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  Sally McKenzie's
 Weekly Management e-Motivator
  1.30.04 Issue #99

Collections – Script the Perfect Story

Sally Mckenzie, CMC
McKenzie Management

   When was the last time you made a major purchase, and weren’t asked for payment up front or how you would like to arrange payment? It doesn’t happen in the real world, so why should it be happening in your practice? Business staff often allow patients to walk out the door with nary so much as a payment envelope in their hands. Not only does the doctor survive or perish based on collections, so too does the team, and it is essential the team understand this. At your next staff meeting take time to discuss your collections procedures and how they can be enhanced. If a

patient has concluded her visit with the hygienist and will be scheduling appointments for a crown or other major procedure, the time to talk $$$ is now, not when the treatment is complete. Take three critical steps to ensure that your collections are 98% or better.

  1. Plan for solid, dependable collections first by establishing a clear financial policy that patients and staff understand. Every successful business has such a policy. The key is to give adequate options to patients that benefit both the practice and the patient and control the urge to make policy exceptions a whim. [click here if you want a sample financial policy]
  2. Prepare. Effective collections require that you know exactly what you will say to the patient in virtually any collections circumstance. For example, the patient that will be returning for a procedure over $200 should be given the opportunity and encouraged to make payment today. Take this approach, “Mrs. Jones, your next appointment is for a crown, and that fee is $670. If you would like to pay for the procedure today or on the day of your first appointment you will receive a 5% reduction on the fee, which would be $637.”

    Wait for the patient’s response. If she says, “No, I can’t do that,” let the patient know that the practice also accepts major credit cards. If the patient says she cannot place it on her charge card, but she would like to make payments of $50 per month, politely and compassionately explain to the patient that as a small business, the practice is unable to extend interest free loans to patients.

    Then tell the patient about the arrangement the practice has with a patient financing firm, such as CareCredit. One of the greatest benefits of patient financing is that in most cases, patients can secure interest-free loans for three, six, and even 12 months to pay for treatment. Patients are very open to pursuing major treatment when 0% financing is provided and clearly explained.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice. Identify the various collections scenarios that the collections coordinator is likely to encounter and plan for those using strategies similar to that outlined above. Role play the situations during staff meetings, so that the staff fully understand the policies and those responsible for collections are prepared when patients raise questions or concerns.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

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Building On The Theory

How An Ailing Business Foundation Can Cause
“Digital Chaos”

Mark Dilatush
VP Professional Relations
McKenzie Management

Technology Tool Box

Last week, [see article], I started discussing the scheduling coordinator position. This week, I will continue with the scheduling coordinator’s job/technology responsibilities. Each dental office is different. You should consider the following data responsibilities as “bare minimum” for the position.

Scheduling Coordinator (continued)

Your scheduling coordinator should be responsible for the following...

1. Managing the business of hygiene – closing the back door.
In more than 75% of the dental offices we analyze, practices are losing more patients out the back door than they are attracting new through the front door. In an office that has a scheduling and financial coordinator, it is the scheduling coordinator’s job to stay on top of overdue recall patients. If you pre-appoint hygiene visits, this list can get long and seemingly unmanageable fairly quickly. A minimum of 5 outbound telephone calls MUST be made each work day to overdue recall patients. Pertinent notes from each conversation are kept in the computer system. The patient is either scheduled (best), left on the contact list for future follow up (most), or inactivated (worst) from the recall system altogether after several reactivation attempts have been made. This is not an overwhelming chore if you stick to the 5 phone call per day rule. Adjust accordingly in larger volume practices.

2. Family Scheduling
One fantastic way to provide world class service to the patient AND make your life easier is by using your system’s family scheduling feature every time the phone rings, a patient is standing in front of you, or any time you dial out to follow up with a patient. Basically, family scheduling organizes the whole family’s scheduling needs on one easy screen. It is a great service to today’s working parents to be able to review and schedule everyone in the family during one phone call. In our experience, this feature of your software is the most under-used scheduling feature. It is also the simplest feature to implement. If your practice management software has this capability, work it into your routine. It makes a scheduling coordinator’s job a lot faster and much more productive.

