How to Overcome Generational Differences
Working in a dental practice, or anywhere for that matter, you’re going to encounter different personality types and working styles. If you want to create a thriving dental practice, it’s important for you and your team to understand these differences so you can all communicate and work together toward one common goal: the success of your dental practice.
Often, these differences are generational. Regardless of where you practice, you likely have employees from three generations working alongside each other: Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) and Millennials (born 1981-2000). They all bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the practice, along with their own work philosophies and priorities.
All too often, these differences can lead to frustration and misunderstandings among team members. We see this play out often in the practices we coach, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. If you take the time to understand each generation and develop solid management strategies, you’ll put together a cohesive team that’s prepared to help your practice succeed.
So what are these differences? Employees from the Boomer generation tend to be known as workaholics. Work is the center of their lives. Boomer dentists devoted many years to building successful practices, which likely took a toll on their family life. Gen Xers and Millennials, on the other hand, usually don’t subscribe to that philosophy. While they’re still willing to work hard, they’re more interested in achieving a work/life balance than spending long hours in the office. They want the flexibility to spend more time with their families, watching dance recitals or cheering at their son’s baseball game.
Many Gen Xers and Millennials also tend to have a strong sense of entitlement. This can be a point of contention with their Boomer bosses and colleagues because Boomers typically think everyone needs to pay their dues. Here’s an example of how these two different philosophies led to trouble in one dental practice, and how it could have been avoided.
“Dr. Barry” is a Boomer who worked hard to build his practice over the years. He didn’t have a problem working early mornings, late nights and even weekends. He wanted to be there when his patients needed him, and his dedication was rewarded with loyal patients who wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else for their dental care. Now Dr. Barry is 63 and ready to reduce his workload so he can spend more time with his grandkids. So he decides to bring on an associate, a Millennial named “Dr. Cassie”.
Dr. Cassie is 31 and has a young family. When she agreed to a 50/50 financial split with Dr. Barry, she was excited by what this meant for her career. She’d finally earn what she deserved, while still being an active parent who made it to every practice and every game.
As you might imagine, problems with this arrangement started popping up almost immediately. The first issue? Dr. Cassie blocked out her schedule so her days wouldn’t begin until after 9 a.m. That way she could help her kids get ready for school. In the fall, she wanted to be finished with her last patient by 4 p.m. so she could go to her son’s soccer games. She was truly committed to her family, but that meant she could only see patients during limited hours – leaving Dr. Barry to cover all the early morning and late afternoon appointments.
Dr. Barry was frustrated, but Dr. Cassie didn’t even recognize there was a problem. The way she saw it, while she sometimes only worked 20 hours a week, she was focused and productive during those hours. She looked for ways to make processes and procedures more efficient, and she always worked through lunch.
It didn’t take long for Dr. Barry to bring Dr. Cassie back to reality. After just a few months, he pulled the 50/50 financial arrangement and told Dr. Cassie she’d now be paid for what she produced, and that she would need to put in more time at the practice. In the end, Dr. Cassie wasn’t happy with the arrangement and neither was Dr. Barry.
This is an unfortunate situation that happens more often than you’d think, but it’s a situation that could have been avoided. If both Dr. Barry and Dr. Cassie would have expressed their needs and expectations upfront, they would have realized they weren’t a good match. Instead, Dr. Barry assumed Dr. Cassie had the same work habits as he did when he was her age. But Dr. Cassie craved a work/life balance, and didn’t see any problem with giving herself a more flexible schedule.
To avoid problems that stem from generational issues, I suggest taking the time to learn about the different generations. You can view a FREE webinar of mine by going HERE. And of course, develop solid management systems, job descriptions, performance measurements and set clear expectations. Communicate with potential new team members and potential associates from the beginning so you don’t end up with someone who just isn’t a good fit for the job. This will help you avoid misunderstandings and frustration, leading to a more cohesive team and successful practice.
Next week: 6 things to know about your Millennial employees.
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
How to Improve the New Patient Phone Call
It’s safe to say most of your team members would rather not deal with new patient calls. Not only do they see them as a disruption, they’re just not comfortable answering the many questions patients have about your practice and the services you offer. So rather than focusing on the patient, they focus on hanging up the phone as quickly as possible – which means instead of scheduling that first appointment with you, these patients are likely turning to the practice down the street.
This, of course, hurts practice production and your bottom line. Just think about all the undiagnosed treatment and all the family and friends these potential new patients might have referred. The truth is, if you’re not properly handling new patient calls, you’re missing out on an opportunity to grow your practice. Remember these patients called you for a reason. Maybe someone referred them or they’re interested in a service you offer. No matter the reason, the goal should be to get these patients on the schedule, not to get them off the phone as soon as possible.
