Lynne explains why soft skills for dentists are actually essential skills and how theses skills can help you gain more patient trust.
Have you ever played that listening game where a statement is told to someone? Then, they are told to pass on what they heard to the person next to them. By the 4th person the statement is not even close to the original thought. This game brings to mind the multiple people that must communicate to successfully complete a process. We do this everyday in our practice, and I want to share from personal experience how this can create issues that are not intended.
Last week my father had knee surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus. The procedure was done on an outpatient basis and is pretty routine for all personnel involved. The only catch is that it was performed on an 81-year old man who has been free from any previous surgical needs. At 6AM, we arrived at the hospital registration as requested by the surgeons’ office. These instructions were given at time of scheduling the surgery, and again confirmed the day before surgery. After a lengthy wait for him to be taken back for pre-op, I asked the gentleman that registered my father why we were experiencing the delay. I had already seen his doctor walk into the hospital earlier, so I knew he was there. Imagine my surprise when he told me he was confused why we had arrived so early for a 9am surgery. Really?! A 9am surgery and told to be there at 6am! You can imagine my displeasure upon hearing this. I was glad I inquired about the delay, but now I had to explain this to my mom and dad who were getting more anxious as every minute passed and blaming his surgeon for this delay.
I had to place blame at the responsible party which was not the hospital or any of their employees, nor the surgeon. My father was already doubting the trust he had placed in this surgeon for something that had nothing to do with his skills, ability, or the hospital he is affiliated with. The blame was with the scheduling coordinator at the surgeons’ office who told us to be there an hour too early. All of this could have been easily avoidable and was totally preventable. I found out it is standard for this office to ask patients to be there 2 hours before surgery for registration, not 3, so something happened. Was it the end of the world, no. Did it upset him and cause concern, definitely. Could it have been avoidable, yes. I am sharing this because the same thing can happen in your office if someone is not attentive to the details and communicates ineffectively.
While dad was in the operating room, I called the surgeons’ office and spoke with the scheduling coordinator about this situation. She deeply apologized to me and took responsibility for her error. Being the coach that I am I asked her how she was going to prevent that from happening again to another patient. She was surprised by my questions until I told her what I did for a living. She signed and said she needed to fix her process and agreed with my suggestion about using a standard template for surgery instead of manually filling in the blank for each patient. That way the time was calculated correctly as surgery time – 2 hours = registration time.
At your next huddle, please discuss how time and expectations are communicated to your patients. Hopefully, unlike my father, they will not experience any inconvenience or miscommunication.
If you have any questions or problems you are facing in your practice, please get in touch with me for a complementary call.
Have you ever walked away from a business scratching your head? That is exactly what happened to my husband and I during a purchase at a local hardware store a few days ago. We needed some bulbs for our light fixture above our sink in the kitchen and we like to do business with this locally owned company. They always have what we are looking for and the customer experience is usually better than the big chains. When we brought the bulbs up to check out, the cashier noticed there was no bar code to scan. Instead of asking a team member to get him the code, he looked at my husband and said, can you go back and write down the code for me? My husband was gracious about it, but as he was walking away, I looked at the cashier and said I can’t believe you think this is good customer service. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders like he didn’t’ know what to do, and waited on the guy behind me. As we were walking out with our purchase, I looked at Steve and said I have my next blog article. I recount this story with the main purpose of asking you, how are your patients being walked out and checked out in your practice?
You can perform well in every area of your practice. Your patients are greeted well, receive the best care at service level, but their experience when checking out of your office ends like mine in the hardware store, their last impression is one of incompetence. Think about that for a moment. At the time you are getting your patient to pay for their services, this is the time they are not treated in the best manner possible. Better yet, ask yourself if you think this patient will tell others about their experience at your practice or post about it on social media. Of course they will!
I believe two things would have made my experience better at the hardware store; the attitude of the cashier and making sure he was taught the skills necessary for the job. I can understand the need to check out many people at one time, (sound like a dental office?) and you may need some help from a teammate (also a dental office?). There is no need to ask a customer, or patient to do something that the business or practice should be doing. Think of it as a simple courtesy. The cashier could have used the intercom for help or could have locked his computer and gotten the information he needed for our transaction. He clearly made the wrong choice by asking a customer to do his or another teammates job.
