Dental Practices can’t just phone it in

Your front line team members are the first client/customer facing representatives anyone comes into contact with when they call or enter your dental practice. Hopefully you’ve trained them to be both empathetic and professional. Let’s say you’ve gone a step further and they are also well – versed on best practices surrounding customer care. That’s it, you’re done!

Not so fast.

What happens where they’re engaged with a real life customer and the phone rings? Is your answering system as good as your staff? If not, then you have a big hole that needs a filling.

First off, the phone should be answered within four rings. If staff are too busy to do so, let it go to the answering system. Nobody wants to hear, “this is Dr. Smith’s office. I’m going to have to put you on hold.”

If it isn’t possible for any member of your team to grab that phone call within four rings, your message has to be the next best thing to speaking to a real person.

First, the answering system should allow patients a choice. They should be allowed to leave their name and phone number along with a request or question.  Alternately, the caller should be able to opt to stay on the line and wait. But if they do so, it is vitally important they are reminded every 30 seconds that you haven’t forgotten about them and that someone will be with them shortly. If, after two minutes, they are still waiting, they should have an additional option to leave a message. Here is where you differentiate yourself by promising to return the call within 15 minutes. Why is this important? That 15 minutes buys your time before they call another practice to set up an appointment.

Still not convinced about the importance of this seemingly minor issue? I’ve got a simple test for you. Do you remember the last time you were put on hold for a long time? Did you call back? I would guess you might have moved onto another provider.

We are all busy. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have time for clients. How you treat someone when you are busy speaks volumes about how much you would value them as a customer.

If you want to talk about how I can transform your dental practice into a customer service dynamo, please get in touch.

The most important person in your practice is the first and last one to see your patients

So you’ve got a dental office with technicians and great patient care specialists. Who’s the most important person in your business?

The answer is surprising to some. The surprise is that it’s not you. It’s actually the front-desk person. They are a patient’s first and last point of contact. They set the tone for the patient’s experience at your practice.

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Female patient coming to dental surgery check-up appointment reception

He or she must possess patience, knowledge, grace under pressure, and the ability to show empathy, along with being efficient and effective.

When recruiting for this crucial position, the following skill sets are of key importance:

∙ Sales skills

. Telephone skills

∙ Gathering and interpreting data

∙ Patient orientation

∙ Developing and providing information about a comprehensive treatment plan

∙ Reviewing financial options for the patient to receive care and treatment

∙ The ability to generate reports to assess the success and progress of your business team

∙ Review and make necessary adjustments to procedures and processes through daily, biweekly, weekly, or monthly meetings and discussions

 

As you can see, this is a position that goes well beyond “receptionist.” Your front desk person has to wear many hats throughout the day, and it all starts with how they answer the phone.

If you want to talk about how I can make your dental practice a dynamo in customer service, please get in touch.

Guidelines​ ​for​ ​building​ ​an​ ​effective​ ​team

To​ ​me,​ ​T.E.A.M.​ ​means​ ​“together​ ​employees​ ​achieve​ ​mastership.”

It’s​ ​a​ ​convenient​ ​acronym.​ ​But​ ​it’s​ ​more​ ​than​ ​that.​ ​In​ ​order​ ​for​ ​it​ ​to​ ​work​ ​leadership​ ​has​ ​to
make​ ​sure​ ​its​ ​team​ ​has​ ​the​ ​tools​ ​to​ ​succeed.​ ​Training,​ ​education,​ ​attitude​ ​and​ ​money​ ​are
the​ ​building​ ​blocks.​ ​Take​ ​away​ ​any​ ​of​ ​those​ ​elements​ ​and​ ​your​ ​team​ ​is​ ​just​ ​a​ ​gathering​ ​of
paid​ ​employees.