So how can you improve new patient calls? Train your team members. Make sure they see these calls as an opportunity, not a nuisance. Patients don’t want to feel like they’re bothering you when they call. They want to talk with someone who’s friendly and who can answer their questions about the practice.
Your team members should listen to these potential new patients and work with them to find solutions to their problems. Never say things like “no we can’t” or “we don’t do that.” This only puts up barriers to care and leaves patients feeling like your practice just isn’t the right fit. Instead, tell them how your practice can help.
Another tip? Train team members to smile when they talk to patients on the phone, just as they would when they greet patients in person. Speaking clearly and professionally is also key to making sure new patient calls are successful.
Making these adjustments will go a long way toward getting more new patient callers on the schedule, but it isn’t enough. I also suggest you develop detailed scripts that team members can turn to during these calls. Using scripts ensures your messaging remains consistent, while also making team members more comfortable answering the phone. They’ll never have to worry about stumbling over their words or being caught off guard. They’ll know exactly what to say, which makes them more confident.
So what should be part of the new patient phone call script? Here’s what I suggest you include:
• Start out by greeting the caller. “Thank you for calling Dr. Taylor’s office. This is Sarah. How may I help you?” If a clinical team member is covering the phones or if there’s more than one person working in the business area, then add this after the greeting: “How may I direct your call?”
• Find out the patient’s name and use it when appropriate.
• Ask “How did you hear about us?” This not only tells you which of your marketing efforts prompted the call, it also helps you start creating rapport with the patient. If he or she was referred, say something like “Larry is one of our favorite patients. We’ll certainly thank him for thinking of us.”
• Next, ask “How may we help you?” This gives the patient an opportunity to express any concerns and ask questions about the practice. It’s also another great way to continue building rapport.
• Educate patients about your practice by asking “May I take a moment to tell you about your first visit with us?” Tell patients how special your office is and explain the different services you offer. Let them know about the comprehensive exam they’ll receive and the exceptional care the dentist and the rest of the team provides.
• Tell them how long the appointment will take so they can make plans.
• Schedule the appointment and be sure to allow for uninterrupted time with the doctor.
• Before hanging up, thank the new patient for calling.
Your team is busy, but they shouldn’t be too busy to take new patient phone calls. Look at these calls as an opportunity for growth, and you’ll convert these potential new patients into loyal patients who entrust you with their dental care.
Which Comes First, The Dentist or the Entrepreneur?
There is an old saying about putting the cart before the horse which is an analogy for doing things in the wrong order. When you hear the words “dentist” and “entrepreneur” it is usually not in the same sentence – but it should be. Managing a successful dental practice takes training in business planning and execution. No one promised a schedule full of patients just because you hang out your sign with DDS or DMD after your name. Dentists want to do dentistry, and that can be accomplished once you realize that being a skilled and savvy business person will allow you to practice the way you have always wanted to.
1. Delivery of dental services to the patient from dentist and hygienist providers
In addition, the dentist entrepreneur looks at the operational systems and realizes the need to embrace the following:
1. Building the dental practice of your dreams takes motivation. You have to want it to struggle to achieve it. This is an inward drive that cannot be outsourced to your office manager. When you disconnect from your business systems, you are working for the practice instead of it working for you.
2. Are you willing to take calculated risks to achieve success? Your attitude toward risks shapes your drivers to success. In twenty years you don’t want to say “If I only had done___, I would be ____.”
3. Continually build and bring in new services and technology. If your goal is for your solo practice to be the best it can be, it takes innovation and creativity. Keep connected with your team; they will have great ideas if allowed to express them openly at team meetings.
4. Running a practice is not a cookie-cutter exact science. Be willing to accept that you can make mistakes, and if you do, embrace and learn from them. Change the systems that brought about the errors so you can identify and correct them before they become repeated mistakes.
5. Learn to work smart. Identify the most important tasks that will help you achieve your goals. Get training for your team, because without them working with you toward your goals it will be an uphill climb. Determine the most productive time of the day and get as much accomplished during that timeframe as possible. Don’t be afraid to seek out help in situations that have you stonewalled for an answer. McKenzie Management has spent decades helping dentists find the answers to practice success.
6. Hire smarter. You may have to pay more, but consider it an investment in the practice’s success. Work with your business staff daily going over reports and production collection statistics. Communication is imperative in creating sound business acumen. When the staff knows you are vested in the daily success of the practice, they will follow your lead.
7. Have balance in your life. Take care of your health, your family, and nurture your spirit. Don’t get into the habit of working long and arduous hours without lunch breaks and getting out late at night. Being busy doesn’t mean profitable, it can mean inefficient and stressful.
As a dentist, your clinical skills may be at a point where you feel great confidence. Aligning your business and entrepreneur spirit to your clinical skills will bring a feeling of freedom hard to explain until you are there. Recently I was told by a client, “I wish I had sought out your help years ago.” Don’t “put the cart before the horse” any longer.
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