Okay – we’ve said this before, but unfortunately we need to say it again!
Why? Last week our Mom had a doctor’s appointment. She is happy with the treatment she has been receiving, but told us that she is seriously considering switching to a different doctor. The reason?
“He has no personality. It’s like he doesn’t care about me. At my last appointment he walked right by me in the hallway and didn’t even look at me or say hello.”
One of the easiest and most important rules to follow in your practice is “The Madow Brothers’ Ten Foot Rule!”
Simply stated, when any member of the team, including the doctor, is within ten feet of any patient, they should look them right in the eye and give a warm greeting – using their name if possible.
That’s it! No excuses. This is mandatory! So let’s start right now!
Dr. David Madow and Dr. Richard Madow are actual dentists who have been helping dental offices become more successful for over 28 years. They are down to earth, real people who personally connect with their clients and are proud to call them friends. If you have a question for this column, please write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are now offering a complimentary 30-minute coaching session! Please CLICK HERE to schedule yours. Doctors only please.
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No doubt about it – the best practices have the best teams.
As much as we like to think that no one is irreplaceable, including us, the fact is that when a great team member leaves for greener pastures, browner pastures, or Louis Pasteurs, it is a blow to the office, sometimes unnerving to the patients, and just an all around pain in the butt to get a new person hired and up to speed. Of course, there are other team members whose resignation can only be responded to with a humongous sigh of relief! The point is – we want our great team members to work hard, love their jobs, contribute to the success of the practice, and stay! But do we really know how to make that happen?
Recently, the Gallup people finished off two huge multi-year studies to find out what employees really want from their workplaces, and what the best business owners do to retain them. They came up with twelve statements that are directly related to job satisfaction and longevity.
1) “I know what is expected of me at work.”
According to Marcus Buckingham (of the Gallup Organization, not the great band form Chicago that scored in the 60s with “Kind Of A Drag” and many more), primary analyst for the study,
“Telling employees every step to take in order to do their jobs basically says ‘check your mind at the door.’ “
He suggests a better route is to tell team members what is expected of them, and what the ultimate goals are, and then allowing them their own route to solving a problem.
Now granted, sometimes this can be dangerous. But usually, it gives people much more satisfaction and follow-through when they are responsible for solutions.
For example, let’s say that you are having trouble with collections. What works better? Telling your front desk sergeant exactly what to do, or asking them to come up with some strategies to use to alleviate this problem? Many times they will have more insight into the problem anyway. Now of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t dictate the course of action. But even that will work better with employee input. And take them seriously.
2) “I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.”
Now this doesn’t mean you need to go to the Chicago Mid-Winter meeting and drop two hundred grand on the exhibit floor. But it also means that if you are working with equipment that was state of the art when Donovan was cranking out the hits, you are holding your staff (and yourself) way back. Plus, everything needs to be kept in the best repair and condition. Asking a team member to accommodate their technique due to faulty equipment is not only unfair, it is asking for trouble!!
Training is important too. It doesn’t help very much if you have the most modern equipment if no one knows how to use it!!
3) “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day!”
Stifling people is not a way to make them productive. A truly great leader will recognize the talents of others, and utilize them to their greatest potential. This may involve encouraging others to get out of their “comfort zone” (yikes – didn’t we promise to never use that phrase??) and discovering just how good they can be.
4) “In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.”
There is absolutely nothing better and nicer than complimenting a staff member on a job well done, especially in front of a patient. This can even be for the simplest of things. And there is nothing wrong with repetitiveness!!
“Karen, that temporary looks fantastic!”
“Kim, you really handled that phone call well!”
“Kathy, Mrs. Weezer’s gums look excellent – great job!”
“Kris – why does everyone in this office have a name that starts with a K?”
We’ve been teaching this for years, and are glad that the Gallups agree!!
5) “My boss seems to care about me as a person!”
Now this doesn’t mean that you have to get involved in every soap opera that your assistant has, but it is important to care and get involved with the well being of everyone in your office. The growth and success of your staff is of utmost importance to happiness and a healthy office. It doesn’t hurt to provide a caring ear or even a shoulder to cry on from time to time.
6) “There is someone at work who encourages my development.”
Buckingham stated that the typical management of the past tended to point out a person’s weaknesses instead of strengths. Well that just doesn’t cut it these days! It is better to point somebody in a path that matches their own skills.
We once had a front desk assistant who did a great job, and was extremely well liked by everyone. But it seemed her forte was not answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and other things of that nature, but actually “touching” people with her warmth. It was actually very difficult for her to say “no” to a patient when they wanted a particular appointment time, whether that time was available or not!
