The Dreaded Question. Here’s Your Answer.

It’s a phrase you should have at the ready – an answer to a frequently asked question that many of us dread –

“What do you do?”

I’m a dental assistant.
I’m a dentist.
I’m a dental hygienist.
I’m a dental practice administrator.

Accurate – yes. Will it turn the asker into a new patient? Not likely.

So let’s do a simple exercise.

What is the name of your practice? (Don’t worry – the questions will get tougher.)

Dr. Leonard Cohen’s office.
Majestic Hills Dentistry.
The Smile Shack.
Drs. Johnston and Simmons.

Now (a little tougher) what is a one or two word phrase that describes your practice? Here are some examples:

Family oriented.
Cosmetically advanced.
Large group.

Next come up with a slightly longer phrase that tells the story of your practice philosophy.

Treating patients comfortably is our number one goal.
We believe in high-tech dentistry in a patient-friendly environment.
We make high quality dentistry affordable.

Take a few minutes to come up with one – it’s not easy!

Okay – you’re almost ready. Next time someone asks you “what do you do?” – fill in the blanks like this…

I’m a answer one at answer two. We’re an answer three practice and answer four!

Using some of the above examples, here is how it would sound.

Dreaded question: “What do you do?”

Your amazing response:

“I’m a dental practice administrator at Majestic Hills Dentistry. We are a cosmetically advanced practice and we make high quality dentistry affordable!”

If it fits the situation, add your location as well.

“I’m a dental assistant at Dr. Leonard Cohen’s office in Montreal. We’re a center-city practice and treating patients comfortably is our number one goal!”

So what’s your answer to the dreaded question? Take a few minutes now or at a team meeting and develop a great one. Feel free to send us your response.

We don’t. We can’t. We won’t. Sorry.

We don’t. We can’t. We won’t. Sorry.

Okay – time for another very quick restaurant story. It’s one that can have some serious implications for your practice!

At checkout in a local Baltimore lunch spot:

“Would you like anything to drink?”

“Yes – coffee please.”

“We don’t serve coffee here – but a lot of people ask for that.”

Okay – just for effect let’s repeat that line again.

“We don’t serve coffee here – but a lot of people ask for that.”

If there ever was a “duh” moment – this is it! Buy a commercial coffee maker for a few hundred bucks, or even easier, call a coffee service and tell them to set it up today!!

When our practices were young we both had a “policy” – no cleanings on the first visit. Yes – we knew that clinically that was the best decision. After all, how can you properly appoint a patient with the hygienist without an examination?

But after losing hundreds of new patients due to this policy, we both loosened up a bit and realized the number one customer service lesson in history –

Give the people what they want!

What do you hear yourself saying on a regular basis?

We don’t have Saturday hours.

We don’t take that insurance.

We don’t do cleanings on the first visit.

We don’t have a financial solution for you (so you can’t afford treatment).

We can’t get you in today or tomorrow.

We don’t do even simple orthodontics here.

We don’t do cleanings on the first visit.

We don’t.

We can’t.

We won’t.

Want your practice to grow?

Do. Can. Will.


A Quick Little Tip Taken A Step Further!

We all know that we should keep little notes in our patient’s charts about personal items. That way, when they return for a visit we can say stuff like:


“So how was your trip to Mexico?” or 

“How is that ballroom dance class working out?” or


“So is that no-good son of yours out of jail yet?”


This old chestnut has been around forever for good reason – it works!!


So let’s take it a step further.


We constantly stress how important it is to be known as “THE” dental practice of your community. And part of that is doing all of your business near your practice (banking, dry cleaning, dining, etc..) So when you do this, take the same kind of notes!




There is a small Indian take-out place near your office, and a few times a month you find yourself bringing home a delicious order of Bhindi Masala and Tandoori Chicken Tikka. Every time you go for pickup, the same guy (probably the owner) gives you your bag and rings you up.


Next time you go, introduce yourself as Dr. Smith or Jenny from Dr. Smith’s office – the dental practice down the street, and ask the guy his name. Store it in your phone in the same place you keep the restaurant’s phone number.


Then the next time you call Curry In A Hurry, say:


“Hello  – Param? This is Dr. Smith! I’d like to order……”


Then when you go for pickup, greet him by name as well. You may even have a note to ask about a recent trip, baby’s birth, or anything else relevant.


