Eliminate These Common Practice Stressors and Grow Your Practice
If you’re dealing with stress and frustration in your practice on a daily basis, it’s probably safe to say you’re not meeting your full potential. Instead of focusing on moving the practice forward, you’re just trying to get through the day. You can barely keep up, and the fact that there’s no relief in sight only leads to more stress and doubt about your practice’s future.
There are many reasons dentists feel stressed and overwhelmed, from high overhead costs to chaotic schedules to slumping revenues. The key is to figure out what’s causing your stress and take steps to alleviate it. That’s where an experienced dental consultant can help. I’ve put together a list of some of the most common dental stressors, along with advice on how to eliminate them from your practice to get you on the path toward success and profitability.
1. A Messy Schedule. I know many dentists who regularly deal with chaotic schedules. One day they find themselves running from patient to patient, and the next they have big chunks of free time thanks to those dreaded last-minute cancellations and no-shows. If you’re one of these dentists, it’s likely not uncommon for you to be double-booked or for a 60 minute procedure to only be scheduled for 30. It’s no wonder you’re stressed out.
One of the best ways to fix your scheduling woes is to hire a Scheduling Coordinator. Train this employee to schedule you to meet daily production goals, not to keep you busy. Communicate procedure times with your Coordinator and have him or her come up with a plan to fill the open slots caused by broken appointments. You’ll soon find your days are much more streamlined and a lot less stressful.
2. You Never Raise Fees. Many of the dentists I speak with are hesitant to raise their fees. They’re afraid if the price of dentistry goes up, patients will look for a new dental home – but if you never raise your fees, it’s costing you big. Don’t believe me? Think about this: Undercharging patients by as little as 7% or 8% costs you thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year, and undercharging by 40% or 50% translates into a serious financial pounding.
This of course hurts your practice and leads to extra stress, which can be avoided if you implement a solid fee schedule. To do this, I suggest you start by taking a look at what other dentists in your area charge as well as your patients’ income demographics. Next, consider the quality of dentistry and customer service you provide. From there, you can set a solid base for your fees.
It’s also important to adjust your fees twice a year. The first fee increase should be 2%, and the second 3% for an annual yearly increase of 5%. This isn’t a huge hit to your patients’ pocketbooks, but adding just $4 or $5 to each procedure will make a huge difference in your bottom line.
I know raising your fees might make you a little nervous, but it shouldn’t. Patients actually expect fee increases from time to time. How else are you going to make practice updates and provide them with the best care possible?
3. Team Conflict. When team members aren’t getting along, it hurts practice productivity, creates a negative working environment, and adds stress for everyone involved. Morale takes a hit and unhappy employees start looking for new jobs, which only brings more stress to the practice.
You’ll never completely eliminate team conflict from your practice, but you can take steps to reduce it. Make sure every team member understands exactly what their role is, from what tasks they’re responsible for to what your expectations are. Detailed job descriptions, continual feedback and proper training all provide team members with the guidance they need to excel in their jobs, and clears up any confusion about who’s responsible for what.
When you notice tension among team members, as much as you might want to, you can’t ignore it. Pretending the conflict doesn’t exist will only make it worse. Sit down with the team members involved and work together to come up with a solution. You’ll find this will make for a happier team and lead to needed practice improvements.
4. Lackluster Case Acceptance. When patients don’t accept the treatment you recommend, it can certainly hurt your confidence – especially if you thought they understood the importance of going forward with treatment and were ready to schedule. Beyond that, it can become pretty stressful when patients continue to say no. You certainly can’t grow your practice if you don’t have many cases to treat, after all.
How can you improve case acceptance and increase productivity? I suggest you hire a Treatment Coordinator and then get her/him professionally trained. This team member should be responsible for presenting treatment for all producers in the practice and then following up. Patients can ask questions in a relaxed environment and the coordinator can take the time necessary to educate them, which is much more effective than you spending 5-10 minutes going over treatment chairside.
Your days shouldn’t be full of stress and anxiety. Instead, you should be focused on growing your practice and meeting your full potential. Taking steps to eliminate or at least reduce common stressors will lead to a more streamlined, productive practice and a healthier bottom line.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Don’t Lead by Example Unless You Set A Good Example
“Good leaders must first become good servants.” – Robert Greenleaf
Self-purported communication experts always say to “lead by example”, meaning your employees will want to do more and will push to be better if the boss or leader is doing the same. While we’d like to assume the leader is always a shining example of what to do, that is not always the case – and sometimes the example is the opposite of what you really want.
