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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330-639-1333

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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!

330-639-1333

 

 

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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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It’s time to replace your boring, non-productive answering service with a relationship building, appointment scheduling AWESOME service!

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2014 Drive For Success Challenge!

2014 DRIVE FOR SUCCESS CHALLENGE!

Ronald F. Arndt, DDS, MBA, MAGD, MCC – The Dental Coach

Mary Beth Bajornas, CEO, DSS, CMT, VA

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”

Procrastination is the line that divides the 4% from the 96% of the health care professionals that reach Economic Freedom by the age of 65.  Economic Freedom is the day you have a safe and reliable portfolio that produces your desired standard of living for the rest of your life.  This is the day you go to work because you want to, not because you have to.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m going to get to that next week,” but next week comes and goes.  The reality for many of us is that we are inclined to “put-off” those activities that we believe will require a lot of our energy, take a lot of our time or cost us money.  Many times we will postpone an activity because we imagine it might be uncomfortable.  What I have discovered is that we avoid moving forward in many cases due to fear.  Fear and misperception is an anchor to success.  Even when we know the consequences of avoiding this behavior may not be in our best interest, many of us still hesitate.

So here is a request: take a quick 5 minutes for a challenge on achieving your 2014 goals. Push yourself and your team by taking the following assessment to see what areas you can really charge for the rest of the year!

1)  Is your recall system up to date? (Meaning has every patient that is past due for exams/prophy’s been contacted and scheduled?) What are your recall procedures? What systems/contact goals do you have in place to work your recall list daily? We know electronic systems can support this cause, but adding monthly recare postcards (second week of every month send out 3 sets – 1) to patients scheduled for the next month asking for a confirmation call 2) to patients who are due for the next month but  have no appt and 3) patients who are past due for the prior 3 month) and personal calls ensures up to date patient communications and scheduling! (and PRODUCTION!)

2) How many dollars of undone production are sitting in your unscheduled treatment plans instead of your production column? And how old are the recommended treatment cases? What systems do you have in place to consistently work these lists and present them to patients? (are you preparing for opportunity walking in your door today?) Follow the 2-2-2 system – Follow up in 2 days if the patient leaves the office without scheduling, 2 weeks if no scheduling again then 2 months.

3) Have you sent out your “Use it or Lose it” remaining benefits communications? (Of course followed up with a phone call!) Get these ready NOW to be sent out the first few weeks of September. (feel free to direct message me for a complimentary copy of what we use!) Make it enticing for patients to get in before year end – throw in a contest to win a FREE i-pad, dinner certificates or something else that your patients would LOVE!

Let’s clean up your lists by year-end – What gets measured, gets done! We challenge you to run these reports today:

  • Past Due Recare – Lets get these patients in before year-end! Schedule a calling blitz! This will also help prepare for January when we do chart auditing!
  • Undone Treatment – How old are your treatment plans? Do they need rejected? Bring all current! Use this list daily with a goal # of contacts per day!
  • Insurance Aging – How much money of yours is sitting in insurance claims and on a report instead of in your pocket? This report should be worked consistently to keep it clean and the money where it belongs!
  • Account Aging – How much money is sitting in 30+, 60+ and 90+ buckets?
  • New Patient #’s – How many, where did they come from, did they proceed with recommended treatment?

4)  Do you effectively and consistently use morning huddles? Celebrate success and discuss challenges? Determine how you’re going to act on every single opportunity that walks in your door today Being prepared to maximize an opportunity gives  you a greater chance of succeeding!! (Again, feel free to direct message me for a complimentary copy of the one we use!)

5)  Book review – Does your office do this? Review of every single appointment on your schedule to locate opportunities BEFORE the patient sits in your chair.

Being prepared with:

  • What needs to be done
  • When it needs to be done
  • How much it costs
  • What the patient portion is and how you are going to make it affordable
  • When the next appointment available is
  • Are any other family members due for visits

You’ll notice greater treatment case acceptance when you have all the answers at your fingertips.  (we have a checklist for this!)

6)  Does your team execute the perfect hand-off? (see our Creating the Perfect Hand-off blog for this!) Hand-off’s can make or break treatment case acceptance.

7)  Does every patient leave your office with their next appointment scheduled and with a referral request in hand? The Fortune is in the Follow-up my friends!!

8)  Social Media – Does your practice have a website, Facebook page, twitter account and linked in profile? How does your office gather email addresses, social media information and cell phone numbers for patients? Do you ask for the patient’s preferred method of communication? Where is this information noted? In this day of automated reminders and the capability of reaching out and touching your patients whenever you want with Facebook communications, tweets, emails blasts,  and newsletters you’re missing out on many opportunities to keep your name out there if you aren’t connecting on these levels!

9) Opportunity doesn’t quit calling just because you’re out of the practice or out to lunch! Answer the phones – cheerfully and a minimum of 40 hours a week! (WE can expertly support you with this! www.dentalsupportspecialties.com)

Here’s a tip – If you have a non-productive, non-proactive “answering service” handling your calls please be sure you call your own office on their watch – You might be (unpleasantly) surprised at what your patients are hearing! We are here to tell you from experience that even though you may think your patients “know” you aren’t in on Fridays, they are still calling – along with new patients!!

10) Do you have a strategic confirmation system in place? Electronic reminders, texts and personal phone calls. Strive for 100% confirmations! You CAN control your schedule!! While you’ll never completely eliminate no-shows and cancellations, if you have solid systems in place you most certainly can control them! Check out our systematic approach for confirmations in our most read blog When Donkeys Fly!

When we begin to manage our procrastination is when we become free to make choices.  Procrastination is not a harbor of comfort, it’s our nemesis.  When we elevate economic and practice success to a must priority, it comes with no conditions.  The results are predictable.  Positive outcomes.  Peace of mind to live our lives and operate our practices exactly the way we want them, free of the constraints of money.

We can procrastinate or we can plan.  We can “get to it someday” or we can begin today.  It’s your call.  Plan your plan.

The Perpetual State of Preparedness. It’s a great place to be.

If you need assistance running those reports/monitors we’ll jump in and support you – Our Periodic Practice Exam program may but just right for you. Feel free to contact us anytime!

Here’s to CRUSHING your 2014 goal!

MB

Opportunity Doesn’t Quit Calling When You’re out of the Practice…Let it call US!!

It’s time to replace that boring, unproductive answering service with a result producing, appointment scheduling AWESOME service!

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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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Complete admin support including phone coverage/scheduling/insurance services.

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