6.24.16 Issue #746 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

8 Tips for a More Successful Practice
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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You’ve always dreamed of owning a successful dental practice, but lately that seems like all it is: a dream. You know your practice is nowhere close to meeting its full potential, but you have no idea how to turn it around. As a result, you continue to spend your days stressed out and frustrated, wondering if you’ll ever reach your goals.

If you’re ready for a change, I can help. I’ve put together eight strategies designed to turn your struggling practice into a thriving practice.

1. Emphasize the value of care. Educating your patients is not only one of the best ways to increase case acceptance, it also makes patients more likely to stay loyal to your practice. Make sure they understand the importance of maintaining their oral health and the services you provide.

Remember that education doesn’t end chairside. Send every patient home with a list of the services and products your team provided during their visit. This will improve case acceptance as well as reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows that wreak havoc on your day.

2. Establish a solid fee schedule. To make sure your fees are competitive, I suggest you look at what other dentists in your area charge as well as the income demographics of your patients. Base your fees on the quality of dentistry and customer service that you provide, and offer third party financing through companies like CareCredit. Knowing they can pay a little bit at a time will make patients more likely to accept treatment they otherwise couldn’t afford.

Another tip? Use fee psychology. Patients are more accepting of fees ending with $1, $2, $3, $4, $6, $7, and $8.

3. Take a look at your policies and procedures. While it’s important to have clear policies and procedures, some of them might actually be hurting your practice. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve decided not to take calls during the lunch hour. This decision is likely costing you patients. Lunch might be the only time potential new patients can call to learn about your practice and schedule an appointment. If no one answers, chances are they won’t leave a message. Instead, they’ll hang up and call the practice down the street.

I suggest you stagger lunch breaks so someone can always answer the phone during regular business hours. Trust me, this small policy change will lead to more new patients.

4. Develop scripts. Written scripts help put team members at ease and lead to more successful patient calls, whether following up after a case presentation, asking for payment from a patient with a past due account, or going over the different services the practice offers with a potential new patient. Scripts also ensure patient communication is consistent, which helps instill trust and increase case acceptance.

5. Set new employees up for success. Hiring can be a stressful process, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by updating or writing clear job descriptions that spell out exactly what you’re looking for as well as your expectations. This will help you weed out candidates who just aren’t the right fit, and will also give the employees you do hire the guidance they need to succeed.  

It’s also a good idea to provide a personnel policy manual to new employees that outlines the office code of conduct, dress code, policies regarding tardiness, overtime, sick leave, office policies and procedures. And don’t forget to offer employees training as well as continual feedback – both positive and negative. This will help them excel in their roles, improving practice productivity and your bottom line.

6. Properly communicate with your patients. These days, patients typically prefer to communicate via email or text messaging. Most working professionals keep their calendars on their computers, iPhones and Androids, so if you send them a confirmation, they’ll know immediately if they can keep their appointment, and so will the practice.

After patients schedule an appointment, I suggest you ask them if they prefer to receive reminders via telephone, email or text. This will help ensure they get the message and either confirm or reschedule the appointment.

7. Make the most of meetings. Develop an agenda for every staff meeting that includes standard items the practice is continually monitoring. Make one of your team members responsible for distributing the agenda. I also suggest posting the agenda so staff members can add items as they come up during the month. This will help keep everyone focused during the meeting and ensure you address the most important issues.

8. Provide top-notch customer service. Many of the patients who walk into your practice are nervous, and prefer to get the appointment over with as quickly as possible. If you provide them with outstanding customer service and an exceptional patient experience, this will not only put them at ease, it will also make them more likely to come back. Greet patients with a smile as soon as they arrive, ask them if they’d like a beverage as they wait and offer to help them fill out paperwork. Patients will appreciate the extra effort, making them more likely to schedule treatment as well as refer you to family and friends.

Want a more profitable, successful practice? Following these tips will help you get there.

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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Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Staying on Schedule in the Hygiene Department
By Carol Tekavec RDH

A major concern for many dental offices is staying on time in the hygiene department. We know that our patients hate to wait. The problem is, when dealing with human beings, a schedule doesn’t always run as planned. A patient may arrive five minutes late. Not a big deal for that particular patient, but if there are any other delays, such as changes in their medical history that must be noted, a particular tooth bothering them that necessitates an unplanned radiograph, or the patient just wants to talk a little more than usual, then we suddenly have an appointment running 15 or 20 minutes late. If the next patient has any unplanned issues, the time problem snowballs. Each patient is started later and later. If the dentist is tied up with another patient and does not come to the hygiene room in a timely manner, the situation becomes even worse. The schedule is now 45 minutes behind and everyone is frazzled and upset.

Having a strategy for staying on time and on schedule is important, even though we realize that despite the best plans we can make, sometimes we will still be late. We know that without a plan, the likelihood of being constantly behind is almost assured. So, we need to organize as best we can and all work together, front office and clerical staff, to keep the hygiene schedule moving. Here are some ideas:

1. Patient Has Not Arrived for Scheduled Appointment
After five minutes, the Patient Coordinator should call and ask the patient if they are on the way. If the patient will not be arriving within the next five minutes, the coordinator should let the patient know that he/she may still have the prophy, but any other services might need to be rescheduled. If the patient will be there within the next 15 to 20 minutes, the coordinator should offer to reschedule.