What-are-the-factors-of-successful-leadership

Medical team of three professional woman at dental surgery portrait

Experience​ ​has​ ​taught​ ​me​ ​that​ ​people,​ ​who​ ​both​ ​want​ ​and​ ​need​ ​employment,​ ​are​ ​the​ ​ideal candidates​ ​for​ ​building​ ​a​ ​great​ ​team​.​ ​I’ve​ ​seen​ ​how​ ​people​ ​who​ ​hate​ ​their​ ​jobs​ ​and​ ​those who​ ​don’t​ ​need​ ​their​ ​jobs​ ​are​ ​never​ ​really​ ​fully​ ​committed​ ​to​ ​them.

Commitment,​ ​loyalty,​ ​trust​ ​and​ ​a​ ​desire​ ​to​ ​work​ ​are​ ​the​ ​ingredients​ ​for​ ​fantastic​ ​employees
who​ ​become​ ​integral​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​amazing​ ​teams.​ ​And​ ​at​ ​the​ ​risk​ ​of​ ​sounding​ ​somewhat​ ​agist​ ​-
and​ ​having​ ​been​ ​a​ ​former​ ​member​ ​of​ ​this​ ​cohort​ ​-​ ​​ ​I’ve​ ​found​ ​people​ ​in​ ​their​ ​20s​ ​go​ ​through
so​ ​many​ ​of​ ​their​ ​own​ ​changes​ ​that​ ​the​ ​odds​ ​of​ ​them​ ​still​ ​being​ ​with​ ​your​ ​team​ ​into​ ​their​ ​30s
is​ ​not​ ​great.​ ​That​ ​doesn’t​ ​mean​ ​you​ ​shouldn’t​ ​give​ ​young​ ​people​ ​opportunities.​ ​But​ ​do​ ​so
knowing​ ​that​ ​your​ ​job​ ​is​ ​probably​ ​seen​ ​as​ ​a​ ​stepping​ ​stone​ ​to​ ​something​ ​bigger​ ​and​ ​better.

The​ ​average​ ​dental​ ​office​ ​will​ ​have​ ​fewer​ ​than​ ​ten​ ​employees.​ ​That​ ​works​ ​in​ ​the​ ​owner’s
favour.​ ​Managing​ ​and​ ​coaching​ ​a​ ​small​ ​staff​ ​provides​ ​excellent​ ​opportunities​ ​for
mentorship​ ​and​ ​skills​ ​development​ ​while​ ​also​ ​delivering​ ​exceptional​ ​service​ ​to​ ​the​ ​patients.
But​ ​that​ ​tidy​ ​size​ ​comes​ ​at​ ​a​ ​price.​ ​Fewer​ ​staff​ ​means​ ​difficulties​ ​in​ ​times​ ​of​ ​family
commitments,​ ​illness​ ​and​ ​such.​ ​However​ ​when​ ​you​ ​have​ ​a​ ​real​ ​TEAM​ ​they​ ​pull​ ​together
and​ ​help​ ​each​ ​other​ ​out​ ​-​ ​so​ ​that​ ​your​ ​patient​ ​experience​ ​doesn’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​suffer.

Another​ ​quality​ ​I​ ​look​ ​for​ ​when​ ​building​ ​a​ ​team,​ ​is​ ​a​ ​person’s​ ​marketing,​ ​sales​ ​and
business​ ​experience.​ ​Knowing​ ​the​ ​field​ ​of​ ​dentistry​ ​is​ ​a​ ​nice​ ​but​ ​not​ ​necessarily​ ​essential
skill​ ​for​ ​an​ ​employee​ ​to​ ​have.​ ​​ ​If​ ​forced​ ​to​ ​choose​ ​between​ ​someone​ ​who​ ​is​ ​knowledgeable
and​ ​one​ ​who​ ​has​ ​great​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​management​ ​skills,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​always​ ​pick​ ​the​ ​latter.​ ​Clinical
skills​ ​can​ ​be​ ​taught;​ ​teaching​ ​management​ ​and​ ​sales​ ​are​ ​much​ ​more​ ​difficult.

