Top 12 reasons why your reception area and treatment chairs might be empty – And it’s NOT the ecomony

1) You have less than stellar, grand, charming, warm, friendly, charismatic, smiling, energetic, enthusiastic, go-getting, appreciative, gracious and aware front desk representation.  I called an office in New York a few weeks back to be greeted with a cold, clipped, nasty “Dental Office”. Really, that is all the lady said. If you have someone without at least some of these qualities being the face/representative of your practice, answering your phones and greeting your patients this might be clue #1 on the empty chair syndrome.  Lets face it, all of your team needs to step up in this area because it is the ONLY thing that separates you from the practice down the street. Your customer service. Do patients feel better walking out of your practice than they did walking in? Do they hang up after calling with a smile? These things MATTER!

2) Lack of follow-up.  LACK. OF. FOLLOW-UP. Patient called to cancel and couldn’t reschedule right now? Is someone marking the calendar to make a connection with this patient within two weeks? Patient doesn’t schedule for recommended treatment prior to leaving because they need to check with their wife, check their calendar or whatever other excuse they might have? Who is following up or are you just waiting until they come back ’round in 6 months? Send a patient to a specialist and haven’t heard anything since? Follow-up. Post-op calls anyone? How about a nice, caring “how you doin’?” call at the end of the day for any patient who has had anesthetic or any other invasive procedure? Or even to a new patient who has extremely high fear? What are you doing to follow up? The Fortune is in the Follow-up. (read my blog on this one!)

3) Ineffective, unused or inconsistent systems.  Do you fly by the seat of your pants every day hoping on a wing and a prayer that somehow, someway you might eek out your goal today? Or do you PLAN for your success by using the systems within each department to ensure the concentrated effort of working in unison towards the same common goal. When you have strategic systems that are used consistently, it allows for the whole team to focus on patient care and delivering the WOW to each and every patient without ever having to miss a beat. This includes having an effective recare system (Please pull your past due recare report today!!), effective undone treatment system, new patient system, clinical systems and hygiene systems. Confirmations are another big one. Solid confirmations systems, although will never ever eliminate no shows or late cancels, will drastically reduce and allow your team ample time to fill last minute holes. Knowing your monthly monitors to ensure you are aware of challenging areas and what needs immediate attention. If you don’t know the status of your past due recare report, insurance aging, monthly new patient stats, avg hyg production, YOUR avg hourly production, % of open chair time etc., how the heck do you know where you would like to be?? Job Descriptions, clearly defined expectations and job ownership required – all with a great attitude.

4) Poor New Patient Experience  – If the new patient experience is less than stellar, not only are the patients probably not going to come back but won’t be referring friends or family to you either. The new patient experience starts with that first phone call (in which the customer service provided should be UNMATCHED)  – It then continues to the delivery of the new patient packet, the initial welcoming into the office, the pass off from clerical to clinical, the actual treatment chair visit, (does everyone in your office take a quick moment to introduce themselves and welcome the new patient?) back to the clinical to clerical hand off, then the exit and first visit follow-up (thank you anyone??). It goes full circle, is extremely involved and should never, ever be compromised.

5) Lack of team cohesion – If your team has a fracture in it, well, guess what? That is reflected to the patient whether you think so or not. The goal of each patient visit should be to have the patient feeling better when they leave than they did upon arrival. Team friction, somebody is having a bad day – that is all reflected and is FELT. The team that works together, stays together and SUCCEEDS together. The team that is working towards the same common goal is FELT. The team that is fractured with a few “I’s”, well, not so much. Successful teams not only work well together, they have FUN!

6) Lack of financial options/Not knowing patients benefits – Care credit, pre-pay courtesy’s, automatic debits, etc. Quality Dental Plan is another great option for patients without dental insurance. (I’ve seen some practices average 50+ new patients a month on this program.  The practices who have this success are the ones who have SUPERB front line representation who are super excited and motivated to be able to offer this great program!!) If you are a provider for any dental insurance, your patients expect you to know their benefits. Knowing their benefits and limitations is a valuable tool for you to use in your treatment planning. protecting your production and customer service delivery!

7) Lack of TLC – That is all anyone in life wants to know is that they matter. On the phone, in person, in an email. Its all reflected and if you provide less than stellar TLC it will be reflected in your schedule.

8) Lack of community involvement – Get engaged. Get involved. BE the place that everyone goes to.

9) Lack of web presence . If you don’t have a website you don’t exist in over 80% of the households. How’s that for scary? For all of you iPhone users out there – Go ahead and tell your SIRI right now you have a toothache. Where is she directing you to go? If you are sitting in your office and she directs you elsewhere there is a problem. Google the name of the city you are in then dentist. Where are you on this list?

