The ONLY thing that sets you apart from the rest………..

I’ve got two words for you.

CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Ok, well, let’s make that three words.

EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE.

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Just what does “exceptional customer service” look like?

  • It starts with the phone. Every single phone call should be handled with the highest level of friendliness, warmth, patience and focused on connections. Listen to how your phone is being answered, how callers are being spoke to, and what the end results of the calls are. I’m telling you this – If you have NASTY answering your phone, you are severely crippling your opportunity. If you have BUSY or CLIPPED answering the phone, you are allowing a major roadblock to scheduling opportunity.  Make your telephone customer service SO genuine, warm and friendly, that even if someone doesn’t appoint NOW, they will remember how wonderful you made them feel. BLOW EVERY CALLER OUT OF THE WATER. Every single caller and visitor. You know, the guy who delivers your water? Potential patient. The guy who changes your reception area rugs out weekly? Potential patient. The fireman calling to ask for a donation? Potential patient. Rock that customer service like no one has ever seen.

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  • Be honest. Avoiding answering insurance questions to a potential new patient calling in builds distrust. If they ask, be honest. Honesty goes a long way. So does being nice and listening to the caller.  I’m certainly not saying to make the initial conversation all about insurance and finances (we make it about CONNECTING) – but it’s a valid concern among every single patient that deserves answers, if they ask. If you tell a patient SURE we accept your insurance, what they are hearing is “yeah, no co-pays for me! FREE cleanings!” and if this is NOT what is delivered, I can guarantee you that you will have patients leaving (and bad mouthing you) faster than they come in. Your care and dentistry warrant your fees and you should never hide them or cringe when quoting. If you do, you’ll notice a reflection of this in your scheduling and treatment acceptance.
  • Greet every single patient and person that enters your doors. With a welcome! Hello! Nice to see you! How are you? Whatever the greeting is – do it! Roll out that welcome mat! Every single person in this world just wants to feel special. Be acknowledged. There is nothing worse than entering a medical/dental facility and have to figure out where to sign in on your own, look around and figure you’ll go have a seat, but wondering if someone realizes your there. This greeting costs you NOTHING but will reward you with everything! New patients? Shake their hands! Welcome them and thank them for choosing your practice! (And have every employee at some time during that visit take 10 seconds to welcome that new patient and introduce themselves! – You want to talk about WOW???)

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  • Go the extra mile. Always. A new patient not sure about their insurance? Verify it. Follow up with your follow-up. Post op calls. Courtesy calls. Personal thank you calls for referrals. The list goes on and on. Leave no opportunity to go the extra mile unattended.

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  • If you tell a patient something is going to happen, by gosh make it happen! You don’t ever want to get a call from a patient saying “Well, so & so said they were going to call me to schedule this appointment, and I haven’t heard from anyone” or “I have left 4 messages for so & so to call me regarding my bill and no one has got back to me yet”. I personally have a follow-up list, handwritten, by my computer that ensures that I cannot forget to follow-up. On our call logs, we highlight any one who needs attention and make sure that follow-up is consistent. If you need to follow-up with a patient, put it on  your appointment book and whomever accomplishes the task needs to initial it. Whatever systems you have, or need to put in place, DO IT and follow them consistently. Reliability goes a long way with patients knowing that you have them taken care of.
  • Proper billing and insurance follow-up. We all know insurance is a drag, but for those of you who do balance bill, keeping your insurance aging report stabilized is not only crucial for your cash flow, it’s also part of great customer service. You haven’t followed up on a claim over 6 months old, and NOW want to bill the patient? Ask me how well this technique flies. It doesn’t. Do not allow patients to walk away because of YOUR lack of systems and follow-up.
  • Answer your phones, a minimum of 40-45 hours a week. I’m not saying after hours, because frankly, most practices don’t need to. The majority of patients calling are during normal weekly business hours,  unless of course there is an emergency. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is for a working mom to finally get the thought and time to call to schedule appointments for her family, only to be greeted with an informal voicemail letting her know that either you are out to lunch or out for the day? Nothing chafes me more than getting a voicemail stating they are out to lunch. I call to schedule appointments and take care of business on MY lunch hour, and I’m the customer! Stagger lunches, whatever you have to do. (and for the love of God, please quit leaving your weekly hours and lunch hours detailed on your voicemail – people hang up when they have to endure that torture) 1006170_10151980905060830_1946704832_n
  • Work your schedule. In coordination with answering your phones, working your schedule allows your patients to be taken care of, in their time frames – it also improves your production at the same time! Let’s say you are out of the office on Friday. Somebody calls to cancel for first thing Monday morning and leaves a message (that won’t be checked until Monday morning). You have 5 people on  your priority list that want to get in sooner for their appointments yet no one is going to get that message or be able to reach out to the priority list people in time enough to accommodate the patient needs, or support your production. See where I’m going with this?? Show me a phone that is answered minimum of 40-45 hours a week along with a scheduled worked in coordination with that and I’ll show you a pretty banging schedule.
  • Don’t be afraid to have charity in  your heart. Someone isn’t financially prepared to pay for much-needed x-rays today? Comp them. Let them know you aren’t going to charge them today for the x-rays, but you feel so strongly about their oral health care that with their permission you are going to do them today at no cost. I’m not saying to do this every day, or for every patient that has financial concerns. I’m just saying there is always room for charity and good deeds in this world, and that gesture of kindness will come back to you ten-fold.