So, after some great training, she was “shifted” to dental assistant, a position where her warmth and natural skill of making every patient relaxed and comfortable was utilized to the max.
Everyone needs to be encouraged to use their natural skills to the best of their potential. And best of all, if you encourage learning and growing, people amazingly seem to develop more “natural” skills!!
7) “At work, my opinions seem to count.”
This one is very self-explanatory, but rarely practiced. We are so close to the fire sometimes that we can’t feel the heat. Other’s opinions should always be welcomed. And remember, some ideas may not be feasible, but you should always encourage opinions and be VERY thankful that your team cares!!
8) “The mission / purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important”
Mr. Buckingham states, “When people feel they are an integral part of a larger whole, they are more likely to stay committed to that organization.” In dentistry, this is almost too easy. We do great things for people every day. Make sure that your entire staff shares in these successes. Take them to the top continuing education programs where they can meet other like-minded offices. And get everyone involved in charitable cases or philanthropic work of some kind. What we do is extremely important. All too often that fact gets lost in the mundaneality of work and the stresses of running a business. Don’t let it!! By the way, “mundaneality” is a made-up word. Did you like it?
9) “My fellow team members are committed to doing quality work.”
Obvious. No underminers or slackers are welcome!!
10) “I have a best friend at work.”
Like it or not, close friendships in the office are quite important. It keeps people happy and self-assured to have a good friend at work, and helps staff members deal with change. This is, of course, different than cliques, sororities with blackballing privileges, and scary queen bees.
11) “In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.”
Many successful dentists do regular one-on-one meetings with their staff. According to Gallup, it sounds like a good idea!!
12) “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow!”
This is a great one, because it benefits both employee and employer. How can your practice grow without staff growth? How can your staff be happy doing the exact same things they were doing two years ago? It just doesn’t work that way. Stagnation leads to boredom, which leads to poor performance or walking. Get your team involved. Take their suggestions seriously. Explore opportunities in continuing education (HINT: TBSE is the best way to do this!) And be one big happy dental family!!
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Today’s column comes from Betty Hayden, the lead coach at The Madow Center for Dental Practice Success!
Hi everyone! Today let’s talk about some easy-to-implement tips tied in to the month of April.
When I share practice management and marketing ideas with you each month, my goal is to help you exceed your current and potential patients’ expectations. Just as important, if not most important is to consistently exceed your employees’ expectations. Why? Because an employee that feels appreciated will always deliver more than is expected.
Here are a few tips ideas to help you get your second quarter off to a great start!
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month & Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week: 1st -8th – This is an excellent opportunity for you to raise oral cancer awareness and the need for early detection in order to save lives. Consider offering complimentary oral cancer screenings during the month of April or on a designated day. Be sure to promote your event on your social media platforms, in-office, and to the local TV & Print News Media Outlets.
National Pet Month – People love to talk and brag about their pets. Use this week to ask your friends/patients on your social media sites to post pictures of their pets. Post pictures of your team members pets. Turn it into a contest: the pet with the most likes wins a special treat.
Give-away: Hand out dog treats packaged with your office information. Even if a patient doesn’t have a dog surely they know someone who does…great way to get your office name out there!
Stress Awareness Month ~ Stress can impact your dental health. Share tips on how to de-stress and protect your smile. Or, for some, going to the dentist can be a stressful experience. Share ways that your office helps to make dental visits comfortable and stress-free.
National Dental Hygienist Week (Canada): 11-17 – This one is for our Canadian friends – celebrate your hard-working hygienists all week long, eh?
Cleaning For A Reason Week: 18-24 – Send out email & text reminders to your patients that are due/past-due for their hygiene visit. Time for their Spring Cleaning! The “reason”? For their health’s sake – or, consider donating a portion of the production to a local charity.
Administrative Professionals Week: 22-28 – Your administrative professionals are the first and last impression people receive from your office. Show your love and appreciation for all that they do to keep the office running smooth each day.
National Fun at Work Day: 5 – Have a silly & fun theme for this day. (For example, crazy hair, silly socks, decades day, etc.)
So there you have it, some fun & educational ways to help your patients and potential patients smile and exceed their expectations during the month of April.
Yours for Greater Success,
Betty Hayden is the lead coach at The Madow Center For Dental Practice Success. She has over 25 years of experience in the dental profession. Her expertise is in effective telephone answering techniques, profitable scheduling, marketing campaigns, communication, social media, new patient acquisition, practice growth, and much more. She is called “The Idea Woman” because she grows practices!
If you have a question for this column, please write to us at email@example.com. And remember, we would like to offer you a complimentary 30-minute coaching session! Please CLICK HERE to schedule yours. Doctors only please.