That​ ​doesn’t​ ​mean​ ​your​ ​team​ ​should​ ​be​ ​devoid​ ​of​ ​dental​ ​experience.​ ​You​ ​will​ ​always​ ​need
to​ ​have​ ​individuals​ ​with​ ​a​ ​background​ ​and​ ​knowledge​ ​of​ ​the​ ​dental​ ​business​ ​and​ ​dental
hygiene.​ ​I​ ​would​ ​be​ ​lying​ ​if​ ​I​ ​said​ ​it​ ​is​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​find​ ​such​ ​individuals;​ ​in​ ​fact,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​extremely
difficult.​ ​In​ ​some​ ​cases,​ ​it​ ​may​ ​appear​ ​impossible,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​can​ ​be​ ​done.

There​ ​is​ ​an​ ​old​ ​adage​ ​in​ ​business​ ​that​ ​for​ ​every​ ​$10,000​ ​you​ ​pay​ ​a​ ​person,​ ​​ ​you​ ​should
spend​ ​a​ ​month​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​RIGHT​ ​person.​ ​What​ ​that​ ​means​ ​is​ ​that​ ​if​ ​you’re​ ​going​ ​to​ ​pay
someone​ ​$50,000​ ​a​ ​year,​ ​you​ ​should​ ​be​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​spend​ ​five​ ​months​ ​on​ ​the​ ​hiring​ ​process.
I​ ​can’t​ ​emphasize​ ​that​ ​enough.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​critical​ ​step​ ​in​ ​accomplishing​ ​your​ ​goal​ ​of​ ​developing
the​ ​ideal​ ​dental​ ​business.​ ​Not​ ​selecting​ ​the​ ​right​ ​individuals​ ​when​ ​putting​ ​together​ ​your
team​ ​will​ ​result​ ​in​ ​an​ ​enormous​ ​cost​ ​to​ ​you​ ​and​ ​your​ ​organization​ ​over​ ​the​ ​long​ ​run.

If​ ​this​ ​sounds​ ​like​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​work​ ​-​ ​it​ ​is.​ ​But​ ​it’s​ ​the​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​work​ ​that​ ​if​ ​done​ ​right,​ ​will​ ​be​ ​pay dividends​ ​every​ ​day​ ​you​ ​open​ ​your​ ​doors.

Provide a positive customer experience to profit from your patients

When someone walks into a dental office they are both a patient and a consumer.

As they sit in the chair with mouths open, they’re obviously your patient. But in the moments before and after they are most definitely a consumer.

If you don’t think so, just consider the impact Google recommendations can have on your practice.

Providing a good “consumer experience” is just as important as providing good patient outcomes to your success as a dentist. You could be the greatest dentist in the world. But if you constantly screw up your billing, or let your waiting room become a museum for decades old issues of Dentistry Today, then people will be less likely to return to your practice or recommend it to friends and family.

It’s about vision and purpose. You need to determine what is going to turn your patients into repeat customers – while keeping your focus squarely on the health outcomes of everyone who walks through your door.

Patients or customers will be moved when they understand your value proposition is lifelong health with a solid customer focus.

Knowing that their health, and not their pocketbook, is your priority builds trust and makes patients more likely to agree to treatment plans recommended by you. This is key to growing your practice.

When I look at different practices what I find is while treatment plans are usually acceptable to customers, the rate of case acceptance by customers is rather low.

If your patients do not believe, like and trust (BLT) you, it becomes very difficult to get case acceptance. And even when you do get grudging case acceptance from a patient who does not 100% believe, like or trust in you, it will ultimately it will lead to problems.

Focus on aesthetics, function and structure. If you combine these three elements, you will significantly improve case acceptance and you’ll profit from it.

In the end, health care providers are held in high esteem. But selling is not negative. You are a service provider. And if your service has value and it is demonstrated at every point of the customer experience your practice will grow.

If you’re a dentist or other healthcare professional and you’d like to discuss how to build a practice based on positive customer experience, please get in touch.

The journey from believing to achieving business success

Are you a believer or an achiever? Do you cruise through your day believing you’re doing a good job or do you actually have a strategy to make it happen?