There is opportunity in every single second of every single day to provide over the top customer service. How many of these opportunities are you tapping in to?

Let’s face it. To a regular patient walking down the street, a dentist is a dentist and a filling is a filling. The ONE thing that will ALWAYS set you apart from anyone else, is your level of patient connection and care.

Exceptional customer service is the “feel-good” that you want to impress upon anyone who has contact with your practice. People rarely remember what you say, but they always remember how you made them feel.

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Here’s to a fabulous week of fabulous patient care – Make this your new normal and watch what happens to your schedule, production, employee morale and job satisfaction!

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You mean you are NOT a mind reader?

ImageCommunication Breakdown  = Frustration.

Frustration always rears it’s ugly head when there is a lack of communication, or a misunderstanding. Some one heard something wrong – someone said something wrong – in some people’s lives, someone LOOKED at someone wrong.

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Frustration can lead to all kinds of ugly. Ugly words. Ugly feelings. Ugly actions. I personally like to avoid it at all costs.

Come on. Admit it. How many times have you thought “well I can’t read your mind” to a team member,  spouse or even a patient?

Communication – effective communication is one of the most valuable skills a person can have. Being able to assess how another human being needs to communicate and delivering the goods in their speak is an amazing talent that some have been God-given, while others  must work diligently at embracing the challenge of building communication bases.

Communication can make or break patient relationships including treatment case acceptance and scheduling.

Communication can make or break team member relationships, what you get “out” of them and employee loyalty and longevity.

Whether the communication barrier is between a dds and patient, a dds and a staff member, a staff member and patient, or amongst team members themselves, the majority of the time it’s because there was a lack of communication, misunderstanding or an expectation was not stated (or heard) clearly.

Complaining about your FD  because of something they do that annoys you? Have you CLEARLY communicated and discussed this challenge with them? Or do you think they can read your mind? I know. I know. There are some things that we feel should NOT have to be verbally communicated because WE think the other person should just inherently know it… “get” it…. Or maybe you are saying that you’ve already TOLD them 12,000 times! You go slamming up to the FD because you’re afternoon fell apart 3 hours ago and no one has attempted to fill it – yes, they should know but this is a chance to not only communicate your expectations, but now set the bar to be held accountable!

Front desk people, although we are DARN great at what we do, for the most part, can’t read your mind. Hard to admit, but true. I’d like to think that sometimes I can though……….

How about presenting, calmly, what your frustration is, and asking what ideas they may have to help better the situation? I was always taught to never present a problem without also providing 3 possible solutions. This may seem elementary to some, but the idea of it is NOT necessarily the solutions, but the communication it will engage! Discuss what needs done, by whom, by when and who is going ensure accountability. (the next step of course is follow-through but that’s in another blog) Clearly outlined expectations, systems and action plans.

Decrease your stress and increase your work satisfaction – all by communication.

(Sometimes the communication will bring you to the point of making a decision – one you may not want to make but communication is going to drive you to let go of dead weight, support and encourage team growth and forge ahead to live your vision!)

You can’t change what you refuse to confront.

confrontBanging your head against  your desk because you’ve seen Mrs. Smith 8 times in the past 1 1/2 years for the pain she is having in tooth #12 and she is not only refusing to move forward with the rct and crown, but refuses to even engage you in that conversation and just wants some more antibiotics to get her through? Communication break down. It’s time to have a heart to heart with ole Mrs. Smith – sit down beside her and just ASK. “Mrs. Smith – we need to talk. What’s going on?” (then be quiet). You’ll be so surprised at what people SPILL when you ask that simple question then just sit back and zip your lip. If she asks “going on? what do you mean” you just say “about this tooth and what I’ve recommended”………….. It’s the beginning of a beautiful new relationship.

Team members angry at each other? So & So isn’t pulling her weight – everyone has to clean up after her. Nitpicking, gossip and negativity ABOUND. Communicate your expectations on how team members need to communicate challenges and how you are going to work together as a team to overcome. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and address the white elephant that is suffocating your practice.

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Team members boo-hoo’ing about how horrible their boss is? The doc doesn’t listen, is pissed all the time, throws things and basically has every team member scared to death of them?

Is the boss sending mixed signals of “my door is open” but “don’t you dare knock”? Please don’t be “this” person.

ImageLack of communication. Misunderstandings. No clearly outlined expectations.

All three are relationship KILLERS.

If you are finding yourself frustrated time and time again, ask yourself what can YOU do to improve not only your situation, but effectively communicate your expectations to ensure that you are not only getting your point across and needs met, but possibly supporting the person on the other end in enhancing their abilities and gaining a communication understanding themselves. Ask your team what YOU can do better. Ask them what THEY can do better.