10) Lack of Internal/External marketing. Keeping your name out there. Building relationships, enhancing connections at all times.Facebook checkins. Holiday themed cookies to celebrate. Refreshments. Office logo mugs for patients who have birthdays the week they are in. Do you invest in electronic communications software (demand force, smile reminder etc) and yet don’t use it to communicate with your patients on a consistent basis? If so, what a waste of money. Use the resources and systems at your fingertips!!! And if you have a huge marketing budget, but don’t answer your phones a full 45 hours a week, some of your marketing dollars are just flying out the window.

11) Not respecting patient time. Are you always running late? Scrambling? (systems please) Always rescheduling patient appointment times? Nothing screams your time means nothing to me than a practice who makes a habit of this. Don’t expect them to respect you then.

12) You aren’t available to connect with your patients or answer your phones 40 hours a week. Patients want to talk to a live person when they are calling – and expect to do so if they are calling during “normal” business hours. Nothing is more frustrating than calling on your lunch hour to schedule appointments for your family only to be told that the office is now on their lunch hour for 1 1/2 hours and to please call back. Say what?! THAT is NOT being aware of patient connections or needs.  If you are out of the office 1 or 2 days a week – yes, you might say, “Well our patients know we aren’t in on those days”. Might be true, but doesn’t mean they don’t WISH you were available and new patients calling usually DON’T know that (otherwise they wouldn’t be calling!). Why cut off the opportunity that is continually flowing into your offices for 8-16 hours a week? 

There is nothing on this list that will cost you mad money. There is nothing on this list that you can’t implement. We work with some offices daily who are ROCKING consistently and it’s pretty much because they have a plan, systems, top notch team member who WANT to make a difference. They are thriving in this economy.

With all this being said, you must be aware. You must surround yourself with team members who not only own their position but are also aware. Excited. Motivated. Engage with your patients. Are you thinking about your golf game in the middle of a crown prep or actively engaged with your patients? Are you excited to get to the office on Monday morning to see what the week will bring? Are your team members motivated to make IT happen?

You have every opportunity at your fingertips. It takes a plan, some systems and consistent hard work. But for the most part, your chairs aren’t empty because of the economy. Think about it.

Just do it.

This message brought to you by DSS – experienced, dedicated, passionate and motivated dental support specialist team who OWNS any schedule we touch.

Opportunity doesn’t quit calling just because you’re out of the office…

Let it call US!

Replace your old, boring, non-productive answering service with a relationship building, result producing AWESOME service!

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Team Player or Team Slayer

When I was in the banking industry, we were forced to watch hours upon hours of Cohen Brown motivational tapes. While we did get many a chuckle from his hair and brightly colored ensembles, something must have sunk in to stay because my BFF Deb and I often bring up certain things that we learned, and obviously liked.

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He talked a lot about behaviors, missed opportunities, communication skills/styles and something Deb and I have often discussed – Office Assassins – The Team Slayers of the world.  He also called these types of people the “cancer” of the office.Ya know – one bad seed theory. You can have 8 fantastic people in the office, but one bad seed can and will poison/taint the entire office. Whether they drive patients away, make your stomach roll just thinking about having to deal with them, or create inner turmoil among the other staff members, you all know the type I am talking about. They rebel against change, have an attitude of “we’ve tried that”, “we’ve been there” , a know it all attitude and have a complaint against every single person, place and thing in life. They even might be fantastic at the “paperwork” part of their job, but their people skills are absent. These peeps are the team slayers.

imagesTheir negativity is palpable – They snarl, whether inwardly or outwardly at everything – patients, change, and find it impossible to embrace opportunity with excitement. Before their feet hit the floor they are already complaining about the day ahead. They are the ones who roll their eyes when everyone else might be showing excitement at something new, tell you all the reasons why something won’t work before they even try it and have everyone in your office either trying to avoid them at all costs, or cringing when then have to engage. They might be blame shifters, who blame everyone around them for anything, instead of owning their own mistakes and using them as a tool to grow.

Team slayers refuse to accept help or advice for the betterment of customer service and the workplace – we have found these types of employees don’t accept help or advice because if they did, and positive results were to abound, it will set a new, higher bar/standard for them that might make them have to work harder and invest more of themselves and they like things just the way they are. At their speed and level of capability. (We also refer to these people as time clock punchers. They view what they do as just a J.O.B.)

Are your team members, and even yourself, engaged, not-engaged or actively disengaged? If you answer this question honestly and I bet I can tell you what your schedule looks like.

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Does this happen in your office? Having a patient leave without paying their co-pay because someone said “Oh that’s ok, we’ll just send you a bill after insurance pays”….. Or having a patient leave without their next appointment because they need to either check with their wife or their schedule…..and then no one ever follows up. Might seem like small issues here, but these small issues directly affect your production. The fortune, is indeed, in the follow-up. You even wonder where a patient has been? Refer a patient out to a specialist and haven’t heard a peep? The fortune, is indeed, in the follow-up!