In an attempt to be “one of the team”, dentist bosses often say and do things that backfire on them, inevitably harming the way the practice is perceived. Being a patient-centered practice versus a staff-centered practice is demonstrated by making attempts to connect with patients on a higher level, rather than just as a name on the schedule. It is putting the patient first at all levels.
During the morning huddle, a staff member might say, “Oh no, (patient’s name) is coming in, he is such a complainer and always smells of body odor”, to which everyone laughs. This type of comment should be discouraged for what it is – mean. We must remember that we are there to serve the patient, not entertain ourselves with their shortcomings. Patient/customers can “feel” if you like them or not, so you aren’t fooling anyone. By allowing this type of interchange, your staff will get careless and be heard by the patient or someone that knows the patient.
If our goal is to build long-term relationships with patients, we must alter the view of our relationships with them. Put the customer/patient first. Don’t be afraid of calling the patient a “customer” – that’s truly what they are. We should treat customers the way we want to be treated. If you want to be treated badly, then treat people poorly. You get back what you put out there. I use this valuable lesson in how my dentist clients are treated at eAssist Dental Solutions. I treat my clients like I treat my patients, with respect, dignity and empathy. This practice must resonate with my dental teams and my contractors and employees at eAssist.
For instance: A recent incident in one practice involved a dental hygienist and her hygiene assistant. They were providing a routine dental cleaning to a patient and got caught up in their own conversation about the hygienist’s upcoming divorce. This conversation went on for almost the entire visit, while the patient lay there, mouth open but not able to speak. When the patient was done and dismissed, he announced that he would never return to the practice again. “They didn’t take the time to know me, but I know all about the divorce!” remarked the angry patient.
When patients are treated like valuable customers, the reward is returning to your practice over and over again through the years. They will help your practice grow as they tell their friends in person, on Facebook, and at their church or business, how great you and your office staff have treated them and made them feel special.
This includes giving discounts when a patient is unhappy and refunding for treatment not completed to satisfaction. A big plus is having a happy staff that treats customers well. Your practice should also measure customer happiness – I use a system called NPS or Net Promoter Score: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Promoter offered in an emailed survey.
Ask yourself what makes you return to a business over and over again. Why do you feel that way and what makes you go back? We should never dismiss a customer because we don’t like them, or the staff doesn’t like them. Go above and beyond to help everyone feel welcome, understood and appreciated. It starts with trust and requires compassion, empathy and a lot of “how may I serve you” attitude throughout the office.
What should you do to put the customer first?
1. Give the patient 100% of your attention. You are there to serve them. Explain what is happening during appointments and answer all questions kindly without dental jargon.
2. Take the time to get to know individual patients. Determine what they need and want from dental care. Need doesn’t always equal want. Think long-term relationship.
3. See to the patient’s comfort in the practice. Consider the temperature, music, beverage stand, magazines, restroom. Think of comfort: blanket, pillow, water, slipper socks for warmth, warm face towel, mirror, etc. Don’t gossip.
4. Don’t be disparaging about the patient’s previous dentist. This only makes all dentists look bad and undermines trust of dentistry as a whole.
5. Hire people who genuinely enjoy interacting positively with other people. Always show empathy and respect.
Do the right thing for your customers and they will remain your customers for the rest of their lives!
James V. Anderson DMD is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah. He has built nine dental practices in the last decade and is the CEO/Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions, the largest national dental insurance billing company (www.dentalbilling.com) in the U.S.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
McKenzie Newsletter Information:
To unsubscribe: To discontinue receiving the Sally McKenzie management newsletter,
click on the link at the very bottom of this page for instant removal,
To report technical problems with this newsletter or to request technical help,
please send a descriptive email to: email@example.com
To request services, products or general inquires about The McKenzie Management Company, LLC activities
please send a descriptive email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to have any of your dental practice concerns answered personally by Sally McKenzie,
please send a descriptive email to her at: email@example.com
Copyrights 1980-Present The McKenzie Management Company, LLC - All Rights Reserved.