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Great communication is the core of great teams.

Happy teams. Productive teams.

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Here’s to fabulous communication which will result in less frustration which will produce less stress and more happy people.

worth-it

MB

PS – I know what you are thinking right now. Hee-hee!

Isn’t it time you replaced that boring, non-productive, unfriendly “answering” service with a result producing, production scheduling, friendly, AWESOME service?

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My name is consistency – Want to hang out?

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con·sist·en·cy

conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.

the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time.

Consistency. We’ve all heard about how consistency is key – consistency is crucial – but let me ask. What IS or IS NOT consistent if your office? What would you like to change?

We all KNOW it. We all WANT to be consistent with our systems and efforts. But usually after about 7 days, our attention wanders and we become lackadaisical in our consistency efforts.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t see fast enough results. Maybe it’s because it was just easier to fade back into our “old” consistencies – which if you think about it is what has led you to today.

LACK OF CONSISTENT SYSTEMS = LACK OF SUCCESS.

Maybe you hired a consultant, who TOLD you the things to do or systems to implement, but no one stuck around long enough to SHOW you how to implement the  systems, or HOLD you and your team accountable in the consistency to ensure the new systems held tight.

What I will tell you is that consistent systems that become habit are directly related to the success of, well, anything!

imagesShow me a dental office that has core systems defined and utilized consistently, without fail, with motivation and habit as driving factors, and I’ll show you not only a happy, well oiled machine of a team, but I’ll show you a full schedule of happy patients who are referring others – keeping their appointments and following through with treatment.

You know what I’m talking about – consistency within a dental practice will make you or break you. Consistency in recare systems, follow-up systems, new patient care systems etc.

It can’t be a hit or miss. It can’t be team members saying “well, I didn’t have time today to do that” or “I was having a bad day so I didn’t feel like it”. (can’t be YOU saying that either!)

It has to be every day, every patient, every time.

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The more dedication a system requires, the longer it will take to become habit. Here is a great read on this very subject. This article says on average it takes at least 66 days for something to become a habit. http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php

If you think just “telling” someone once to change something is going to really effect a long-term consistent change, think again. You need to discuss WHY the change, HOW the change, WHEN the change, WHO is affected, design the change, implement the change and finally the accountability factor.

imagesHere are a few areas to monitor your consistency for success – Master these, and you will notice growth in production, referrals, team and patient satisfaction and overall contentment.

1) New patients. Do they show up for their first appointment only to never be heard from again? Do they schedule for their next appointment prior to leaving? Do they accept treatment recommendations? Have a solid, consistent plan in place to ensure your new patients are not only completely WOW’d by your care, but schedule their next appointments and refer their family and friends. Want to know how to do that? Check out our fully detailed blog for New Patient BOO or New Patient WOO-HOO!You should NEVER be looking around asking or wondering where new patient so&so went. You should KNOW!

2) Referrals OUT. Have you ever referred a patient out to ortho, a periodontist or oral surgeon, and found  yourself a few month later wondering what happened to that patient? Have a solid referral system that is monitored consistently for incoming and outgoing referrals. Who follows up, by when, and ensure that the patient follows through with treatment and appointments. You should personally (quickly) review each follow-up communication received and initial. Your admin team should have noted the patient next appointment or patient communication to keep everyone in the know. Stop losing patients out the referral door! It’s not JUST the follow-up. It’s consistency!

3) LAB cases. Be honest. How many of you have had a patient on the scheduled with reserved time for a crown seat, only to have the patient show up and find out the crown isn’t back yet? YIKES. What a waste of your time, your payroll and the patients time. No appointment for a lab case gets confirmed without verification of the lab case being back. Someone should be reviewing the schedule, consistently, to watch for lab related appointments and verify the status.

4) Unscheduled treatment. How often do patients leave without scheduling the treatment you just recommended? You know, they need to check their schedule – or check with their spouse – or they will call back. Consistent follow-up is CRUCIAL in getting these patients scheduled. If you don’t follow-up in a timely manner, chances are you are not going to see them again until their next cleaning. Follow the 2-2-2 method. Follow up in 2 days, 2 weeks and 2 months. Keep a tickler system, excel spreadsheet – anything that will help you monitor this system, and work it consistently!

5) Broken/missed appointments. Yes, even these must be monitored. Your chances of getting these patients back on the schedule decrease as more time passes. Detailed NOTES are a must (and consistent!) with reason for cancel/no-show, who we spoke with and when we may follow-up. If a patient cancelled due to the flu, if that is noted, not only do we know we can usually follow-up within 2 weeks, but what a great “in” to be able to ask how they are feeling now?? Details. You can never have too many when it comes to follow-up. This list should be worked consistently, if not daily!

6) Recare. Your recare system must be solid and consistent.  Haven’t worked the recare system lately? Why not? Oh, you didn’t have time? Well,  you’re going to have the time real soon when  your schedule drops off because you didn’t work that recare system consistently. Calls, postcards and consistent monitoring will keep your schedule full. You ever notice how your schedule is slammed and then BOOM your dead? This is why. Recare systems fall to the wayside during busy times and this is what creates the slow times. A solid recare system that is worked consistently.