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Please help to settle a little disagreement in our office. A patient came in for a crown insert, but the crown was not here! We messed up by putting the wrong date on the lab slip. My assistant thought that we should tell the patient that the lab did not deliver the crown on time. I thought a better answer was that we looked at the crown and were not happy with the quality. Who is right?
Dr. Lynne Jeffries
Thanks so much for your question. It can be tough to figure out what to do when things go wrong in your office.
Maybe (as in your case) a patient came in for their insert appointment and the crown was not back from the lab.
Or possibly you had a schedule malfunction and couldn’t see a patient when they came in.
Or maybe your insurance estimate was way off and the patient was pissed because they owed a lot more than they were originally told.
The list can go on and on because no matter how conscientious we are, screw-ups happen. But there is a pretty simple three-step formula for taking care of them.
Tell the truth.
Trying to fudge the truth to appease a patient or telling a white lie to make the doctor or team member look better rarely works. And of course as the saying goes, when you tell the truth you never have to remember what you said!
Take responsibility and apologize.
So don’t “blame it on the lab.” Even if it was the lab’s fault, that excuse looks about as hollow as saying the dog ate your homework (or blaming any other situation on the dog). The fact is – anything that happens is ultimately the responsibility of the practice.
Waive the fee. Give a Starbucks gift certificate. (It’s great to have a stack of these around the office.) If the patient is being reasonable, do your best to accommodate.
Simple? Yes. The right thing to do? Absolutely! When you screw up – admit it, apologize, and make it better!
We had a minor mess-up at The Madow Brothers office last week. We had the tuition incorrect for our upcoming “Deeper Than Dentistry” seminar, which will take place on Friday March 23rd. So for that – we take full responsibility and we are very sorry!
To see the correct (low!!) tuition and to find out more about this unique and life-changing (seriously!) course, visit www.deeperthandentistry.com!
Hope to see you there!
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Dear Madow Brothers Coaches,
Things are so bad in my practice I don’t even know where to begin. I am producing close to a million dollars a year and collecting around $750K. This is considered really good for my mid-sized Midwestern town. But I am earning practically nothing. My hygienist and my associate are both earning more take-home than me.
Our new patient flow has collapsed, and we are losing patients to two new practices that have opened nearby. It gets worse.
My lab just cut me off because I owe them over $50,000. I owe money on two credit cards, and am still paying off a practice construction loan (when I can). Sometimes I feel like I am the captain of the Titanic and my staff is the orchestra, just blindly playing as the ship sinks. Can you help?
Somewhere in Ohio
Wow – you sure have a lot of things going on there. So first of all, let’s make this clear. There are no coaches or consultants in dentistry who can wave a magic wand and fix your practice. Not us, not Roger, not Cathy, not Lois, not Mayer, and certainly not those people who call you every day, belittle you, and scare the shit out of you until you sign up. But the good news is, based on our years of experience, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it can be found.
There is an old saying – “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” And while we are certainly not recommending or condoning eating elephants, this will be the way you need to approach things. That said, here are a few questions and starting points for you.
When you say that you produce close to a million and collect 750K, does that mean you are writing off a ton of PPO stuff? That is not necessarily bad, but the fact is, if you agreed to a PPO fee schedule you never actually produced at full fee. So that figure is a fantasy. If you are not talking about write-offs, you have a seriously bad collection problem that is adding considerably to your overhead.
If your associate is out-earning you, what is the point? Not every practice needs associates.
Why are you being beaten by those new practices? Our guess is that you are doing little about this, trying to depend on your reputation and word-of-mouth, Hint: It’s 2018.
We can guess (and we are right) that you do not have an effective system to reconnect with your patients who have not been in for a while, do not have a hygiene appointment scheduled, or have diagnosed but untreated dental needs. And remember, any old system is not necessarily an effective one.
Has an outside expert (such as an accountant who specializes in dental practices) reviewed your expenses and debt issues? It is pretty safe to say you are missing a lot here.
Just a guess here (again based on experience) that if we called your practice posing as a new patient your front desk team would not make the appointment. We cannot even tell you how many times we have heard “Oh – my front desk person is fantastic!” only to call and be connected with Clueless Claire.
And here is where it gets a little deeper. We have found that when we work with someone with a practice similar to yours (and we have done that lots of times) the problems are not just with the dental office. We always start with a pretty intense interview process, and nine times out of ten when someone has a similar situation there are factors that go WAY beyond new patients, collections, etc.
Yes – that means that there are some screwed-up things going on in their lives that are negatively affecting their practice. (Not to brag here, but we are the only dental coaches that go deep like that!) Of course that is not always the case, and we are glad to work with “just the practice.” But again, experience shows that outside factors typically contribute to this kind of stuff.
