in becoming a great leader:

1. Be Accountable. Successful leaders know when to “fall on the sword.” Don’t be quick to blame or hold others accountable. Great leaders model for their people that they are all part of the team, win or lose.

2. Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up. Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room. Successful leaders deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions. They use their ‘expert power’ to create an approachable environment.

3. Positive Energy & Attitude. Effective leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture. They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their colleagues to take action. As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed. They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum.

4. Properly Allocate and Deploy Talent. Successful leaders know their talent pool and how to use it. They are experts at activating the capabilities of their staff and knowing when to deploy their unique skill sets given the circumstances at hand.

5. Make Decisions, Problem-Solve. Successful leaders either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves. They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress. Successful leaders learn from and don’t avoid uncomfortable circumstances; rather they welcome them. Know that your role is to tackle issues head-on and not hope they resolve themselves.

6. Communicate Expectations. By proactively and regularly setting “performance expectations,” successful leaders remind their staff of the practice’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed. In this way, leaders can make it easy for the team to stay focused and on track.

7. Provide Continuous Feedback. Employees want their leaders to know that they are paying attention to them and they appreciate any insights along the way. Successful leaders always provide feedback and welcome reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their staff. They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback.

8. Measure & Reward Performance. Great leaders always have a finger on the pulse of business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result). Never take consistent performers for granted; be mindful to reward them.

9. Challenge People to Think. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more. Research shows that when employees feel challenged in their jobs, they have greater satisfaction and engagement.

10. Invest in Relationships. Successful leaders don’t focus on protecting their domain; instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Leaders associate themselves with “lifters” and other leaders – people who can help them broaden their sphere of influence. Not only for their own advancement, but that of others.

12. Ask Questions, Seek Counsel. Asking questions and seeking counsel is more a sign of strength than weakness, ironic as that sounds. You might want to exude a perception of knowing it all, however don’t fool yourself into believing this. We all can benefit from time to time from an objective standpoint.

13. Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities. Great leaders love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create. In your leadership role as a Dentist, focus on your ability to serve others. This can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.

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 jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Dental Report from Puerto Vallarta
By Carol Tekavec RDH

From November to March the resort area of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is filled with tourists from all over the world. Canadians, Europeans, Americans and Mexicans from other parts of the country come to spend time in this warm and friendly coastal region. The beaches are not too crowded, but nevertheless tourists often strike up conversations and possible friendships with other travelers while sitting and soaking in the sun. 

I traveled to Puerto Vallarta last month. While speaking with a group of fellow tourists on the beach, I discovered that several people were there not only for a vacation, but also for dental treatment. The local English language newspapers are full of ads for plastic surgery and dentistry. Apparently people are quite willing to receive both during their vacation time, and several people told me of the savings they were receiving.

Medical and dental care in foreign countries is popular, primarily because of the cost. People perceive that they can have a nice trip, plus dental or medical treatment, for less than just the cost of their care in the United States. In Puerto Vallarta, physicians and dentists often speak English or other languages in addition to Spanish, and offer quick treatment and replacement fabrication. Worries about possible subsequent dental problems or concerns about quality do not seem to trouble the tourists who come for treatment. It appears to be a given that the care will be the same as what is available in the United States. Just much less expensive.

One of the people I spoke with was a lovely woman who told me she was having extensive dental treatment performed while visiting. She was staying for a week and had two dental appointments scheduled. She had discovered the practice because her mother received dental care from this same dentist previously and had gotten along well. This dentist was not located in the tourist-oriented area of town where many are, but rather was in the older part of the city. Instead of responding to advertising, this lady had learned about the dentist from word-of-mouth from her mom, who in turn had just come across the dentist during a trip.

The woman told me that she had “two partial crowns, two full crowns, some fillings, teeth whitening, and a cleaning” accomplished that morning. She had already completed another appointment earlier that week, which I interpreted to possibly be for the crown preps. She showed me the full crowns, which appeared to be of a type of metal, not stainless steel or copper, but I did not see the “partial” crowns, which I took to possibly be three/quarter restorations. (Many “window” type crowns are seen in Mexico where the facial surface of a tooth in the anterior is preserved and visible, with a posterior and mesial and distal surround of metal. But this was not what she had experienced. Her anterior teeth appeared to have been restored with resin at some point.)

She was very happy with her treatment, and even happier to tell me what the total cost had been. She said that she had paid the dentist $495.

She was amiable to my questions, so I asked for some details. She said the dentist got her fully numb and the shots had not been painful. She said the crowns felt good and she was not sore. She explained that the “cleaning” was accomplished with an electric diamond, (perhaps an ultrasonic scaler?) rather than “scraping with the old-fashioned instruments” her dentist at home used. She did not say if she had ever had treatment by a dental hygienist in the United States. She said that her dentist at home had caused her to have a worsening of what she called “TMJ” and her jaw hurt a lot. Plus, she said that as a child she had ineffective orthodontic treatment that “didn’t do anything and was the cause of her TMJ” in the first place. She said her teeth had “gone back to the way they were” and it was true that her teeth were not completely straight.

She was going home the next day and was very happy she had her new crowns and whitening and would not have to face the “over-priced dentists” at home.

Here are the things that occurred to me:

• The number one complaint patients seem to have is that dentistry is too expensive.  They perceive they are not receiving a good value for what they pay. The cost alone seems to be driving many patients to seek treatment in Mexico, although it is not the only issue.

Another subject is that they perceive treatment in Mexico is just as good, or even better, than the United States. Hence her comment that the “electric diamond” was better than the “old-fashioned instruments” used by her home dentist.

• Fast, effective treatment is valued by patients and she was very happy to have all of her treatment done quickly.

• Advertising is not the only thing fueling foreign treatment. So much care is being accomplished that word-of-mouth is just as effective.

Dentists in the United States have many concerns that may keep them up at night. This perception that foreign dentistry is just as good and more cost effective is another problem. At the very least, we need to help our patients pay for the treatment they need with easy to understand payment plans and financing options, such as CareCredit, and we need to try to get their treatment accomplished as quickly as possible. Patients who need dental treatment but can’t afford the money or time are easily lured to foreign care.

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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