7. Insurance and account aging.For the love of God, RUN your account and insurance aging reports at least biweekly. Do NOT wait until there is such a load in either that it negatively impacts your cash flow! Not only should these reports be ran consistently, any outstanding or overdue challenges should be worked consistently until resolution!

8. Confirmations.Confirm your appointments. By any and all means. Consistently. I have a heart attack if I remote into an office who has not confirmed their very next day. Why would you leave your schedule, payroll, production, income and overhead to chance? You CAN control the majority of your schedule – and by doing this consistently, you may not ever totally stop no-shows or late cancels, but you can control and keep your schedule full. (Here is a blog with great info on that – When Donkeys Fly)

9. Morning Huddles. Yes. I did say morning huddles. Every day. You should know what your day consists of and ensure your team is on the same page. Where to put any emergencies for the day (better than having team members run up to you all day asking where to put one, right?), when is the next treatment opening (so clinical team can offer up that appointment on the spot) and how much undone dentistry is already on the books and walking in your door today. Being prepared, consistently, will make a HUGE impact on your schedule, production and practice. Try it.

10. Answering your phones/Working your schedule. Consistently. 45 hours a week. EVERY week. (Even if you’re on vacation. Even if you have a snow day. Even if you are in CE class) You catch my drift. Show me a practice who answers their phones, consistently, at least 45 hours a week and works their schedule, and I will show you a massively productive schedule. (and it sure helps if the people answering the phone are experienced, warm, friendly, and engaging – What’s it sound like in your office?)

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Here’s to a bangin’ 2014 filled with successful consistent systems. Work it baby, work it!

Wishing you a 2014 filled with great happiness, good health and continued success.

POW-POW! Make it the best year ever!

MB

It’s time to replace your boring, non productive answering service with a result producing, proactive, productive, appointment scheduling AWESOME service!

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New Patient BOO! or New Patient WOO-HOO!

Have you ever gone to a business, prepared to purchase only to be so let down with the low level of customer service that not only did you leave without buying anything but you actually left feeling bad/upset/frustrated/discouraged?  Of course, you might mention your poor experience to a few people in passing………

Called a business to be greeted coldly or greeted with “Can you hold please?”. Right out the gate you were completely informed, without words, how much you and your call matters. All  you want is for someone to listen to you, your need, your complaint and really hear  you. I believe that is all anyone in this life ever really wants to know and feel is that they MATTER. 

Now think about the most positive customer service experience that you have ever had. Look at Starbucks. The majority of these team players in Starbucks not only make you feel special but they remember your name, your specific drink of choice and mine even question my attire if I am not in my logo polo shirts asking me if I have the day off. Sometimes they will even shout my name (and others) when I walk in making me feel like NORM! from Cheers!

With all of this being said, how do you view your patient service? Does your practice deliver the most Amazing New Patient Experience ever?  Let me say, if you just answered “I don’t know” to this question chances are you are NOT delivering the most Amazing New Patient Experience ever. I encourage you to write down exactly what you want your new patients experience to consist of, then get to work on making it happen!

Every team member needs to be on board with building the connections with the patients. (one grumpy employee can ruin the whole experience. Grumpy is NOT allowed!) Let the patient “feel” how important they are to your practice – they ARE important to your practice, right? They deserve to be treated as such. Yes having amenities such as refreshment stations and warm towels are awesome, but that is not exactly what I am talking about. I am talking about personal connections. What I am talking about won’t necessarily cost you a dime yet your return will be priceless – in patient loyalty, referrals and trust.

It’s all in how you make someone feel.

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From the reason they picked up the phone to call your office, to the welcome they receive on that initial phone call to their very first visit in your office. It’s about building that connection – showing appreciation that they chose YOUR office out of the many they could have gone to; creating the loyalty and trust that will not only keep them in your practice but will encourage them to refer others. The ultimate goal should be for the patient to feel better walking out of your practice than they did walking in.

While my company and team provides virtual admin support, we thrive on building these connections. There is no better compliment we can receive than when a patient we helped for one of our out of state offices goes into that office and asks for one of us by name. (I even had an elderly patient that I helped in IL around the holidays show up to the office with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies, for ME! Of course Dr. C ate them all himself but it was the thought, and connection, that mattered!!) My point is that these relationships need to be cultivated, focused on and our connections are reflected in our success rate.

Do you have a low rate of new patient returns? Are you wondering where all your patients have gone? Have you endured patient complaints? Don’t expect a change unless you make one!

First, let me ask, for the hundredth time, to please call your own office to get a feel for the practice front line representation. Listen with “new” ears and ask yourself if this is someplace you would do business based off of the greeting, tone and overall feeling. If not, make some adjustments. Get your admin team training/support and provide the tools they need for success. Most the time its not that they don’t want to do it, it’s that they were not provided with clearly defined expectations on how each and every call should be handled. Don’t “assume” anything. This is your practice so you must be detailed to align yourself for the results you know you can see!