A team player uses consistent, methodical systems for recare, follow-up, undone treatment, patient connections, insurance claim submissions/follow-up, patient finances, treatment recommendations, and everything else in between.

What gets measured, gets done. Lack of systems = Lack of Success.

How about the hygienist who does bloody prophy’s all day long? Doesn’t invest in the opportunity to implement a stellar perio program for the benefit of the patients oral health? Or the hygienist who ignored the note that the patients insurance provides for adult FL treatments twice a year and the patient walked out from their hygiene appointment with no FL treatment?4 or 5 mm pockets noted with bleeding (or here’s one for you – a hygienist who doesn’t probe ) and the patient sent along their merry way for the next 6 months?

Here’s one of my favorites (NOT!) How about the patient who has been treatment planned for a crown on tooth #2 for the past 2 years and they come in for their 6 month recare visit…. There are NO notes for the past 2 years on why this patient hasn’t scheduled yet and no one discussed it with them today either. Patient leaves with next 6 month cleaning scheduled and that crown is STILL hanging on their undone treatment plan. As a matter of fact, it has been so NOT discussed that if you even tried to schedule it with the patient they probably wouldn’t believe you that it was ever recommended! (As a front desk peep, I really dislike being set up for this type of failure….. Patient looks at us like we grew a third eye all because we are trying to be proactive yet no one on the clinical side mentioned diddly. Come on admin peeps, you know what I’m talking about!)

Do you have team players or team slayers in your practice? We encourage you to take a look around your practice. Focus on your most challenging areas. Who has your back ?! What we mean by that is who is watching your production, strategically maneuvering your days to meet production goals, while offering the highest level and standards of patient care to be found?

Every dentist should be aware of your numbers. Bi-weekly/monthly reporting delivered to you for:

  • Insurance Aging
  • Account Aging
  • Adjustments by type
  • New Patients – including where they were referred from (how do you know which marketing dollars are working if you don’t keep track of this?
  • New Patient treatment presented vs scheduled
  • Past Due Recare
  • Undone treatment
  • Open hygiene and dr time (this is a real eye opener!)

Once you determine your most challenging areas, then you focus on putting a plan into action.

If your schedule is empty here are a few areas to look at:

1) Recare/Undone treatment –  Run your past due recare and undone treatment reports TODAY.  Find out exactly  how many patients you have NOT seen within the past 18-24 months. The numbers might astound you. If you haven’t seen them, are they going elsewhere? How do you know if you aren’t doing a chart audit? If someone isn’t following up with these patients to get them scheduled? Current – are you making sure that NO patient leaves the practice without their next appointment scheduled?

2) Hygiene – How many scaling and root planings have been done within the past 6 months in your practice? Run a report. How about Fluoride treatments? Are FMX or PANO’s being done every 3-5 years to follow in line with your standard of care? Are patients leaving their hygiene appointments educated enough to seek the quality dental care they need? Is your hygiene team setting you up for success at your exam by already addressing undone dentistry and any other current situations they may see? (not diagnosing but preparing the patient)

3) Schedule Review – This is the constant monitoring process of the schedule. Being aware of every opportunity and potential challenges and the best way to make the most of all. Who is due for fmx/pano? Who else in the family might be due for a hyg visit? Does the patient have any undone tx that can be combined with hyg visit? This is a very time consuming process but it more than pays off every single day! How many days have gone by in your practice where you became aware of an opportunity AFTER the fact?

4) Insurance verifications – Verifying insurance benefits is a timely and tedious process, but will give you so much in return! The Perpetual State of Preparedness is a great place to be!

Knowing what your patients are eligible for (can increase production) X-rays, FL, and frequencies. You ever have to eat a cleaning because the patient was in too early? Or weren’t eligible for X-rays? Yeah, stop doing that.

You ever see a patient whose insurance termed 2 months ago but you didn’t know until after treatment was completed and you received denial from insurance, and patient won’t pay?
Stop doing that.

You ever go ahead and do treatment on a new patient whose insurance had a waiting period, and whoops, you didn’t know until after you seated the crown?
Stop doing that!

You ever collect patient estimated portion on a composite filling, only to find out afterwards insurance downgrades to alternate benefit and have to deal with furious patient because they paid what they were asked, now owe more and say your fees are too high?

Be in the know to expertly support your patients in utilizing their benefits within your practice and maximize your opportunity!

5) Insurance Aging/Account Aging

Your 90 day buckets should be clean. Your 60 day bucket should be minimal. These reports should be ran and worked. Statements should be sent consistently, after an ins payment is posted and then monthly. Collection system should be in place (calls, letters etc) for any past due patient accounts. If you do nothing, your hard earned money is sitting on a report instead of your bank.