I read statistics recently that showed 92 percent of CEOs believe they deliver excellent customer satisfaction. The reality however, showed that only about 8 percent actually hit that goal.

The 92 percent may be true believers.  But belief in itself doesn’t deliver anything other than a false sense of achievement. Making the leap to actually producing results requires something I call the 3Ds: design, develop and deliver.

So how do you do this?

First, take your final product and divide it up into the elements needed to design a complete customer experience. Then hone and further develop and refine that complete customer experience on an ongoing basis. Remember it’s not a ‘do and done’ thing: it requires attention and adaptability to influences both within and without the organization.

Finally, you and your team have to deliver.

Every. Single. Time.

Failing on that third ‘D’ makes everything else pointless. I’ve seen this happen again and again. And the result is wasteful spending on advertising, additional sales staff, acquisitions, products and gimmicks all in a desperate attempt to achieve a goal that is not clearly defined or understood.

Would you set out on a road trip without a map and travel plans? Of course not. So why would you do it in business?

The key is to make the connection between profits and your customer satisfaction experience. Many managers don’t understand this connection and spend their time squeezing staff and customers in pursuit of fast profits over long term success.

They never understand that a satisfied customer base is actually the best street level marketing team a company can have. Customers talk to their friends and colleagues and rave about your service at their dinner tables, social gatherings and family events. These advocates have a level of access and a credibility that no salesperson could ever match. What’s more, they’re free to you if you deliver a great customer experience.

Of course the opposite is true. Deliver a mediocre or poor customer experience and your business will suffer. Instead of talking your business up, people will ask their friends, family and colleagues for suggestions on where to find a better experience. So you’ve not only lost that one customer – but everyone else they talk to.

When developing that customer experience, look at all of it. From your appointment system to the cleanliness of your washrooms to the magazines in your waiting room, all of it is about delivering the ideal customer experience.

Design, develop and deliver. Turn that into your business mantra, your business culture and you’ll see the results in your bottom line.

If you’re a dentist or other healthcare professional and you’d like to discuss how to lead a business that works for you please get in touch.

Is your business in the good profit or bad profit game?

In dentistry as in most businesses, how your business operates says more about your company than you might suspect.

The culture of your workplace reflects your company values. If staff attend carefully to patients instead of rushing them in and out, then you have a more healthy culture.

 

Your people are your company’s greatest asset. In order to find continued success you need a hardworking, dedicated and motivated team. But if you do not have a great people-culture, it’s your responsibility to improve it.

I have been in this game a long time.  I have found that one of the key factors in  success has been the positive relationships with team members, leaders and managers have internally and also with patients. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to cultivate this over time with excellent processes, procedures and outstanding communication.

Why bother?

Good relationships lead to what I call ‘good profits.’ This is a continuous revenue stream that comes from good customer interactions and relationships. In essence you’re building customer loyalty not on price, but service based on a personal touch. People want to stay with you. When this is done they will tell their friends and family members.

Of course the opposite can true. Bad profits are those revenues earned when you chase after every dollar and squeeze employees at every opportunity. They won’t like you. It will show in the way they act around patients and each other. As they say “you can’t fake authenticity.”

The result is patients don’t feel loyalty and they don’t return. Worse still they may also tell their friends about the experience they had. An unsatisfied customer is more than a missed opportunity – it’s multiple lost opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, what you need to do is treat your customers the way you’d want to be treated.

Good profits are earned when customers or patients continually come back for additional services and products and rave to friends and family about their excellent experience.

These customers become promoters of your business and they’re worth far more than any advertising dollars you’ll spend. People trust word-of-mouth and they are the most cost-effective growers of your business you’ll ever have.

The ultimate question is how do you create the appropriate processes and procedures? Start by measuring what makes your customer or patient satisfied and happy. This comes with quality assurance and quality assessment on every point of service. Review and improve your existing processes and procedures and focus on your customers and patients, plus team members, leaders and managers. All areas of an organization need constant improvement and that will come with continual organizational communication.

