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3 Mistakes Dentists Make When Hiring an Office Manager
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Finding the right Office Manager isn’t an easy task. The person you hire will essentially become the practice’s Chief Operating Officer and will need a certain skill set and temperament to succeed. Not just anyone can take over the Office Manager role, which is why so many dentists end up hiring the wrong person for the job.

An Officer Manager does so much more than most dentists realize. The job goes well beyond answering phones, making financial arrangements and scheduling. This vital team member must be good with numbers, understand practice reports and be comfortable managing human resources.

An Office Manager also must work well under pressure. Remember, the manager is the first point of contact for patients and team members when any issues come up, and that means he or she must excel at problem solving.

Like I said, finding the right manager is no easy task, and hiring the wrong person can cost you thousands of dollars. If you’re ready to hire an Office Manager to focus on the business side of the practice so you can focus more on the dentistry, you can’t just hire the first person who seems like a good fit and expect things to go smoothly.

Need help finding the right person for this important role? Here are three of the most common mistakes dentists make when hiring an Office Manager and how you can avoid them.

1. They reward a “good” employee with a promotion to Office Manager
This might seem like a good idea, but it’s often a huge mistake. Just because a team member excels in their current role doesn’t mean they have what it takes to be an effective Office Manager. The truth is, they usually don’t – and dentists who promote from within can end up with a huge mess on their hands.

Let’s say the team member you plan to promote is good with numbers but hates conflict and cracks under pressure. Or maybe she loves working with people and is excited about the HR side of the role, but the thought of running reports and dealing with practice financials makes her break out into a cold sweat. Either way, this team member just doesn’t have the skill set, competency or temperament to succeed as an effective manager.

If you promote this employee, she’ll soon become overwhelmed and miserable. You’ll both regret the promotion and it won’t be long before she starts looking for another job. If she doesn’t leave on her own, you’ll eventually be forced to let her go or restructure the team so she’s no longer in the management role. The process will lead to a lot of stress, frustration and lost revenues, and in the end you’ll be back at square one, left looking for a new Office Manager.

The bottom line is, before you promote a “good” employee, make sure this employee can handle the responsibilities and pressures that come with the job.

2. They don’t provide detailed job descriptions
The Office Manager you hire should have a variety of skills and talents, but mind reading isn’t one of them. That’s why detailed job descriptions are so important. Job descriptions should outline exactly what the job entails as well as your expectations.

Every dentist looks at this role differently, so just because you hire someone who worked as an Office Manager for 10 years at another office doesn’t mean you can skip this important step. The job description will serve as a roadmap to success and ensure your new hire understands the role and your expectations.

3. They don’t offer training
When dentists hire an Office Manager, they often expect this new team member to fix everything that was wrong with the practice. Marketing will finally get done and personnel issues will finally get resolved. The problem is, none of that will happen without proper training and guidance from you, the practice CEO.

Now you might be thinking, “Sally, I have no idea what goes into properly training an Office Manager.” Not to worry. That’s where I come in. I offer an Office Manager Training Course through McKenzie Management that’s designed to set mangers up for success. Once they finish, newly trained managers have the confidence and skills they need to excel in the role, which of course will benefit your practice.

The thought of finally hiring an Office Manager can be exciting. With a manager in place you will have more time to focus on educating and treating patients, rather than worrying about the business side of running a practice. It’s a great relief, but only if you hire someone who can handle the job. Take the time to find the right Office Manager and your practice will reap the benefits, from improved efficiencies to a more robust bottom line.

Next week: Set your Office Manager up for success

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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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Why it’s Time to Run your Past Due Recall Report
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant

For your practice to thrive, you need to not only attract new patients, but also keep your current patients. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to focus on recall – but unfortunately, this is a system most dentists ignore.

If your practice is struggling, now just might be the time to reenergize your recall system. How? I suggest you start by looking at the Past Due Recall Report and tasking your Hygiene Coordinator with calling the patients on it. This report, which you run from your practice management software, can make or break your hygiene department and is something you should check at least once a month.

When you run this report, you might notice a lot of the patients on the list cancelled appointments at the last minute or just didn’t show up at all. These broken appointments bring chaos to your practice and hurt your bottom line – and many of them are a direct result of pre-appointing patients six-months out.

Think about this scenario. Mr. Huth is ready to check out after his appointment and Sarah the Hygiene Coordinator wants to schedule his next professional cleaning and exam, which is six months down the road. Mr. Huth tells the coordinator he’s a busy professional and has no idea what his schedule will be like in six months. He might not even be in town. This is how Sarah responds:

“Let’s go ahead and schedule the appointment anyway. If for some reason you can’t make it, just call and cancel.”

Mr. Huth reluctantly agrees, knowing full well he likely won’t be able to make that appointment.