This should SCREAM from everything you do!

Start tomorrow by discussing at your morning huddle:

1) Create a unique greeting for your practice – one that will set you apart from the rest – We answer every single phone call with “It’s a great day!” and we MEAN IT! It leaves some patients giggle and say “WOW, that was nice!” and leaves some grumpy ones ask “What’s so great about it?”……. These are the ones I make it my personal goal to win over – I let them know my feet hit the floor today so that makes it an awesome day – and now what can I do to make their day awesome as well?

I called a business just the other day and had dialed the wrong number. Not only was the gal who answered the phone extremely pleasant, but she asked if she could assist me in finding the correct number! Impressive! 

2) The initial new patient call should be relaxed, friendly, and focused on the patient needs/expectations. NOT financials. (The new patient intake form should allow the gathering of the necessary information with reminders of courtesy) You can discuss the financial aspect without ever missing a beat in building the connection.  (again, training/support and the tools to succeed!)

Your new patient packet should be fresh, crisp, and be the most positive reflection of your practice. NO sideways copied, crookedly cut faded HIPAA forms……… NO cramming all of those forms in a regular envelope so they have to be unwrinkled to be able to be completed. You get the idea. (Check into submitpatientforms.com)

PS -Be available to your patients and potential new patients at least 45 hours a week – New patients calling want to schedule NOW – not when you get back in the office on Monday or after your lunch. NEVER, EVER leave a VM message stating that you are out to lunch for the next 1 1/2 hours….. If someone can only find time to call on THEIR lunch hour and is greeted with THIS – oooh is that frustrating. Go ahead, ask any mom you know.

You most likely spend thousands of dollars on marketing, all aimed at driving new patients to pick up the phone to call your office and schedule an appointment. If you aren’t answering your phones 1 or 2 days a week, you are WASTING a lot of those marketing dollars! You might as well be saying “Oh hey, come to our office, we’re great, but only call to schedule your appointment on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday!” Stop throwing your marketing dollars out the window! Show me an office with a full schedule, and I’ll show you an office that not only answers their phones but works their schedule at least 45 hours a week!

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3) Each new patient should be greeted immediately upon entering (like you’ve been waiting for them!), by name and with a “Welcome to Dr. Smith’s office!” and a handshake. Remember, it’s all about how  you make them feel.

4) If possible, give them a brief tour – showing them where the restroom is, treatment rooms, etc. (Treat them as if they are a guest in your new home!)

5) Each team member should take a 20 second moment to introduce themselves to the new patient and a “We’re glad you’re here!”…. 20 seconds. That is all it takes. Sometimes it might just not work this way but it should be the goal.

6) Each new patient should be “handed off” to the next team member with a brief introduction, ensuring the patient is always in the loop of their care, and what to expect next. 

7) The end of their visit should always be with a genuine THANK YOU and of course a handwritten thank you note sent out that day.

8) The whole New Patient Experience should leave them feeling comforted, relaxed and appreciative that they chose YOU. And now they can’t wait to tell their friends! 

Not one of these things mentioned will co$t you anything…. other than a positive attitude, giving the patient your time, and being appreciative. You want them to walk out of your office thinking “That was the most AMAZING new patient experience I have ever had!” and looking forward to their next visit.

What do you have going on in your office? New Patient BOO! or New Patient WOO-HOO!?

Deliver the most Amazing New Patient Experience starting NOW. Every patient. Every time. 

MB

Opportunity doesn’t quit calling just because you’re out of the practice… Let it call US!

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Hello….ello…..llo….lo….

♫ Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can hear me………. ♫

Ok. Ok – I got carried away with the Pink Floyd reference……..  Back to reality.

Just what are your patients and potential new patients hearing when they call your office?

Do they hear a clipped, unsmiling, non-welcoming “Dr. So & So’s office!”

or do they hear something friendly, warm and welcoming “It’s a great day at Dr. So & So’s office, this is Mary Beth, how may I help you today?”

First impressions  – you really don’t get a second chance to make one….

Here’s a small challenge for you this week. Google dentists in your area (or even tell Siri “I have a toothache and see how many offices she pulls up) – pick up the phone and hit *67 (to block your number so people don’t think you are spying on them even though you are! hee-hee!) and dial a few other offices numbers to get a feel for how they are doing it. Make a mental note of how each greeting made you feel – like you wanted to go meet the people here? Like you were interrupting something more important? Like holy cow that lady was a beeee-atch? Did they make you smile?

Now, after you call a few other practices, call your own. Star *67 your number again and really “listen” to how you are being represented when someone answers your phone. Is this how you want patients and potential new patients to view your practice? Every single thing that goes on in your practice is a direct reflection of YOU – The initial phone call should be knocking the patients socks off, EVERY SINGLE TIME!

You make think this is a silly exercise, however I am here to tell you that this exercise will make you more aware of the happenings within your own practice.