It is worthwhile to take a moment and review the basics with your team what should occur when there are several patients to check out at one time. How does your front office handle this when it happens? I know I am asked many times, “how do I differentiate myself from other practices?” It starts with these basic customer service skills and handling issues with simple courtesy and professionalism. The basics cannot be ignored if you want to succeed.
If you would like to review these types of things or have questions, please get in touch with me so we can make your practice the best it can be.
Millennials – Instead of motivating different generations, bring your team together based on your core values.
Often, when working with an office that is struggling with an issue I find that sharing this experience may benefit others. With that in mind, I would like to share what has been going with one of my clients. The doctor has been trying to get his team members to work closer together. The doctor’s thought was to concentrate on individually motivating each of the multiple generations that comprise his team. He was trying to do this by thinking of what each generation cares about the most and trying to communicate his needs based on that. He was using his energy and found that he was getting more frustrated as well as confusing his team on what he wanted to improve. This was not working for him and let me share with you why, and how the issue can be corrected.
There were other things happening in his office that kept the team from being on the same page. When that is the case, you need to find a common ground to get everyone together. Common ground can be found by identifying your core values and bringing the team together around them. That is a much better, more complete way of handling this issue.
When you take the time to write down your core values as a practice, you are also determining your “why”. It is a natural progression from one to the other. By identifying your “why”, this will automatically add value from all generations to what you are trying to achieve in your practice. If you find yourself thinking this is a waste of time, think again. Anytime you can bring your team together around the core values or foundation of your practice, that is good thing. Not only for you as the owner dentist, but also for your patients you serve. You may think some of this should already be known by your team. It may be, and clear communication is never a bad thing. Either this will bring some clarity to the team or you will be creating something that brings your team together. Both, the creation or a friendly reminder, are always good when working with a group of people.
I know that was the intention of my client and I agree that communication styles will change depending on the generation you are speaking with. I think some generations get a bad/good label and are grouped together as if everyone thinks the same way depending on their birthdate. If you are having some problems with getting your team on the same page, start at the beginning with your core values. If you do not already have these identified as a team, please take the time to do so. Knowing your core values will help you with potential conflicts as well as making good hiring decisions.
At the end of the day, people are people and I think we tend to overthink things. Instead of focusing on motivating different generations, bring them together based on what counts – your core values.
I hope you find this helpful to bring your team closer together and share a stronger foundation. If I may be of assistance, please let me know.
Lynne Leggett is proud to have taken part in the latest issue of Dental Entrepreneur Woman.
I find the overwhelming complaint of dentists/practice owners, is the constant change of thinking – switching between business owner and clinician all day. For most, the energy used can be draining. Sometimes you just want to escape at the end of a grueling day and not use your business owner hat anymore. If this sounds like your struggle, I have some ideas for you to try.
As clinicians, you work “in” your business all day. What I am asking you is to set aside devoted time to work “on” your business. I know this is not the fun stuff – you would rather keep your clinician hat on all day instead of being interrupted to switch to your CEO hat. Think of it this way, you block your schedule according to the procedures you want to do in the morning versus the afternoon, the same idea applies. Block your time as the CEO.
I know you, you obviously can have laser focus on things you want to focus on. By being intentional with your focus for certain time periods, you can get a lot of things done as the CEO of your practice. Pick at least 4 hours a week to work “on” your business, breaking up your week with that focus in mind. This amount of time assumes you have someone doing your payroll, and other weekly tasks. Use this time to think and to come up with a strategy for your business. Where are you today? Where do you want to be in 6 months or a year? Answering these types of questions require focused thought, not while you are driving home from the office. Understanding where you currently are is the key to understanding where you want to be in any given future time period. I find that May is a good month to really start looking at how you are going to answer these questions since you just paid federal and state taxes and have had a recent meeting with your accountant.
Start your day by getting into the office at least 30 minutes before your morning huddle begins, and make sure you are delegating certain tasks to members of your team for your meeting. You are the CEO, they need to be accountable to you and the area they represent in your practice. For example, have your scheduling coordinator prepared to speak about any openings that day/week in the schedule. Are you able to do any same day dentistry? Where are you as team with your scheduled production vs your daily/monthly goal? You should know where to see these numbers but as the CEO, it is not your responsibility to provide them at your morning huddle. I know for my clients that do not enjoy switching clinician and CEO hats all day appreciate a designated time for their team to communicate to them. The best time is at the start of each day, during your huddle. There is no mystique about a morning huddle – it is just communication time for your team.