Do you see the problem here? Mr. Huth now has an appointment he’s fairly certain he’ll need to cancel, which the Hygiene Coordinator has given him permission to do. Even worse, this busy patient might forget to cancel and just not show up at all. Not only does this cause chaos in your practice, it keeps patients who want to schedule treatment from getting an appointment. The schedule appears full because your practice is focused on scheduling six months out, even when patients tell you they likely won’t be able to keep the appointment.

Want even more reason to do away with pre-appointing, or to at least develop a hybrid method? About one-fourth to one-third of all patients who pre-schedule will either cancel or not show up for their appointment. That’s 2-4 patients per day per hygienist! That can really do damage to your practice. 

Sarah should have said something like this to Mr. Huth instead:

“I understand Mr. Huth. The envelope you addressed to yourself in the hygiene room will be mailed to you about a month before you are due. You can call us then and schedule your appointment at a time that is convenient for you.”

This ensures the schedule isn’t filled with patients who probably won’t make their appointment time, and opens up room in the schedule for recall patients who are ready for treatment.

Start Working the List
Train your Hygiene Coordinator to reach out to 10 patients a day on the Past Due Recall Report, rather than trying to call all of them the first week – especially if the list has hundreds of names on it. The goal is to educate these patients about the importance of maintaining their oral health and getting them back to the practice. Here’s an example of what the Hygiene Coordinator should say during these important calls:

“Mr. Jones, this is Sarah from Dr. Ward’s office. We’ve noticed that we failed to make an appointment for your six-month professional cleaning and exam. The doctor is concerned about your tooth on the lower right side. Do you prefer a morning or afternoon appointment?”

Notice Sarah didn’t ask if the patient wanted to schedule but when the patient wanted to schedule. That’s very important, as is being prepared to answer any questions the patient might have and addressing any perceived barriers to care.

And remember, you don’t have to only rely on phone calls. Consider investing in a patient communication system that sends texts, emails and/or postcards, and you’ll have even more success.

Reap the Rewards
Once you start running the Past Due Recall Report and reaching out to patients who haven’t been in for a while – whether it’s via phone call, text message, email, a postcard or a combination of all four – you’ll notice the list will become shorter and shorter every month. Patient retention rates will rise and so will practice revenues.

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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Ask Your Team Before You Hire!
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

Even the most seasoned and successful practitioner can make blunders when hiring for a position at the front desk. A common thread I see when consulting with doctors about their hiring dilemmas is “a shortage of qualified workers” – which is even more of a reason to hire smart rather than hire on a whim. Often there are qualified workers, but not enough time has been spent in the search and the net has not been cast wide enough on hiring and job boarding sites.

“How hard can it be to answer the phone and be nice to patients?” lamented one doctor who had hired in haste. The doctor in this scenario felt that the answer to the “lack of qualified workers” was to have the Dental Assistant, Hygienist and/or Financial Coordinator “train” his newly hired Scheduling Coordinator.

The doctor hired a woman who had decades of experience working in another type of business as a customer service representative. Unknown to the doctor, this new hire had been using an antiquated phone-to-paper system in her previous position. She had little to no computer experience on a business or personal level and didn’t even know how to do a Google search.

When asked whether the team was informed of their new responsibility to teach the new hire, the answer was no. They all said they would help without really knowing how much time they would have to devote to the new person. The “Who, What and When” were not established, nor was a timeline for completion of the training period.

The new hire was supposed to answer the phone, schedule existing and new patients, and enter personal data, employer information, insurance information and health history into the practice management software system. The next step was to schedule appointments for the patients in the software appointment module. Of course she was severely challenged, and the half day she spent with the software trainer was not enough when she had to think quickly and act fast. She needed time to process what she had learned and have someone check her work for accuracy. Her “trainers” were busy with patients and on the phone with insurance companies, etc. Constantly putting patients on hold to interrupt other workers for help was becoming stressful for her, and the other team members were too busy to spend extra time with her. The office “buzz” was that the new hire just wasn’t “getting it” quickly enough.

It would have been more advisable to hire a temporary worker from a reputable dental temp service than to hire on a whim with the hope all would work out for the better.

Consider that any existing staff member who will be involved in the “training” of a new hire should:

1. Be knowledgeable of the requirements of the position. There should be a written job description to use as a guide.

2. Review the resume and job application for indicators of areas needed to train the new hire or red flags indicating lack of job skills.

3. Agree to train the new hire in the areas where applicable and have the time scheduled into their work day.

4. Be given a timeline for the information to be communicated and a goal of when the new hire should know the information, such as 30 or 90 days.

Having a dental software trainer come for a weekly, half-day training session during the new hire’s first month would be of value, but it can be costly. A cheaper alternative is to look up tutorials on YouTube, go to the software website and use the FAQs, or call support for help.

A well-planned hiring strategy has the potential to yield both a great employee and a significant improvement to the practice. Providing new hires and existing employees with the tools necessary to succeed shows the team that you care about their success; and success breeds success.

Need help with hiring and training new staff? Want to avoid the “hiring panic”? Call McKenzie Management today for professional business training customized to your practice needs.

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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