The goal is you want your team members and patients to (BLT) Believe, Like and Trust you and your organization.

So what does your business focus on: bad or good profits?

If you’re a dentist or other healthcare professional and you’d like to discuss how to lead a business that works for you please get in touch.

 

Dentistry is changing: do you know where you fit in?

Dentistry as we know it is changing right before our eyes. The data is clear: fewer and fewer dentists are practicing as solo practitioners and more of us are moving toward group practice. While everyone has their own reasons, the biggest draw seems to be creating a better work-life balance.

 

patient-care-and-customer-service

It’s an understandable choice. On one hand your are expected to be an excellent healthcare provider, leader, and business person. While at the same time you have a family and all the obligations that come along with it.

For the majority of us who are not superhuman, something has to give. And most of the time the hit is taken on the family side of the ledger.

So it’s no surprise that many of us look to corporate dentistry – specifically DSO’s and or MSO’s – to even out the personal balance sheet.

Dental Service or Support Organizations or Managed Service or Support Organizations are markedly different from ordinary ‘mom and pop’ solo dental corporations.

The biggest benefit to the dentist looking for a bit of balance and structure is that MSOs come with built in processes, marketing, education and support that eliminate many of the headaches solo practices have to deal with.

But there is also a cost. That cost comes from the loss of control to equity partners, more interested in profits than patients. In many instances these groups are only in the game for 3 to 7 years after which the investment arm cashes in it’s chips and moves on.

At that point another group will step in with it’s own ideas about how things should be done.   

This invariably causes disruption and a lack of continuity within the organization. On the positive side process and procedures will be put in place that could perhaps reduce waste and control some costs. But that doesn’t entirely offset other factors such as additional layers of management, and an emphasis on short term profits at the expense of long term failure.

This isn’t an issue for discussion anymore. We must adapt and modify our practices and prepare team members and the public for these changes.

There is room for both business models. And the hope is that each model will force the other to become better not just in care but in service.

In the end patients are attracted to a particular dental practice based on their needs, finances and education. A majority will be moved by slick marketing, convenient hours and numerous locations. But others will value the continuity of care specialized services and BLT: an office they Believe In, Like and Trust.

If you’re a dentist and you’d like to discuss how to create a practice that works for you please get in touch.

Leadership is about building up the people around you

customer-service-and-dental-practicesLeadership is such a commanding term that it’s easy to overlook that at its best, it’s simply influence. People in your organization want to know what direction to go and your cues often tell them everything they need to know.

I’d like to share a recent story of an instance when a change in leadership definately didn’t work and why. The new regime, quickly shifted focus to immediate bottom line results. What followed was a wave of cost-cutting terminations of some excellent,  long term employees.

This type of short term thinking is almost always guaranteed to result in long-term headaches.

Sometimes the term leader is misused. I’ve seen individuals placed in leadership positions without the skills, knowledge, ability and personalities to truly lead.

In many cases, these individuals come into the role with little confidence or were blinded by power and greed. It would be laughable if the end results weren’t so awful. Leaders have to look out for those they lead. And those who don’t quickly lose the commitment of employees to the organization.  

The true success of any business is not the bottom line, but the ability to create a service and product people clamour for and want. And creating this kind of success requires that employees believe  the organization is doing the right things at the right time for the right reasons.

In the particular situation noted above, I watched as individuals who developed a magnificent business based on trust, belief and likeability were shown the door, as the business itself slowly fell apart.

For those of you that think you’re leaders, or those of you who hope to be leaders, or those of you who have been put in leadership positions, consider what your ultimate goal is. Your goal should be to build a great business, not for the short term, but for the long term. Your goals should be to bring the people around you up, not down.

You have to be constant in your commitment to communication, fairness and honesty. Following these basic tenants will certainly make you feel better, and ultimately create an excellent product and long term success.