Bottom line – you need some help! This is not a situation you can fix yourself. Keep doing what you are doing and it is just a matter of time before there is a padlock on your door and a “For Rent” sign in the window. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen!!
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Dear Madow Brothers,
After 21 fantastic years in the practice, my hygienist Susie is retiring. She has treated several generations of patients here and everyone loves her.
Should I send an email blast out to our existing patients (coming from her) telling everyone of her retirement, or just inform patients the day before their recall appointments that “Susie retired, Ms. Schtupalot will be seeing you today!?”
On one hand I don’t want my patients to claim I did “not inform them”, but on the other hand I don’t want to give them an opportunity to start calling around to find someone else “closer to home” for their cleanings.
Thanks for your advice,
Dr. Mitchell Josephs
Palm Beach, FL
This is a great question, and the answer could go one of two ways.
You could just do nothing, and inform your patients when they come in for their appointment by saying something like,
“Mrs.Yenta, Susie has retired, and although we didn’t think we would ever be able to replace her, we were so lucky to have found Linda. She is fantastic and you will love her!!” To avoid the “you never told me” syndrome, you could also inform patients of this during their confirmation.
Or….. you could use this opportunity to proactively introduce your patients to the new hygienist and get some excellent goodwill out of the situation!
Have an open house retirement party to honor Susie and introduce everyone to your new hygienist. Thank all your patients for their loyalty and friendship. Have some giveaways, etc…. After doing that, why would they go anywhere else?
The decision may rest on the character of your practice. Although this is a gross generalization, an insurance-dependent practice where most patients are there because of “a list” would be more likely to go with option number one. In a pure FFS practice – the second plan would work better.
The bottom bottom line is – if you have done all of the “little things” right and have developed a high level of patient loyalty, patients understand that changes in personnel happen, and should be more than willing to give the new hygienist a chance.
At “The Corner,” we welcome your questions, and we welcome your opinions too! Today’s column features some interesting reader comments.
Re: What does “CDA” really stand for?
I find myself in a similar situation.
One of my DA ruffles feathers, stirs up the group. The reason I have not fired her is out of fear. Fear because the one thing she is good at is showing up. She will always fill in for someone or do double duty. She is loyal in that way. From time to time she just ruffles my feathers.
Name and city withheld
Rich and Dave,
“The Gospel According To Michael” states that if you have a gallon of water and you put in one drop of poison then you have a gallon of POISON ! Get rid of her!
Dr. Michael O’Brien
My best advice – hire slowly and fire quickly. If every single day you are contemplating whether or not someone belongs in your practice, they probably don’t.
Dr. Darren Ho
The Great North Woods
Re: The Letter
The best thing I did last year (based on your advice) was to raise my fees significantly. It automatically brought in more money with no extra effort. And guess how many patients complained? ZERO!
Of course it didn’t do anything for the PPO patients, but maybe it will change my profile and I’ll eventually get more. In the meantime (based on your suggestion as well) I am considering contacting Apex to have my PPO fee schedule negotiated. Can’t hurt, right?
Thanks for everything,
Dr. Simon Bernstein
Editor’s note: Visit www.apexreimbursement.com to learn more about negotiating your PPO fees. They are the best!
About ten years ago I made the mistake of sending out a letter to my patient base informing them of a fee raise. A few people called immediately to schedule treatment before the raise took effect, so I thought it was a good idea. Then I got some angry calls, and a few patients actually left the practice. One came in to the office, letter in hand, and told my OM that I was a “greedy, rich dentist!” (Oh – if they only knew the truth!!)
I’m doing it again for 2018, but this time no way am I sending a letter!!
Dr. Don Lay
Overland Park, KS
Re: Quickies In The Office?
I see that in this letter “Quickies” meant some quick tips for the office, but my first thought was a different subject. Maybe this is not a term you know, but to me the term “quickie” refers to a sexual liaison. I just would like to advise you that with everything going on in the news these days you need to be careful about the terminology you use or you risk offending someone and possibly incurring legal issues.
Dr. J. Singleton
Re: Should we take the team to a strip show?
Great advice guys. We don’t do any out-of-the-office activities unless the entire team is “all in.” This also means staying away from situations where someone may feel uncomfortable but they are afraid to speak up. Inclusiveness is key. If you want a “team” and not a “staff” they need to be treated respectfully.
Dr. V. Estes
This is ridiculous. Why would anyone hold an office party at a male strip show? On the other hand, if everyone wants to go, is this really a problem? So many other things to worry about….
So there you have it! We welcome YOUR questions and comments too!!