If you have a team and not employees, they will welcome this responsibility to share their areas of responsibility during each huddle meeting. The more you can get your team to focus their questions to you during the huddle, the less switching of hats you will have to do during your clinician time.
This process has worked so well for some of my clients that the dentist like to have a quick time together before starting in the afternoon. I realize that may not be feasible for some practices, but it is something to think about for your situation. For those offices that have an office manager, making time each day before you leave the office is important as well. There needs to be a separate, intentional time that you spend with your office manager to review any items that need your input.
Victory Dental Management
No matter what region of the country you live in, chances are your production numbers have been affected by the weather. The question I have been asked by my clients has been the same for the past few weeks, how do I make up my missed production?
We want to take care of our patients. It is not their fault that snow and ice fell and kept them from being seen for their scheduled appointments. Because of these missed appointments, you have the opportunity to get creative with your schedule. I know for some practices it is easier to remain open a few hours later each day for a couple weeks to be able to reschedule those patients. There are others that prefer working a few Fridays to make up the time for their patients. The important thing is to add time to your schedule, so you take care of your patients.
Discuss this with your team and create a plan of action so you are able to meet your goals. Everyone is in this together and should understand that taking care of your patients is the priority of the practice.
If I can help you, please get in touch with me.
I know I say this more frequently than I used to – time is flying by. I am not sure if this is due to my daughter being in her senior year of high school, or my perception of time is changing. Which brings me to my point for this month’s blog – As time has flown and we close the first quarter of 2018, are you on track to meet your Q1 goals?
As a business owner myself, I know working on your business can be filled with challenges. Achieving your goals may be the last thing on your lengthy list to review. You wear many hats at one time and must transition back and forth all day between clinician, and business owner. Perhaps you figure if things are going well, you do not have to worry about it and spend your time on the things right in front of you demanding your more immediate attention. That is an option, but not one that will keep your practice profitable over time.
Maybe it is difficult for you to find the time you think you need to keep track of things. I find it is easier to start by tracking a few important items. Once you determine those items, write them down and see what your results are after a few months. It is easier to start a habit with a few things versus letting yourself get overwhelmed with a bunch all at once. By looking at a few items you can effectively track and have success, then you can add more items to your list in the future. By tracking a few metrics, you will see if you are achieving your goals. Start with baby steps instead of getting overwhelmed. I have done this with clients before and it works very well. Don’t beat yourself up about the past, just start with something.
The good thing is, it is not too late. Just because the first quarter is almost over, it is amazing the change that can take place in a practice once there is clarity on the business side of the practice. If this sounds familiar to you, please get in touch with me for a complementary call. I would love to help you simplify and achieve your goals.
Each year I pick a word or phrase that resonates with me to be like a theme. This year I chose the word relationships. Due to me being a business owner, wife, mother, and basketball coach, sometimes I do not take the time and stay in touch with people like I should. Life somehow gets in the way. I am no different than anyone else – so much to do and so little time to do it. This year I have intentionally decided I want to spend time staying connected with friends and colleagues much better than I have in the past. As time goes by, I realize it is the relationships we have with others that bring joy to our lives. Connecting with people refreshes us and give us a support system.
That was very evident to me a couple weeks ago when I met some friends in San Antonio, Texas. All four of us live busy lives, and the love of dentistry brought us together. We all have different roles within the dental industry, and we can call on each other like sisters. I am sharing this as I believe you need to find other people in your lives that share your passion and can encourage you in your endeavors.
When we are under stress, some people can isolate themselves. I do not think that is the healthiest of ways to manage. We are meant to be around other people and truly connect and strengthen our relationship with one another. Sometimes, life gets so busy we tend to put ourselves last. I could have stayed at home and gotten more work done, but I remembered my word for the year. Had I not made time for relationships, I would have missed out on some great sharing of obstacles and problem solving with each other.
Please consider this a friendly reminder to take the time to connect with others to strengthen your relationships and your support system. If I may be of assistance to you and your practice, please take a moment and get in touch with me.