Give Employees the Feedback They Crave
One of the best ways to ensure practice success is to surround yourself with a strong team. You need team members who excel in their roles and are motivated to do their part to move the practice forward. The challenge is, you can’t expect them to get to this point on their own.
There’s a lot that goes into managing a team – a fact you likely didn’t think about when you decided to become a dentist. If you’re like most dentists, you would prefer to focus on dentistry and ignore the human resource and business headaches that are part of owning a practice. Unfortunately, if you do that the practice will suffer, and certainly won’t meet its full potential.
Like it or not, team members look to you, the practice CEO, for guidance. You’re the leader and the one who provides them with the direction and training they need to succeed. And that includes offering continual feedback.
Many dentists give their feedback once or twice a year during performance reviews and think they’re done. If there aren’t any problems, they tell employees they’re doing a great job and then give them a little extra money in their paycheck. Sorry, but that isn’t nearly enough. This gives employees no motivation to improve their performance, so they don’t.
Now you might be thinking your employees would know if you weren’t happy with them. In your mind, the fact that they’re still getting a paycheck is all the feedback they need. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, this way of thinking is likely not only costing you employees, it’s also keeping your practice from achieving true success and profitability.
Some dentists, on the other hand, opt to drop subtle hints here and there, rather than address problems directly. They might post sticky notes with vague messages about something they don’t like, or make a passing comment during a staff meeting. They think team members will get the message, but unfortunately, they don’t.
Here’s an example. Let’s say the practice is experiencing serious financial issues. Instead of talking with your Collections Coordinator about increasing over-the-counter collections, or talking with your Scheduling Coordinator about the importance of scheduling to meet daily production goals, you causally mention that money is tight during a team meeting. This doesn’t tell team members the seriousness of the problem, and gives them no reason to improve performance or make any of the necessary changes. It also does nothing to strengthen your team or your practice.
For that to happen, I suggest you provide continual constructive feedback. And I mean every day. This feedback will help team members drastically improve their performance. They won’t have to guess how they’re doing; they’ll know. They’ll grow as employees and become more efficient members of your team – and when that happens, you’ll grow production numbers and your bottom line.
So when should you give this feedback? You can offer feedback at any time, but it’s most effective when the employee is engaging in the behavior you want to praise or correct. If you hear Sarah your Scheduling Coordinator booking a first-time patient using excellent telephone techniques, for example, let her know you noticed and appreciate her efforts. This will motivate her to do the same with every new patient call.
On the other hand, if she fumbles on the phone and doesn’t seem to know what to say to potential new patients, take her aside and explain how you would like her to handle these calls in the future. Provide extra training if necessary, and work together to develop a script that will help make her more comfortable during these calls.
Bottom line, your employees crave feedback. They want to know what they’re doing right and where they can improve, and only telling them once or twice a year isn’t going to do much to help them grow. I suggest you create an environment where positive feedback and constructive criticism is encouraged. This will help give your team members more confidence in their skills as well as make them more efficient.
Not only that, your team members will be happy to come to the office every day because they work in a positive environment that fosters development. They’ll always know how they’re doing and what their contributions are to the practice. Continual feedback will help them meet their full potential, giving them the tools they need to ensure your practice does the same.
Next week: How to turn feedback into positive action.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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How Many Assistants Do You Really Need?
You just found out one of your three assistants is moving out of state, and you’re in a panic. The thought of going through the hiring process is overwhelming and you know you won’t be able to find a replacement before she leaves.
Yes, this can be a stressful situation, but before you start putting together that want ad, take a step back and think about if you really need to hire another assistant. The truth is, reducing the number of assistants in your office might actually streamline your practice and reduce unnecessary stress.
To determine how many assistants you actually need, start by asking yourself these questions:
- How many doctor patients do I see each day?
Let’s address that last question. Say you have three treatment rooms. You likely think you should be using all three, but that isn’t the case. The number of treatment rooms you use depends on your workload, how many days you’re scheduled in advance, how many assistants you have and the mix of procedures you offer. It also depends on how busy you want to be.
Many dentists run from room to room all day when it really isn’t necessary. If you’re only booked a week and a half out, for example, there’s no need to take on the stress that comes with a hectic, fast-paced schedule. You can simply train your Scheduling Coordinator to schedule patients further out. This will keep you from rushing around all day, reducing unnecessary stress and enabling you to spend more time educating your patients and addressing their concerns.
Another benefit? Your coordinator can ask patients if they’d like to be contacted if there’s a change in the schedule. The ones who say yes should be put on a “priority list” that your coordinator can turn to when a broken appointment needs to be filled.