3. Tracking and reporting
The scheduling coordinator (in an office with both a financial and scheduling coordinator) has specific reporting responsibilities. One in particular, you will not find in your practice management software. It is “openings per day”. The goal you want to shoot for is .5 openings per provider per day. You can use a piece of paper or a simple Excel spreadsheet. As time goes by, you’ll begin to see trends and be able to measure how far away you are from your .5 opening per day target. Other reporting for the scheduling coordinator can come directly from the reports in your practice management software. Some may require a calculator. Below is a sample list. All reports should compare two months ago to last month.

Total gross production
Comparison of actual gross production to practice goal
Total hygiene production
Total unscheduled treatment
Total outstanding treatment plans
Number of outbound calls made (unscheduled treatment)
Number of outbound calls made (hygiene follow up)
Number of active patients
Number of hygiene hours per week needed
Total number of overdue patients still on recall list

Remember, we are here to help. Email me your questions or comments!

Interested in having Mark speak to your dental society or study club?
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Getting The Cold Shoulder


Giving Dentists And Their Staff Different Perspectives On Day To Day Issues

The Concepts of Leadership and Management

A Continuing Discussion

To reiterate last week’s discussion [See January 23th issue] ... there is a great deal of talk these days about leadership. It is a big concept that is thrown around in national and international politics and corporate America.

Today, the concept of leadership from politics and economics has been rationalized down to the level of the small business. This process has led to ambiguity, distortion, and confusion over how it should or should not apply. These detriments not only confuse the office staff who pines for a great leader on horseback, but also is distorted by the business owners who perceive themselves to be more responsible than they really are or need to be.

This week's column is a continuing discussion of the difference between leadership and management. For the sake of clarity, I believe that all business owners must be managers first and leaders second. The reason for this definition is that the goal of the office practice is simply to carry out the product and services as promised, effectively and efficiently. The typical office practice is not challenged with the responsibility of guiding millions of people and billions of dollars. Ours is a very simple challenge: make money and enjoy the day.

What is right !

Everyone on your left and on your right does things the right way. Deep down in their heart, they are doing it the best they can and they are doing it the right way for them. They very deeply believe this, and they expect you to respect the way they are doing things. All of us have had the experience of watching someone do something in a manner that seems to be odd and counterintuitive; however, the truth is it is counterintuitive to our intuition but not to theirs.

When running a business or participating as a member of the team, your ability to understand what is right is actually very relative to the others around you. It is for this reason that defining what is right in your office at a specific time and place is a requirement if the business is to run efficiently. In addition, such knowledge is necessary to receive the very best cooperation between the staff and the business owner. It is the clarity of the definition of what is right that provides for the efficiency of a well-run business or team.

The foundations of a well-run business are predicated on doing the right thing and doing it correctly. Business owners and office managers are required to do the right thing and to do it correctly. They set the model for the rest of the team. Furthermore, one of the requirements of a good manager is that they can step in and do anyone else's job should the need arise the right way, and it is presumed that the way the team does their job is the way the manager wants it done: the right way. Once the right way is clearly stated, it is supposed to be done correctly. The manager is charged with making sure that what is right is done correctly. There is no interpretation at the managers' level.

What is right and what is correct is always subject to interpretation by the leader. This might seem irresponsible, but the truth is there is more than one right way to do everything. There is more than one path to the top of the mountain, and for this reason, people must understand that what is right and then what is the right way is established by the leader of the organization. The leader establishes what is the right way to do it because it satisfies the larger vision. The leader is responsible for articulating the direction and the steps in that direction for the managers and the team.

It is reasonable to presume that the leader and the manager and the team all want to move in the direction that satisfies everyone's needs; however, this is not always the case. While the leader’s purpose may be obvious and self-explanatory, individuals may join a team with their own concept for direction. When this direction does not coincide with the direction of the leadership, there is certain to be conflict. It is the presence of chronic conflict that reveals a basic disagreement about what is right and how it should be done.


Just as I said last week that all brains love the novelty of creativity, all brains also love the stability that comes with knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The presence of stability within any organization diminishes anxiety and permits a sense of automatic functioning that can be pleasurable.

Just as knowing your job can lead to a repetitive pattern, repetition can also lead to a sense of peace and tranquility. Most businesses enjoy the stability and tranquility of knowing that there is business coming through the door and that the expectations for service and fees are agreeable to everyone. This allows people at work to feel comfortable that they are contributing to an ongoing enterprise and be a service to the community.