Team Slayers

  • Unmotivated, un-energetic, detached employees which reflects in poor patient care
  • Complaints from other team members and/or patients
  • Not actively engaged with the rest of the team
  • Not reporting to DDS as directed/requested
  • Complains about any aspect of their position
  • Doesn’t willingly volunteer to help out in challenge situations
  • Failure to fully explain treatment and finance options
  • Time clock puncher attitude

Team Players

  • Motivated, enthusiastic, warm, friendly, KIND patient care
  • Presenting treatment & financial options with finesse, caring and affordability for patients
  • Do what it TAKES to go above and beyond an expectation to meet a goal
  • Has the practice best interest at heart – No ME attitdue
  • Works well with the rest of the team for the benefit of the practice as a whole
  • Compliments from patients and/or other team members
  • Systems for maximum scheduling, collections and production management
  • Willing to jump in and provide support wherever needed to ensure a smooth schedule and patient care

The more team players you have on your team, the more successful, happy and less stressed you will be!

If you find yourself frustrated over an empty schedule, growing insurance and account aging, decrease in treatment case acceptance and low morale you owe it to yourself to assess your situation, determine the most challenging areas and then make the adjustments needed.

GO TEAM!

MB

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Good just isn’t good enough anymore.

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How does your patient care and service stack up? Is it ok? Is it good? Is it GREAT?

From answering the phones, to greeting and seating the patients, to checkout and everything in between – Is your care GREAT? If you can’t answer with an enthusiastic YES, then what you are providing just isn’t good enough.

“The moment you settle for less than you deserve, is the moment you get less than what you settled for”

If you are settling for GOOD, you are missing out on what GREAT could be.

Every contact – phone, email, text, in person – has a direct influence on whether or not we will see that patient again. Every. Single. One.

 

thThe ONE thing, the ONLY thing that is guaranteed to always set you apart from the rest is providing a consistent, exceptional high level of patient care and service.

  • 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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  • Why would you hire non-dental, non-proactive and non-nice answering services to answer your calls, represent YOU and your practice, when they can’t/won’t do anything WITH the call, leaving your patients frustrated?
    Don’t you want someone who is kind, can speak dental fluently and is passionate about connecting with your patients and increasing production answering your phones?
    I’ve talked to answering services who answer the phone “Answering service”. Where’s the connection? Where’s the interaction? Where is the VALUE to this call to both the patient/caller and the practice?
    These “answering services” then have messages forwarded to your team that they end up having to take care of/return the call and now are touching something twice and that costs you even more money and something is going to slip through the cracks.
    And typical answering services just sit around waiting for a call to come in – why would you not have proactive outbound calls going if there are no calls coming in? Generate your own opportunity!
    You are losing out on production opportunities, answered questions and happy patients – instead you could have someone handle it NOW, schedule that appointment NOW when the patient called to do so, answer the question NOW.  (if you are ready for a change, check us out at www.DentalSupportSpecialties.com)
    If you like getting what you are getting, keep doing what you are doing.
  • Create a custom greeting specific to your practice to clearly stand out above the rest!  Some samples might be “It’s a great day at Dr. Smith’s office, this is Mary Beth, how may I help you today” OR “It’s a great day at Dr. Smith’s office, this is Mary Beth, whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with today?” OR “It’s a great day at Dr. Smith’s office, this is Mary Beth, how may we make you smile today” – You get the picture. Get your team in on creating the perfect greeting for your practice and make it something that all callers will look forward to hearing and REMEMBER!
  • Be honest. Be transparent in your communication. Avoid cryptic or misleading answers to insurance questions. 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 being answered. If they ask, and your FD tells the 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 (and when you are rockin’ it with exceptional customer service, it seems to be much less of an issue) If you do, you’ll notice a reflection of this in your scheduling and treatment acceptance. Instead, let patients know you work with all insurances, that many of your patients have that very insurance and you diligently work with all of your patients in maximizing their benefits – all while raving how awesome your team is!
  • 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 and worst of all how long you might have to wait. 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, your tickler system, whatever works in your practice 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 of scheduling past due appointments for her family and takes the time to call to schedule during her lunch hour, or on her day off, 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 and happy patients who know they are taken care of.
  • 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.

people-dont-remember-01Are your patients leaving smiling? Feeling like that mattered?

Is your practice delivering GREAT?

11949550_10154127873565830_8838013994051383122_nNew ways. New doors. New opportunities.

Go on now, make it happen!

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There IS a difference between “answering the phone” and “working the schedule”

Answering the practice phone, just to say you answered the phone is completely pointless unless you are DOING something with those answered calls.