- If the doctor is OK with giving injections alone, I suggest you overlap each patient 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each appointment. Spend the last 10 minutes with the patient while the assistant seats your next appointment. If he/she’s not comfortable giving injections alone, don’t overlap the appointments. Instead, schedule one after the other with no breaks. Just make sure you communicate with your Scheduling Coordinator so the right amount of time is scheduled for each appointment.
- Consider fabricating crown preps chairside to reduce the time needed for these appointments.
- Work out of fewer treatment rooms. If you’ve been working out of three, reduce that number to two, assuming appointments are overlapped by 10 minutes.
- Consider building in 30 minutes a day of admin time so your assistant can perform equipment maintenance, order supplies and complete other necessary tasks.
Having fewer assistants will also force you to improve practice efficiencies. You’ll find your assistants are more in tune with what’s going on in the practice, making them more productive and much more efficient. And if your Scheduling Coordinator is spreading appointment times out, you’ll have fewer open slots to fill. The “priority list” you asked your coordinator to create also makes it easier to fill broken appointments, reducing the stress and chaos they bring to your day.
I know the thought of losing a team member can be scary, but as you see it doesn’t have to be. It might even be a good thing, leading to a more streamlined practice and efficient team. Take the time to determine how many assistants you actually need and you may find you’re better off with fewer. Work with your current team members to improve efficiencies and you’ll soon see an increase in productivity and your bottom line – and a reduction in stress.
Looking for more guidance? Contact McKenzie Management and we’ll help put you on the right track.
Step up to Better Communication with your Team
As Stephen Covey said, all things are created twice, first in our minds and then in reality. You may think that being present in the dental office and serving thirty patients a day is communicating to the team. But think about it for a moment – what exactly is said on a typical day other than, “Why did John Brown cancel, today? Was he confirmed?” or “Where are my loupes?” or “Where was the topical placed on Mrs. Smith?”
When was the last time your team met to discuss your practice vision and goals? Having an action plan directly defining each team member’s primary objective to contribute to the success of the practice is imperative. Everyone needs measurable goals from you, the doctor to the assistants and to the Scheduling Coordinator, Financial Coordinator and other auxiliaries. Do you have a measurable goal for preventing cancellations? If you still think cancellations are the problem of the front office staff, you haven’t been connected to the reality of patient perceptions. Patients need to understand the impact that cancellations have on the practice team. It is not a minor inconvenience; it can derail the entire morning.
During diagnosis of the recommended course of treatment, state the time commitment that will be necessary for getting good results from the treatment. The assistant is responsible for communicating the benefits and answering questions about care when the patient is in the treatment room. The Scheduling Coordinator will again reinforce the necessity and benefits of the services.
“Mrs. Jones, if you would confirm, your appointment card should say your next appointment is June 3rd at 3:00pm. You should expect to be here two hours for your treatment. This time, of course, is reserved just for you. If for some unexpected reason you are unable to keep this appointment, would you be so kind to let me know two days in advance so I will have ample time to offer this to another patient? Thank you.
Following up with patients who cancel is a team effort; it is not just the responsibility of the front office team. It may be the front office making the calls, but the clinical team can support these calls by helping to create the message of the benefits and urgency of the care.
Having a morning meeting prior to the days’ schedule unfolding is the best time to get the team together for successful communication. Leaders are not born, they are created with due diligence to what is needed to move the team forward. On the schedule, look to see who is scheduled, the treatment plans that day and what financial arrangements have been made with each patient. A financial arrangement should be in the records of every patient that day – whether for hygiene, restorative or surgery. Look at the cancellations from the day before. If the patient did reschedule, discuss what was said or done to help keep the next appointment.
Studies show that a majority of appointments are canceled at the last minute due to lack of financial arrangements on file for the patient. Patients need help with understanding the options they have for payment. If an appointment is made without a financial plan, you cannot count on that as a confirmed appointment. Have payment options ready for patients, such as getting information on payment plans ahead of time through CareCredit’s website. Don’t assume when a patient walks out the door without discussing payment that they will pay at the time of service. On the day of the appointment, if they are not sure what will be expected of them, they may feel it is easier to just cancel the appointment.
As a leader, communicate to your team that there will be no separation of the back office from the front when it comes to making sure patients understand what will happen at their appointment, what their responsibility is in keeping their appointments, and that they have a fiduciary duty to pay for their services within the policies of the practice.
Want help setting up staff and patient communication systems in your practice? Contact McKenzie Management today for customized business training.
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