“Mr. Patient, I am so sorry, but that will make your appointment start too late to complete your necessary services. Let me reschedule your time so everything can be done appropriately.” 

2. Patient Cannot be Reached at the Five-Minute Late Mark
In this case the coordinator should text or email the patient, saying: “Mr. Patient, your appointment was at 2 pm and it is now past that. I was not able to reach you by phone, but want to let you know that we may have to reschedule your time. Please call us as soon as you receive this message.” This lets the patient know that the office takes appointment times seriously.

3. Patient Shows Up Late
Depending on the patient and what else is happening, the hygienist can elect to go ahead with the appointment and let the patient know that one of the regular services may need to be rescheduled. However, it is not appropriate to skip the update of the patient’s medical history to save time. This is an essential service that cannot be ignored.

4. Patient is Frequently Late
When certain patients are repeatedly late, they can be placed on a “cancellation same-day call list” rather than rescheduled that day. That way if another patient cancels in the future, you can call the frequently-late patient as a fill-in. This often works well for the chronically late or “broken appointment” type patient.

5. Timing of Dentist Exam
In many offices, the dentist’s exam can be accomplished at any time during the hygiene appointment. It does not always need to be done at the end, unless the dentist requires this as his/her preference. If the exam is determined by the dentist to be appropriate during the hygiene appointment, the doctor can look at the schedule, see that the hygiene patient is in the chair, come for the exam, and then go ahead with the patient scheduled for the doctor’s own chair time. This way the doctor is not in the middle of a surgical procedure or a difficult endo when the hygienist rings for the exam.

6. Delay of Dentist Exam
If the dentist is busy and the hygienist has other patients waiting, perhaps the patient can be dismissed without the dentist’s exam today, and at the next recall the exam can be accomplished (this should never be done without the dentist’s prior approval). During a staff meeting, when people are not under stress, it should be determined when the dentist thinks it will be appropriate for the hygienist to let a patient go without an exam. If “never”, then the office needs to decide how to handle patients who are waiting. Should the coordinator reschedule them? Should the coordinator call patients who are scheduled later in the day to tell them to come in 20 or 30 minutes later? Should the hygienist and other staff work through their lunch hours? While none of these answers might be preferred, the problem of running behind needs to be addressed realistically. Letting a patient go without a scheduled exam is problematic, both from the patient care aspect, and from the office revenue aspect. Decisions need to be made.

While no schedule can run perfectly, we can keep on time by making plans and enlisting the help of the entire dental team. Keeping our patients happy is one of our most important jobs. Keeping on time is an essential part of this.

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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Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Are You a Morale Booster?
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Communication is the real work of leadership. In fact, "multi-modality" in communication is essential. What you say is only the beginning – your behavior, actions and decisions also are ways of communicating. If you are going to have a productive, loyal team, you need to learn how to create a consistent message through all of these. It's been said many times: Leaders Lead by Example.

Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following statements:

1. I inform employees how their contributions fit into the practice’s goals
2. I am aware of each staff member’s career goals and consider them when delegating responsibilities
3. I have canvassed my staff through a questionnaire or dialogue about the office morale
4. I concentrate on being enthusiastic, serving as a role model
5. I seek free exchange of communication with my staff
6. I think of examples to empower my staff, involving them in decision-making

If you answered ‘yes’ fewer than three times, you need to step up to the leadership plate. Demands on your time become even more crucial when business is booming. It’s natural that you expect your staff to help you out when the pressure is on. But productivity and efficiency in your personnel team are the result of consistent training and coaching. Unfortunately, because developing employees takes time, it generally gets neglected until problems arise. By then emotions can flare up and it feels like you’re putting out fires.

Building a strong, cohesive office requires time upfront, but the investment yields long-term gains. The foundation of a good staff begins in the selection process – hiring the right people and matching their skills and work styles as closely as possible to the responsibilities of the job. Pre-employment assessment can be an invaluable tool to strengthen the processes you already have in place. 

Even if you hire the right people, that is just the first step. Since there are no perfect job candidates, it is much more realistic to expect that your employees will have strengths and talents, as well as areas they need to improve. Those are referred to as developmental needs. Once they are on-board, it is necessary for you to train your staff. In corporate America, employees are referred to as ‘Human Capital’ because they are your greatest asset. Just as your dental equipment needs servicing from time to time, so do your employees. Help them understand not only the concrete parts of their job, but even more importantly, how you expect them to do those tasks. In turn, you are coaching your staff to assist you in achieving organizational objectives.

Performance-based feedback is essential. It tells your employees that they are on-track, or it gives them information that they are off-course. Be brief and objective. Stick to the matter at hand.  Ask them what kind of help they might need to perform better. Voice confidence in their ability to succeed. Give them encouragement. And remember to praise them. It is very important to notice even the smallest efforts they make toward their identified goal. Coaching may be helpful in training you to be a more effective leader for your staff.

Simultaneous with coaching the individuals in your office, you need to ‘coach’ your practice. That means treating it as if it were a living thing…which it is. Your practice evolves, changes and fluctuates from day to day. In essence, it breathes and it needs attention. Develop a clear mission statement. Accurately explain why your practice exists and what you hope to achieve in the future. A good mission statement articulates the essential nature of the practice, its values and its work. Then you need to communicate that vision every day, every way.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at nhaller@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

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