We all know the importance of answering your practice phones. Minimum of 45 hours a week. During the WHOLE day. Every working day of the year, regardless if you are on vacation or not. Why would you stop working the opportunity that keeps knocking on your practice door every day even if you are on vacation? You CAN go on vacation and still reap the benefits of answering the phones and working the schedule.

Even on your “regular” days off of the week, you might be thinking, “Well our patients know we are closed”. Here’s some cold hard stats for you – Last month we scheduled over $277,000 in production for our clients, during regular, normal business hours including “regular” days off of the week. Want to know how we did that? If our clients phones aren’t ringing IN, we are making them ring OUT to work the schedule!

 

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Here’s a few pointers:

Do not leave a voicemail message that is 3 minutes long explaining the office hours painfully in a day by day blow, give five dialing options for a different party’s extensions, and finally at the end ask the patient to please call back in an hour – or worse in 10 days when your back from vacation.

Look, moms are the ones who are usually calling to schedule. Or ask questions. A lot of moms work. A lot of moms don’t. Working moms usually use their lunch hours to take care of appointment stuff – and nothing is more irritating then when they finally find the time to call to schedule appointments, and they get a message that whomever they are calling is out to lunch and to call back later. Guess what? Chances are great that they are NOT going to call back later, at least not that day.

When patients decide to pick up the phone and call your office, for whatever the reason may be, they want to speak to someone NOW. They don’t want to leave a message, they don’t want to be put on hold, they don’t want to go through an automated system, they want to be warmly greeted by a real live human being who can immediately connect with them and support their need NOW. (think about when YOU call somewhere – don’t you want to be supported RIGHT NOW?)

Scheduling is based on emotion, and whatever emotion that spurred that patient to make the call, will dissipate if not tapped into immediately.

So, you say, I have one of my team members taking the office cell phone home to answer incoming calls. “Answer” the calls. Does this mean they are welcoming callers, scheduling appointments and helping the patients with their questions right now? Does this mean they are taking the time necessary in making the connections with the patients calling?

I’m not saying that they are not. But how do you know? What if they are in the grocery store, or at a dr’s appointment, or on the beach or if their child is screaming in the background?

Some are answering, but may not have the capability to get on the computer to schedule/answer questions and are only taking messages to get back with the patients on Monday to answer their questions or schedule their appointments. (Why not just let it go to voicemail and save yourself a few bucks at this point)

Now there are some fabulous, diligent team members who do all of the above when it’s their turn to man the phones. Yet let me ask you.

Are they just answering the phones, or ‘working the schedule’?

What I mean by this is, we all know that answering the phones is crucial. Let’s say your office is closed on Fridays and your team members share “manning” the office cell phone. However, if someone calls on a Friday morning to schedule an appointment, and they are not signing on the computer RIGHT NOW, especially with a new patient, or if someone calls to cancel an appointment and its for Monday at 8 am, are the team members WORKING the schedule to increase production, protect payroll and assist the patients NOW?

Working the schedule is just as important as answering the phone. If that phone is not ringing in, it needs to be ringing out with recare calls, undone treatment calls, post op calls, follow-up calls and any other type of call that will support a full and productive schedule. Working the schedule can add thousands of dollars to your schedule in one day.

Working the schedule means that there is a consistent effort to increase production, protect payroll and assist the patients who are calling in. Working the schedule means that these things are done every day – in real-time. Not after the fact, not tomorrow or the Monday after the weekend when the opportunity might have already slipped through your fingers. Every day. All day.

We understand that answering the phone is an important part of the process but is just that – only a part – of the overall scheme. Answering the phones in itself without working the schedule is not going to increase production, boost cash flow and improve office efficiencies. As they say in every sales class across the country “the fortune is in the follow up!“.

Next. In my opinion, if you are choosing between a regular old non-productive answering service or voicemail – Go with voicemail. Answering services are usually not manned by super pleasant people, they state out of the gate they are ONLY an answering service will only relay a message, serve no purpose of connections with your patients (which is what a successful practice is all about) and can leave a bad taste in the incoming callers mouth. At least a voicemail you can make sound perky and friendly. Results are the same though. NOTHING is being worked or added to your bottom line so why not save yourself a few bucks.

“If you like getting what you are getting, keep doing what you are doing”. Zig Ziglar

No truer words have been spoken. If you don’t like what you are seeing on your schedule, if you don’t like hearing whats happening on your phone, it’s time for a change!

Change, while not always easy, is a fabulous thing! When you make a plan, create a system, and implement it to be worked consistently, the rewards will be amazing!

Cheers to a fabulous 4th of July! (and I hope when you are on vacation this summer that you have someone answering your phones AND working your schedule)

Mary Beth

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Answering the phones.. It’s just not enough.