There is nothing that makes me more sad than when I call a practice and the person answering it is showing such a display of being in a hurry, an attitude of “you’re not important to me” and “what do you want” – all within the first 10 seconds of answering the phone. How many times have you called somewhere and the person answering says the practice name so freaking fast you can’t even understand what they just said and can’t catch their name either, if they even say it. 

(Don’t get me started on the messages left on answering machines during lunch hours- “We’re out to lunch for an hour and a half – call back THEN and your call will be important to us!!”) News flash – there are A LOT of busy patients who use THEIR lunch hour to take care of personal needs, including scheduling appointments.

And, for the 1000th time, if someone is answering your practice phone by just picking up the phone and stating “Dental Office” MAKE IT STOP! If I was a patient looking for a new office and got this answer I would hang up. These offices place no value and offer no investment into personal connections PERIOD – well, maybe the dentist does but no one will ever know because they can’t get past the poor service on the phone.

Patient care needs to be amped up over the phone – why? Because although patients can hear it in your voice, they can’t see your face to make the whole connection. It’s better than communicating through email, yet not quite as good as face to face. Do you want somebody faking it? Absolutely not – patients also pick up on that and it is a total turnoff.

Covering phones for one of our great practices, I took a call from a fella who was shopping for implant fees. He told me he was shopping. This gentleman was completely sticker shocked at the price he was quoted at another practice, never even really knew what an implant was until he now was recommended one and was completely overwhelmed. I gave him what I have the luxury of giving him – TIME – I answered his questions as best as I could – calmed him down a bit – and had a wonderful conversation with him. At the end of the conversation, I asked for the appointment for a complimentary smile consult with one of the dr’s. He declined saying he had a list of NINE offices he called and he needed to talk it over with his wife. Hanging up, I was like “dang” because I didn’t appoint, however felt very good about the conversation. (This call was on a Friday) Guess what? He called back first thing on Monday to schedule! He told me he decided on this office because of “your bedside manner” and “the time you took with me”.  He not only met with Dr., but he s accepted treatment that includes bone grafting and implants. :) All because I took the time. (This patient ended up investing over $13,000.00 with this practice).

It’s all about connections – personal and positive connections!

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Is every phone call going to be a super success? Nope.

Would your administrative team pass every single phone call test randomly given by some, tape recorded then mailed to you to encourage administration training? Nope. Neither would I.

However, as long as kindness, patience and friendliness rule you can always say we honestly gave it our best effort. Let’s face it – we have to base the success rate of our phone calls partially on the person calling in… So if you have less than stellar answering the phone and combine that with a perhaps difficult new patient asking all kinds of questions, well, I would bet my bottom dollar that your new patient scheduling rate isn’t very high.

Do you offer to contact the patients insurance company to get a breakdown of benefits for them? Even on a new patient phone call, if the patient isn’t sure, we always go the extra mile and offer to obtain this information for them. I know, I know – somebody out there is screaming “WHAT??!” when they read this and thinking ” I don’t have time for that” or better yet “It’s the patients JOB to know what their benefits are!” Hearing this drives me bonkers! In the most well run, and booming practices that we see have stellar insurance administrators that know insurance plans inside and out. They leave NOTHING to chance. By NOT offering to support the patient in obtaining their insurance benefit information, that is exactly what they are hearing – You don’t have time for them. And if you don’t have time for them at this initial phone call when will you? WOW them from the get go! (we have a great insurance information breakdown sheet to use – if you would like a copy let me know!)

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Ok – moving on. Let’s face it peeps. Some of your calls are going to go to voice mail. It is going to happen and unfortunately happens way too much. (I do believe you need to have a solid 45 hours a week phone coverage to make the most of every opportunity calling in and connect with the patients promptly!) Every phone call that comes into your practice is an opportunity. Even an appointment adjustment is an opportunity. A wrong number, an opportunity~! Think about it! (we have converted wrong numbers and local sales calls into appointments!)

You may THINK patients know you’re out on Wednesdays or Fridays but I can guarantee you calls are still coming in. And during lunch hours. And while you are out on vacation or holidays. Life doesn’t stop just because someone isn’t answering your phones.

What happens after they leave a message is what makes or breaks the deal. On your message let the patients know how important their call is, and that you WILL return their call within the next 30 minutes. And you better be ready to back that promise up!

The Fortune is in the FOLLOW-UP!

My niece, who lives in Chicago, called a practice TWICE leaving a message both times asking someone to call her so she could schedule NEW PATIENT appointments for both she and her husband. No one returned her call. Ever. She wrote on their facebook wall how terrible their customer service is and that they lost out on 2 new patients because somebody couldn’t be troubled to return her calls. They never responded to that either. And it’s not like she didn’t give them time. She waited 5 business days. Can you say YIKES!? EPIC FAIL on this practice part. 

Opportunity knocks every time your phone rings. Its all in how, and IF, you answer it.

It’s time you replace that boring, non-productive answering service with a result producing, appointment scheduling AWESOME service!

Holiday Phone Support

 

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Sense of urgency? Anyone?… anyone?…..

