12.21.18 Issue #876 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

How to Boost Patient Retention in 2019
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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When you lose patients, it hurts your bottom line. Team morale starts to plummet as everyone wonders what they did wrong. It isn’t a good feeling, and certainly isn’t going to help you grow your practice.

Unfortunately, many dentists I work with experience low patient retention numbers at different points in their careers. It can be pretty frustrating, which is why they come to McKenzie Management for help. I work with them to determine what’s making patients want to leave, as well as find ways to boost patient retention rates and ultimately grow their practice.

Is your practice struggling with patient retention? If the answer is yes, now is the time to think about how you can turn it around in 2019. These tips can help get you started:

Fix your schedule. A chaotic schedule leads to extra stress for you and your team, as well as unhappy patients. If you’re double-booked or appointment times aren’t entered in correctly, it won’t take long for you to start running behind.

So how can you fix your schedule? I suggest hiring a Scheduling Coordinator and providing this team member with proper training. He or she should schedule your days to meet production goals, not just keep you busy.

It’s also a good idea to stop relying on pre-appointing and switch to a hybrid system instead. Why? When you schedule patients six months out, it gives the illusion your practice is booked – meaning patients who want to make an appointment have to wait weeks to get in, which may prompt them to call another practice. All too often, something comes up and pre-appointed patients cancel at the last minute or don’t show up at all, leaving you with holes to fill. I suggest you flag patients who have a history of flaking out and let them know the office will call to schedule them closer to their due date. This frees up room for patients who are ready to schedule.

Create an exceptional patient experience. Patients have a lot of options. If they have a negative experience in your office, they won’t hesitate to call the practice down the street to schedule their next appointment. That’s why focusing on customer service and building a rapport with patients is so critical.

Team members should offer a friendly greeting to every patient who walks in and do their best to make them feel comfortable. That might mean helping with paperwork, offering a beverage or simply answering their questions. Once chairside, you should educate patients about the value of dentistry and take the time to start building a rapport. Ask about their oral health goals, families and jobs. Let them know you care about their well-being and talk about how your practice can help keep them healthy. This is how you start building connections and earning patient loyalty.

Consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator. Your Treatment Coordinator can help patients feel more connected to your practice. This team member has time to sit down with patients in a comfortable environment to go over treatment and answer any questions they have. Patients don’t feel rushed and get the education they need to make informed decisions about their oral health care.

I also suggest you train your Treatment Coordinator to follow up with patients two days after the initial presentation. Most patients don’t schedule before they leave, so this call represents a great opportunity to further educate patients about the importance of going forward with treatment and is also an opportunity to market your practice. Patients will appreciate the extra effort, making them more likely to say yes to treatment and stay loyal to your office.

Focus on recall. Reaching out to patients you haven’t seen in a while is a great way to win back their loyalty, but for many dentists recall just isn’t a priority. They send out generic reminder cards in the mail and think that’s enough. It isn’t. I suggest you task a team member with reaching out to a certain number of past due patients every day and getting them on the schedule. These calls can also be used to educate patients and market practice services. You’ll soon see familiar faces back in the chair, leading to a larger active patient base and a healthier bottom line.

Squash conflict before it gets out of hand. Most dentists have no interest in dealing with staff conflict. They notice the tension among team members but instead of acknowledging it, they opt to ignore it and hope it just goes away. It gets worse instead, which impacts the way team members do their jobs and how they interact with patients. They’re less efficient and not nearly as friendly, which patients notice.

Sit down with team members as soon as conflict begins to find a solution to the problem. Don’t place blame or point fingers. Use the conflict to bring about positive change in your practice, including growing your patient base. 

If you’re struggling with patient retention, I want 2019 to be the year you turn it around. Following these tips will help you get started, but feel free to contact me if you need more guidance. I’m always happy to help.

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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Are You Prepared to Handle Losing an Employee?
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant

Dentist Case Study #373

The doctor’s concerns: “After 13 years with my practice, my Office Manager just told me he’s moving to another state at the end of the month. I have no idea what I’m going to do without him. I trust him to do his job and am concerned about finding a suitable replacement and getting that person up to speed.”

When this doctor called McKenzie Management, he was in a panic. He didn’t know much about what his Office Manager did each day, making it difficult for him to bring on and properly train a new hire who would excel in the role. On top of that, it was clear he needed to act fast. He had no interest in adding Office Manager duties to his list of responsibilities, so the search for the right candidate would have to begin sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, every dentist deals with this scenario from time to time. Even your most loyal employees will move on for one reason or another, leaving you scrambling to find a replacement. This can be a stressful time, but if you’re prepared for it, the entire process will be a lot less painful. You’ll be able to hire and train a new employee who is just as effective as the one you’re so worried about losing.

It all starts with checklists
Our doctor had no idea what his Office Manager actually did, just that it was vital to keeping his practice running smoothly. No wonder he felt so lost. To help, we suggested he ask his current Office Manager to put together checklists of tasks before his last day. The lists proved to be invaluable for both the doctor and the new employee.

The first checklist detailed all the basic information a new Office Manager would need to know, including:

Passwords and log-ins for the computer, insurance websites and collection agencies
Contact information for suppliers, software support and repair services
Instructions on how to use the business office equipment
A list of all the paper supplies that must be ordered from time to time, and information on where to get them
Computer back-up information

While very helpful, this isn’t all the new hire needed to know to be successful. The next checklist detailed protocols for different business procedures. It offered guidance for the new Office Manager and included how to:

Post payments
Keep patient records current
Generate weekly statements
Generate insurance claims
Manage the recall system
Manage accounts receivables
Make appointments
Run reports to complete monthly practice performance statistics
Create a treatment plan from the computer
Print routing slips

Include the clinical team
The doctor who reached out to us for help needed to hire a business team member, but of course there will be times when you have to bring on new clinical staff as well. After his new Office Manager was in place, we had our doctor ask his clinical team to put together checklists to detail the various tasks they handle each day. The lists have come in handy for training purposes and when other employees decided it was time to move on.

Here are some of the daily, weekly and monthly tasks included on the lists:
Setting up trays
Sterilizing instruments  
Controlling inventory
Storing supplies

Put a plan in place
Don’t wait until they’re leaving to ask employees to put task lists together. There’s a lot going on during their last few days, and they may not have the time necessary to dedicate to the lists. In this doctor’s case, his Office Manager was willing to come in early and stay a little late to get them done (which of course he was paid for). Such an arrangement might not always be possible and even if it is, it can lead to extra stress.  

How can you avoid this? I suggest you have every team member start creating checklists now. Ask them to set aside a little bit of time each week to work on the lists. Make it clear you’re not expecting them to leave – you don’t want anyone worrying about job security. Let team members know they can turn to these lists when filling in for colleagues who are on vacation, out sick or on maternity leave.

Losing employees doesn’t have to lead to panic
When valued employees tell you they’re leaving, the thought of trying to replace them is often overwhelming. Going through the hiring process can be stressful, but you can alleviate some of that stress if you’re prepared. Creating checklists ensures you know exactly what each team member is responsible for, so you can delegate tasks until you find the right person to take on the job. Then, checklists can be used for training and guidance, helping new employees get up to speed as quickly as possible. 

Not sure how to go about creating checklists? McKenzie Management can help. Feel free to reach out and we’ll get you started.

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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