Said the busy mom, calling on her lunch hour to schedule her children’s next cleaning appointments, only to receive a long winded VM at the dental practice, not only detailing their business hours of every second/every day but advising that said busy mom chose to call during THEIR lunch hour and to call back in 1 1/2 hours for assistance.  Mom LM asking for a return call. Mom never received callback. She gave them a week. Still heard nothing. Mom called a different practice and scheduled appointments for her whole family of 5.  (Missed NP production of over $1250)

Said the busy businessman, who is home for a brief period in between travels, needs to get the crown done that the dr has been recommending, who calls the office to have to go through a series of prompts (press 1 for account questions, press 2 if you have an appointment today, press 3 if you have a refill request, press 4 to speak to an assistant or press 0 and someone will be with you shortly) that he feels wastes his time, is frustrating and he ends up just hanging up because he has a business call on the other line, figuring he will just have to call the next time he is in town. (missed production about $1460)

Said the patient waiting in the reception area, listening to the 2 front desk team members chatting about giving themselves pedicures last night, and how one of them clipped their pinky toenail too short and now it hurts today, and watching them let the ringing phone go to voicemail so they can continue their story AND ignore the 2 patients that just walked in, up to their desk and they kept their backs turned – both patients just took a seat, and after the lovely toenail conversation was over, they THEN called these patients back up to the front desk to give them their paperwork.  (Missed first great impression opportunity – what price are you going to put on that not to mention the missed phone calls that went to VM)

Ok. I’m sure I’ve got the point across how very important it is answer your practices phones, a minimum of 45 hours a week. I think the “answer your phones movement” is taking off rather well!

What needs to be mentioned, in combination with this, is not only answering your phones, but WORKING YOUR SCHEDULE.

You want a full schedule? You want to meet production goals, collection goals and have growth? Answer your phones AND work your schedule 45+ hours a week.

You can have full, like this…………

Or not so full, like this…………

I know. I know. Your staff rotates carrying the office cell phone home on the weekends to answer calls. If/when they answer a call, are they accessing your schedule to assist the caller immediately? Or do they just take a note and call them back Monday? (If that is they case, that is nothing more than an answering machine so why waste your $$) AND just because a team member has the office cell phone it does not mean that 1) they are the best candidate for answering your phone and 2) that they are “working” the schedule.

(For what its worth in the 8 years that I have been doing this, I have not been convinced that after hours/weekend phone support provide enough of a ROI to warrant or necessitate this type of coverage – invest your $$ in working normal business hours for 45 hours a week! You don’t answer your phones or work your schedule on a Wed or Friday but yet you’ll pay someone to carry a cell phone home over the weekend or at night. Work smarter, not harder!)

Just what do I mean by “work the schedule” the same hours as you answer your phone?

Outbound calls. There should be outbound calls placed every single day in the efforts to keep your schedule full and production humming.

Focus on these areas – (make a daily outbound call goal and watch your schedule get filled and your short call list get padded)

  • Short call appointment calls to fill openings within the next 4 business days. Having a viable short call list is crucial in keeping your schedule full. (Having detailed notes for every single patient on the short call list is crucial to saving time – have a note (dated!) stating what days the patient wants in, what time of day fits their schedule best and if they have a provider preference. Having this valuable information will save you time, from making calls to patients that won’t be able to make the appointment and it saves you from annoying the patient with calls that won’t help them anyways!)
  • Recare – PAST due, NOW due, due next month. I’m a big believer in recare systems, including automated systems, regular ole postcards that patients stick up on their fridge and then phone calls. If you look at your past due, now due and due next month reports, you will have plenty of patients to call (and be sure to pad your asap list by asking if they would like to get in sooner for their hygiene visit if any openings become available that fit with their scheduling perimeters)
  • Unscheduled or Quick Fill lists – These lists are LOADED with appointments that most likely have slipped through the cracks. First, be sure to insert a dateline with DETAILS on why the appointment ended up on this list anyways – ill, work conflict, traveling, whatever the case may be, NOTE IT. This allows for you to pick up the conversation where it left off – If the patient was ill, you can enhance the connection and increase your chances of rescheduling by asking how the patient is feeling now. This list should be worked constantly! If someone reschedules, be sure you are using the appointment from this list to keep the list fresh – If the appointment on this list is no longer viable, delete it from the list. We want these lists to be as viable of an appointment resource as any other list. I have seen some of these lists with appointments on them dated back from 2007!!! (Also be sure to make notes on these appointments if you’ve spoke with patient or attempted contact – this eliminates the chance of multiple calls to the patient)
  • Undone treatment calls and follow – up – If any patient leaves your office without scheduling their next appointment, whether treatment or recare, they need to be followed up with! I like the 3 day system: Follow up in 3 days, 3 weeks then 3 months. Of course, detailed communication notes are crucial in making this system fruitful. Use your tickler system, makes notes on the appointment schedule, whatever works in your office but DO IT! Notes should be made WHY the patient left without scheduling so again, we can continue the conversation where it left off.