Managers are responsible for maintaining the stability of the daily routine. Managers are responsible for training staff not only to do their routine correctly, but also to be able to respond to changes in that routine. More than anything else, the manager is expected to be decisive in a moment of crisis. Any deflection in decision making at a critical moment undermines the team's desire to follow the managers lead. It is critical that the manager be a decisive personality. All too often, managers are hired for their years of experience rather than their capacity to manage. In order to manage, you want to be able to maintain stability, enjoy the daily routine, while handling any event that would upset that routine quickly and effectively.

The responsibilities for change at the leadership level are different. Leadership is responsible to accept that change is inevitable, and therefore the leader who can recognize what is just over the horizon and prepare effectively, creates opportunity for the business and the team. The leader is responsible to prepare the business for change in order to maintain competitiveness and profitability.

Leaders must anticipate and initiate as necessary in order to fulfill their obligation to their staff and clients. There is an obligation to be able to see around corners and over the hill. If a leader has demonstrated a good capacity to make good decisions, and to make those decisions decisively, then the business will follow his lead with a minimal amount of fear and trepidation. It is the leader’s responsibility to initiate change as necessary while at the same time encouraging the faith and strength of the staff. This is not always easy to do; however, it is essential and differentiates the leader from the manager.

In summary, the leader must initiate and recognize change and announce what is right, while the manager is responsible for maintaining the capacity to react effectively to that change and then set a model for doing what is right.

Regards, Coach

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McKenzie Management, Inc. has been named the WINNER in the DentalTown Magazine and 2003 Townie Choice Awards™ for Practice Management Consultants.

“It is an overwhelming honor to be singled out by literally thousands of dental practices across the country as the number one dental practice management firm,” said Sally McKenzie, President, McKenzie Management. “We know that dentists take great care in selecting only the very best products and services, and to be among this elite group is truly a testament to the commitment the McKenzie Management team has demonstrated over the past 23 years to provide consistently superior consulting products and services,” added Ms. McKenzie.

The McKenzie Management Team looks forward to continuing to provide the very best consulting services so that dental practices in turn can perform at their very best.


McKenzie Management, Inc.
737 Pearl Street
Suite 201
La Jolla, CA 92037

Sally's Mail Bag

Here is a posting on Message Board from a satisfied
McKenzie Management Client I wanted to share.

Here's one I got from my McKenzie consultant. Been working fantastic for us in the couple of weeks we've been doing it.

I ordered a bunch of ping pong balls - mostly white, but some yellow, red, blue, etc. We put them all in an empty 5-gallon water jug and designated dollar amounts for all the balls. White are $5, the other colors are designated $10, $15, $20, $25, and there is one with an eyeball on it that is $50. Each day that we make our total office goal, every employee gets to shake the jug and take out a ping pong ball.

You wouldn't believe how excited they have gotten over this game, and how hard we are all working to try and make our goals every day. We had been terribly slow for the past couple of months, but since we started the "game" we've made our goal at least 50% of the time.

We all love it - it doesn't cost me much (they get it in cash right on the spot), and it gives us something to shoot for each day, not like a monthly or quarterly goal. I've even caught them on a number of occasions "practicing" shaking the jug trying to figure out how to get the colored balls to come out.

So we're all having fun, getting something from it, and my production is better as well.

IN 2004?
Dr. Allan Monack,
Hygiene Clinical Consultant for
McKenzie Management,
develop a profitable
Hygiene Department

To find out more about the
Hygiene Clinical
Enrichment Program
[go here]
or contact us at:
or call:

Office Managers
Financial Coordinators
Scheduling Coordinators
Treatment Coordinators
Hygiene Coordinators
For a FREE
Educational Video
e-mail us at:
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Advanced Business Education for Dental Professionals
737 Pearl Street, Suite 201
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Missed Past Issues of Our e-Motivator Newsletter?

This issue is sponsored
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 Date Seminar Instructor(s)  
 Feb. 6
 9:00 - 4:00
How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Sally McKenzie, CMC.  
Mar. 5
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How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Sally McKenzie, CMC.  

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