I offer one-on-one coaching to help busy professionals develop the leadership skills to succeed in any workplace. If this sounds like something you could use please get in touch.

The factors behind Successful Leadership Part 4

Leading makes a leader. I discovered this a number of years ago when I found myself the head of my dental practice.

And like many, leading was an unexpected byproduct of heading up a dental team.

I knew what I wanted but I had to learn to become a leader for my partners, colleagues and staff. Leadership wasn’t about me: it was about them. Helping them to do their jobs at the highest level they could do by providing them with the encouragement, guidance and example to follow.

I did a lot of research and learning along the way and found that it came down to 17 areas that contributed to becoming a successful leader.

They are motivation, tolerance, trust, purpose, vision, attitude, awareness, determination, commitment, endeavor, tenacity, belief, faith, inspiration, self-control, willpower and patience.

I’ve covered many of them in three previous blog posts.

Here’s the rest….

Inspiration

Where do your ideas come from? Where do your team members’ ideas come from? In business you will always need new and fresh ideas. They could come from all walks of life, all different types of people, all different ideas, but you constantly need to renew your ideas and come up with fresh ones. Many times I find I get inspiration from the people around me. It can be an inspiring story or something I’ve learned about a team member or partner that I fully didn’t understand or was aware of. Think about those who inspired you, why they did, and work to create that same atmosphere so that the people around and near you walk away inspired.

Self Control

Self-control is critical. In the heat of battle, it’s difficult, even at time almost impossible to have self-control. But it is a crucial part of success and leadership.

Self-control starts first by understanding yourself, knowing the buttons that can trigger your reactions, and trying to maintain your personal self-control.

And in the end, it’s willpower, the constant drive to be the best at what you’re doing and to instill that willpower in the team members around you.

If you are struggling with becoming a leader in your organisation – whether it be in healthcare environment or not, the principles remain the same.

I offer one-on-one coaching to help busy professionals develop the leadership skills to succeed in any workplace. If this sounds like something you could use please get in touch.

The factors behind Successful Leadership Part 3

What makes a leader?

For many it’s a process that starts when they find themselves in a leadership position. They suddenly have the title – even if they don’t necessarily have the skills. When I found myself in that position as the head of a dental practice, I took a deep dive into researching leadership.

What-makes-a-dentist-a-good-leader

Over time I found there were a number of crucial factors that contributed to becoming a successful leader.

They are motivation, tolerance, trust, purpose, vision, attitude, awareness, determination, commitment, endeavor, tenacity, belief, faith, inspiration, self-control, willpower and patience.

In two previous blog posts, I explored some of them. Here are some more…

Determination

Having worked with hundreds and perhaps thousands of employees over the past 30 years, it’s become clear to me that a strong willed, determined individual can become a superstar. The key is having the determination, the drive and the desire to succeed. Without those traits, it’s extremely difficult to raise a team member to a higher level of success.

The same is true for leadership. Without determination, your organization will start to fail. Business, like relationships, are difficult and require enormous amounts of determination to succeed.

Commitment

Mean what you say, say what you mean and don’t deviate from that. Working with employees, team members and partners, I’ve learned that if a commitment is made and you don’t fully pursue the outcome, trouble ensues. You have to talk the talk and walk the walk. You’re setting an example and people will respond. When you make a commitment, make sure you can keep it.

Tenacity

Tenacity means that no matter the challenge, you never give up. Further, it’s up to you to  instill this tenacity in the people around you. My experience is that unfortunately people generally lack this mindset and give up too easily. The hard fact is you have to constantly push yourself to be successful in leadership and management.

Belief

Simply put, believe in yourself or others don’t believe in you.

Faith

As with belief, you have to have faith in yourself before people will have faith in you. And that faith must also include faith in your people and team to get the job done. If their faith in you fades or yours in them,  your business will struggle and your leadership will falter.

If you are running a business and struggling with leadership issues, I’d like to talk to you. My business coaching will help you define a vision for your business and walk you through the steps to become a better leader – that delivers superior results.