 

Want to see a difference in your schedule? Answer your phones and WORK IT!

Here’s to answering your phones and working your schedule!

MB

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Improve successful scheduling? MAKE A NOTE!

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Notes. You can never have too many. You can always have not enough (and most do).

Having consistent detailed notes attached to every patient, every appointment, every treatment plan, every broken appointment, every family file and every insurance description will not only make your life easier, it will make the patient happier and actually increase your systems for success.

Communication is crucial for any success – personal or business. I can tell you from working in practices across the US, the more details a practice has in ALL areas, the stronger their scheduling success results are. Period.

It’s always our goal to make such detailed notes that ANYONE who goes behind us knows exactly what we’ve done, when we spoke with a patient, why we spoke with them, when can we follow-up and what to expect for next scheduling. Once your notes become this detailed, I guarantee you that you WILL see a difference in your scheduling success.

Here are some recommended areas for notes:

  • Follow up – Be detailed with when you can follow-up, why you are going to follow-up, how you should follow-up, with whom you should follow-up and what the follow-up is regarding. If a patient leaves without scheduling their next appointment, it should be noted WHY and when to follow-up. Problem is, you might note it but where are you placing the follow-up reminder? Eaglesoft has a great tickler system, Dentrix has daily appointment notes and sometimes you can just create a quick “block” with the follow details noted on the given day.

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  • Accountability. After each follow-up has been made, the team member should put the date and their initials behind each note. If the follow-up has NOT been made, copy and paste the follow-up note to the next day. Consistency is CRUCIAL! (Come on, tell me you have never wondered where a patient went, why you haven’t seen/heard from them or had to check with your team to find out what a patients status is at a specialist office)
  • Unscheduled appt follow-up. Note in the patient chart, notes or journal if the patient states they have to check their calendar, or check with their spouse, they need to review finances or were in a hurry to leave. This creates a great connection opportunity at your follow-up call! Patients LOVE when you remember a conversation and having this detailed information allows you to connect with the patient immediately! “Hey Jon, it’s MB from Dr. Smith’s office! How are you? I know you were in such a time crunch last week when you were leaving – I’m touching base to follow-up and get the restoration scheduled that Dr. Smith had recommended for tooth #2.” It allows you to be PREPARED with the best verbiage and information to overcome any challenge the patient might present in scheduling.
  • Specialist follow-up. If a patient is referred to a specialist, be detailed and specific in your referral notes and then note an appropriate date for follow-up with the specialist AND the patient. I’ve seen a lot of patients get lost in the referral shuffle. (Sometimes we will get a call from a specialist office asking about a specific patient, yet nothing has been noted – be seamless!)
  •  Appointment no-shows/cancellations. This area is under used and usually missed in follow-up but is a great resource for filling appointment openings, WITH the necessary notes.  If a patient calls to cancel but doesn’t reschedule, NOTE the reason (patient was ill, work related etc). Always insert a dateline with a reason and then BREAK the appointment or send it to the pending/quickfill list. Do not EVER delete one of these appointments unless a patient is not returning. By making detailed notes, your quickfill/pending/unscheduled lists now become VIABLE lists to work on a consistent basis. The quicker you reach out to a patient who broke an appointment, the greater your chances of getting that patient rescheduled. When a patient cancels due to illness, what better way (after reviewing the detailed notes about this) to make a reconnection than to call them and ask them how they are feeling? Scheduling my friends is always based on some type of emotion – the relationship of trust and connecting. Being seamless in your communications allows you to focus on this.
  • Appointment notes/opportunity – Every communication with a patient about a specific appointment should be noted on that appointment. Confirmations (who, what, where, when and by which phone number). If the patient brought up questions, if they want to discuss additional treatment, etc. EVERYTHING should be noted and viewed as an opportunity – An opportunity to maximize production and provide the highest level of patient care. How many times has a patient mentioned that they had said something to so and so about something, and yet no one on your team has a clue?
  • Book review.  Reviewing the opportunity available within each appointment that is already on your schedule will make a huge impact on further scheduling success. Within each appointment review if the patient has any undone dentistry, if there are any other family members that might be due for a visit, if the patient is eligible for an FMX/PANO or even FL. Review notes to see if they have ever discussed whitening or cosmetic wants. All of this hidden opportunity is at your fingertips you just need to note it and work it!
  • Insurance claims. If you talk with an insurance company, or even a patient, about an outstanding insurance claim, NOTE it. It will help you in follow-up, expediting payment processing and eliminate touching everything more than once. Trust me on this!