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

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How many times have you heard someone in your practice say “That’s not my job!” or “I did it last time!! YOU do it this time”? Do you have time clock punchers, or team players?

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Employees who truly have sense of TEAM don’t think along the lines of ME – Their thought process is “What is best for the practice? What is best for my doc?”. They might get a little miffed once in a while that everything seems to fall on them, and usually when you have an employee with a true sense of team, these things DO seem to land in their laps most often. Time to take control I say! Don’t let a good employee slip away because of lack of systems!

Do you employ time clock punchers or TEAM members?

Got a hole in your schedule? Who exudes the sense of urgency in filling it? Backed up with patients, running late with two rooms that need torn down and set-up? Who is exuding the sense of urgency to GET IT DONE? Or is everyone waiting for someone else to jump in? If you need to appoint a “traffic-cop” within your practice to keep the flow moving and doling out direction, then by all means DO IT!
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Having clearly defined job descriptions and expectations outlined for each position in your office will enable your team members to take ownership of their positions. (If they don’t step up even after supplying them with the tools to succeed, it might be time to help them succeed elsewhere!)

Who’s got your back? By this I mean, who is the orchestrator of your office in all things running smoothly? Who is ensuring that you are able to do your beautiful dentistry and not have to go stomping up to the front desk to see why Mr. Smith isn’t here yet, or ask if the two hygiene holes in the afternoon have been filled…. This is information that should be supplied to you without asking………… be taken care of without prodding………

Why is room 3 still a mess from this mornings crown prep? Who is going to tear it down and for goodness sakes, why is the reception area a disaster after Mrs. Jones had her 3 kids in here this morning, and it’s now 2 o’clock and it still looks like a cyclone went through?

I don’t think a doc should ever, ever, EVER have to ask or worry about these things. They should be done, done by the first person who sees it, or better yet by the person who has these expectations outlined in their job description.

Holes in the schedule? Two front desk peeps saying “I’m not doing it, I filled the last one” or thinking, (without communicating) that the other will just take care of it, and then nothing ever gets done…………Unacceptable.

Every time you sit down for a crown prep, you find that something is missing off your set-up tray without fail? Ok, so now you are frustrated, ticked off, have to wait for them to go get it (quickly we hope) and just put you even more behind ……….. While you are waiting you happen to glance over at the schedule and see those hygiene holes for this afternoon are still empty, and that no appointments for tomorrow have even been confirmed yet…………. Now your anxiety is amping up even a bit more when the front desk peeps their head in and asks you if they can go to lunch a bit early today…………. Susie the assistant is in a bad mood because the other assistant isn’t tearing down room 4 for the next patient, she’s over gossiping with the front desk about the hygienist… The hygienist is now ticked off because she is running behind because no one informed her at the morning huddle that Mrs. Miller was having gum issues, needed to take an unexpected FMX and you are late for your hygiene check because you haven’t even started your crown prep yet! For Gosh sake! All you want to do is prep this crown! You want to do your beautiful dentistry and not have to deal with this crap!  (can we say photo tray set-ups?)

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Let me say it again. Systems my friend.

I find a lack of sense of urgency and a ME attitude as such a sign of disrespect to the doc….. and to the rest of the team. A lack of sense of urgency to me means that the employee feels pretty darn comfortable in their job and their minimal efforts. No one has ever told them different and so they do the least amount possible. The team member has a job because THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE to support the practice in reaching its goals………….. If they are not willing to step up, WHY ARE THEY THERE? And if they have a bad attitude on top of it all, oy vay! Why do you torture yourself? You are in the driver seat to right your ship – A plan of action, SOP manuals and clearly outlined expectations.

Lack of systems = Lack of success.

If a team member comes in on any given day and gives, lets say a 60% effort in their job and supporting the rest of the team and expediting patient care, would it be fair then that you pay them only 60% of their wage for the day? Heck no! They’d have a heart attack!!

Now I am not saying to kick all employees to the curb, not at all. Team members need direction. They need to know, and clearly understand your expectations of them within their positions – (SOP manuals anyone?) If these expectations are written down don’t you think it will be much easier to know who is meeting/exceeding your expectations or to help hold each team member accountable in reorganizing their efforts and overcoming their challenges? How can anyone meet your expectations if they don’t know what they are?

Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.

Here’s to NO MORE CHAOS in your day, an orchestrated system for everything dental and peace in your gut knowing that your team has your back! :)
(Sorry about my long winded rant but this is something I feel very strongly about! )
MB
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It might not be a good sign if….


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  • If your phone is answered by a team member who sounds like they hate their job and life (they probably do),  not a good sign
  • If your team members, and YOU, complain daily about having to go to work, or BE at work, not a good sign
  • If there is a specific team member that seems to grate on everyone’s nerves, including yours, (they probably do) not a good sign
  • If your phone is answered by a team member who sounds like they are out of breath,  like Darth Vader, overworked, they ran 2 miles to answer the phone or speak at the speed of sound, not a good sign
  • If your phone is answered by a team member who talks so slow with jumbled verbiage, or so unenthusiastic that it makes you wonder if they took a tranquilizer prior to work, not a good sign.
  • If your phone is answered by an answering service who immediately cuts patients off by stating “I’m just an answering service”, not a good sign.
  • If your phone is answered by someone who feels they have the right to hang up on an invited follow up call, not a good sign
  • If your phone is answered by someone, who, well, for lack of a better description is just totally clueless, not a good sign.
  • If you’ve had patients complain that your answering service sounded like their calls were being answered from within a bar, not a good sign
  • If you’ve have patients tell you they are never coming to your practice again because of a specific employee, not a good sign
  • If your phone is actually answered with “Dental Office”, not a good sign
  • If your phones are not answered and your schedule not worked  40 hours a week and have patient connection/availability, not a good sign
  • If you don’t answer phones phones during “lunch” with a voice mail telling patients that you are at lunch (what they hear is “Hey, your call is not important to us right now, we’re at lunch – even though the patient calling is probably on THEIR lunch and it’s the only time they CAN call!)  not a good sign
  • If your answering machine states you’ll start answering your calls at 2 pm (you know, after your lunch) and a patient is calling at 2:05 and they are still getting that message and the same voice mail, not a good sign
  • If your phone isn’t answered even during normal working hours but always sent to voice mail, not a good sign.
  • If you don’t even have voice mail or an answering machine during off hours, not a good sign.
  • If a patient leaves a voice mail expecting a return call and has to call back multiple times to speak to someone because no one ever returned their call, not a good sign
  • If your voicemail or answering machine message sounds like a monotone script that is sped read to the point where a patient has to call back 3 times to get the info they need from it, not a good sign.
  • If you have what you know to be a stellar program or service for your patients, yet it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere or has stalled, not a good sign (we know with 100% accuracy what offices are successful with certain programs/services and which ones aren’t based on the first 2 phone calls)
  • If a new patient calls your office and is full of questions that are abruptly answered with no proactivity in building a relationship, patient engagement and getting the patients scheduled, not a good sign.
  • If a new patient, or patient enters your practice and makes it to be seated in a reception chair, opens a magazine and is halfway through reading a recipe before their presence is acknowledged, not a good sign.
  • If at any time a patient or new patient is made to feel confused as to where they go, where the restrooms are, or how your systems go, not a good sign.
  • If your first patient of the day or first patient after lunch are seated late, not a good sign
  • If the Dr. and entire team does not personally introduce themselves to each new patient, not a good sign
  • If patients complain that they never see the Dr at their appointments, not a good sign
  • If patient communication preferences are not updated at each recare visit, not a good sign
  • If you have no viable phone numbers for a patient who was just in last week, not a good sign
  • If every single patient is not thanked upon checking out, not a good sign
  • If a patient is left in a treatment room alone for an extended period of time, or in silence with a team member who doesn’t engage with them, not a good sign
  • If a patient has been promised a follow-up and the follow up never happens, not a good sign
  • If you gave up morning huddles because nobody was showing up, you didn’t show up, or because it becomes a bitch fest or you sit there in silence, not a good sign
  • If you have no systems, protocols or accountability in your office, not a good sign
  • If you have no idea what your new patient, insurance aging, account aging, past due recare or undone treatment lists look like, not a good sign
  • If you have team members that are facebooking, tweeting or texting during patient care time, not a good sign
  • If your patient, appointment, ledger, financial, clinical and charting notes are not STELLAR, not a good sign
  • If your appointments are not confirmed going into your day, not a good sign
  • If proper diagnostic xrays, narratives, perio charting, subscriber ID’s and insurance requisite information is not up to date, systematic and precise, not a good sign
  • If your temporary dental assistant smells like cat urine and falls asleep in a chair, not a good sign
  • If you have money that mysteriously disappears from team members purses during work hours, not a good sign
  • If your assistant has to get up more than once during treatment to retrieve a forgotten instrument on a regular basis, not a good sign
  • If you are scheduled for an inspection and your team look at you like deers in headlights, not a good sign
  • If a clinical assistant asks where the clinical manuals are, not a good sign
  • If an employee spends half of their day in the restroom, not a good sign
  • If nobody knows when the last sterilization spore strip was ran, (or what it even is??) not a good sign
  • If you look at your clinical inventory and you have expired product from years past, not a good sign
  • If team members talk negatively about each other, YOU or even worse, patients, not a good sign
  • If you have a team member who refuses to take out the trash, clean their room or support the team effort of working together efficiently (because “they don’t get paid to do that”) to keep the patient flow smooth or all be able to leave at the same time, not a good sign
  • If you don’t have multiple financial options available for your patients, not a good sign
  • If you don’t have SIGNED financial agreements with detailed F/A conversations noted, not a good sign
  • If you are always asking, “Hey, what happened to So & So patient” or “Hey, is So & So’s crown back” or “What happened to our schedule this week”, not a good sign
  • If you don’t have daily goals for not only production, but for yourself and your team members, not a good sign

While this blog is meant tongue in cheek, it does give a few honest points for reflection.

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