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  • Chart notes. Yes, you would think these are a given. And sometimes they are. Note all discussions with the patient, what their responses were, what/when their next visits should be. Being detailed with this information, again, allows you to pick up where the conversation left off in your follow-up. If the dr recommended a crown on #2, and he’d like to see it started within the next 4 weeks, NOTE it! If the patient was hesitant due to finances, now you will really be prepared to overcome their challenges and get them scheduled.

Consistent and detailed notes allow you, your team and your support teams to provide consistent communication and be in the perpetual state of scheduling preparedness by KNOWING.

If you aren’t aware of it, how can you tap into it?

images(click here to read the blog on My name is consistency – want to hang out?)

Here’s to the increased scheduling you WILL see when you amp up your detailed notes.

CHEERS!

MBNEWlogo

Its time to replace that boring, non-productive, non-friendly answering service with a result producing, customer service driven, appointment scheduling AWESOME service!

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STAND OUT or STEP ASIDE

imagesEither STAND OUT or STEP ASIDE

If your practice isn’t the one to STAND OUT, you will be forced to STEP ASIDE to the practice that is.

To a typical patient, a dentist is a dentist, a filling is a filling and a cleaning is a cleaning.

What is the one thing that will always set you apart and make you STAND OUT?

Unmatched Customer Service.

When your practice STANDS OUT with consistent delivery of the highest level of customer service/patient care, you can expect;

  • Happier patients because you’ve built a solid relationship with them based on your standard of care – building loyalty and trust
  • Happier team members – because YOU care, because THEY care and because they see the tangible results of STANDING OUT
  • Happier YOU – less stress because you aren’t dealing with an empty schedule, patient complaints or a less than stellar team
  • Increased production – happy patients, trusting patients are more apt to keep their scheduled appointments AND refer other patients to your STAND OUT practice
  • Increased treatment case acceptance – because your patients trust you and your team and because your team is actively working patient care systems to provide patient education and care

STAND OUT practices focus and deliver on the following:

  • Red carpet customer/patient care – Every single patient (well, anyone really) who enters your door should be immediately greeted and welcomed. Every person who visits or calls your practice is a potential patient, and know others who are potential patients.  New patient? Shake their hand and let them know how happy you are they chose your practice as their dental home. Give them a quick tour. Show them where the restroom is. Encourage every single member on your team to take 10 seconds to pop their head in the patients room and introduce themselves with a welcome. You want WOW factor in your practice? This delivers.

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  • If you tell a patient you are going to do something, DO IT. Follow up! If a patient calls and complains that so & so said they were going to check into something and call the patient back last Tuesday and the patient has to call a week later because they haven’t heard anything yet, there is a huge problem. Following through with what you say, and consistently delivering MORE than you promised is what you want for your practice. You want your patients to know, and TRUST that what needs to be done, will be.

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  • Post – op calls. Simple, yet oh so appreciated by the patients. It’s a real “warm fuzzy” type of care call that makes them feel good. And gives you a great opportunity to be available to answer questions, field pain complaints and even schedule a next appointment.
  • Answer your phones with a SMILE. Answer your phones often. Create a fabulous greeting that will totally make your practice STAND OUT to any caller! (It’s a great day at Dr. Smith’s office, how may we make you smile today?    It’s a great day at Dr. Smith’s office where our goal is to improve the oral health of all, how may I help you?     End your calls with “It was my pleasure to assist you”. ) It may sound so simple, but I’m here to tell you the results in such simplicity are profound.
  • Solid consistent use of detailed systems from everything to recare to undone treatment, insurance and accounts receivables, confirmations  to NOTES and everything in between. Solid, consistent systems to ensure patients don’t get lost in the shuffle, patients get scheduled, insurance co’s and patients are prompt with their payments. No one in a STAND OUT office is ever confused as to why something happened, where a patient went or if a patient was followed up on.

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  • Communication. With team members. With patients. All documented so every one is always on the same page. Patient cancelled? NOTE it. (why, when, may we follow up etc) Patient left without scheduling their next appointment? NOTE it. (why, what was the scheduling challenge and when are we going to follow up) I cannot begin to express how much detailed notes will change your practice in all areas. (Come on, I know you’ve all looked at an appointment or wondered where a patient has been and no one can answer you as to what happened)
  • SMILE. and mean it.
  • As Zig Ziglar says “You don’t build a business. You build people. And then the people build the business.” Build your team.
  • Credit to Howard Farran – “Hire fast, fire quicker”.  If you know they aren’t a fit, help them succeed elsewhere.
  • Focus on the patients, building connections. Commit to making a difference. Success follows.

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Are you a STAND OUT practice or are do you STEP ASIDE?

The choices you make today will produce your results tomorrow.

STAND OUT! STAND OUT! STAND OUT!

 

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