It’s amazing how few people do this, and how much people appreciate it. It’s a simple human touch that can go very far.


How far? You may gain an entire family in your practice just by being super friendly and taking a few extra seconds to show you care. Or at the very least, you may hear the magic words which one of us heard recently:


“Dr. Madow – I put some pappadam in with your order – no charge!!”


Do it at the cleaners, the bank, the gas station – everywhere you can. And before long this little simple effort will make you “THE” dentist of your community!!

Great Lesson in Five Seconds!

Sometimes a great lesson can take only five seconds to say and absorb. This one comes from Robert Schneider, the singer, guitarist and producer of the band Apples In Stereo. Though they have never had platinum sales or arena-level sellouts, they continue to put out great Beatles / Beach Boys influenced music which is so happy in its sound it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and make you dance!

In a recent interview, after a bunch of overly complex questions, Rob just smiled and said,

“The most important thing to me is being kind

and trying to do something awesome.”

Wow – that really sums it up, doesn’t it? If you’re not sure how to approach something, whether it is with a patient, fellow team member, family member, friend, or total stranger – always remember to be kind and do something awesome. How can you go wrong???

So go ahead. Be kind. Do something awesome. Do it today – and every day!!! The best part is, you will surely be rewarded for it.



Why Patients Leave

Mrs. Johnson is a relatively new patient in your practice when a lingual cusp on a lower molar snaps off, necessitating a crown. She trusts your practice, so she goes ahead and schedules the crown even though her best friend Gloria tells her that another dentist in town has a crown fee that is two hundred dollars lower.

The appointment for the prep and temp goes well, but at the insert visit the crown has a slight open margin. The decision is made to do a new impression and reappoint. The patient comments how difficult this is with her schedule, but has no choice but to make the appointment.

The second try goes well and she leaves with a beautiful new crown, but Mrs. Johnson has some moderate (yet typical) post-op discomfort. She didn’t realize at the time that a little pain after any dental procedure is not unusual.

No one hears from Mrs. Johnson until four months later, when a confirmation call is made for her upcoming hygiene appointment, at which point she says:

“Oh – I won’t be coming back in anymore. My new office will be calling for my x-rays.”

So what went wrong?

Were your crown fees too high? Was she disappointed in the clinical abilites of the office because the first crown didn’t fit well? Was it that the second impression and insert was too much of an inconvenience? How about the post-op pain?

According to international consulting giant Bain & Company, “A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related.”

So while this patient probably wasn’t too happy about several things, if a few simple service-related procedures were done correctly, they probably would have stayed.

The doctor didn’t call the night of the crown prep to check on the patient. They didn’t properly explain that while it was possible to cement the first crown, to get it really perfect would mean a new impression (while apologizing for the inconvenience.)

And a patient-centric office would overplay the fact that there would be post-op pain. That way, discomfort is expected and no discomfort makes you a hero!

So before we let you go for today, let’s just repeat the lesson of the day:

“A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related.”

It’s Perfectly Legal (and will save you time…)

We are big believers in calling patients. Post-op calls from the doctor are about the best internal marketing strategy ever invented. (Our standard is any patient who had an injection or came in with a problem gets a call from the doctor that night.) Another fantastic touch is for new patients – the doctor calls the night before the appointment to introduce themselves and see if the patient has any questions or concerns. It not only floors the person – it reduces no-shows too! But let’s face it – there are times when you just don’t want to actually talk to someone! Chronic complainers, time-wasters, multiple question askers and the like can drive you nuts and kill an hour that you would rather be spending with your honey, at the gym, listening to music, reading peacefully, or doing anything but talking to that crazy person. But hey – they deserve a call too! So what can you do? Enter an amazing app called “Straight To Voicemail!” With this incredible piece of technology, you can call anyone on their cell phone and instead of ringing it goes – you guessed it – straight to voicemail!! You get the brownie points for calling but don’t actually have to talk to anyone!! It’s costs $1.99, but remember – time is money!

Now please don’t abuse this app – your patients really deserve that personal call. But in those rare occasions when you need it, “Straight To Voicemail” can be a lifesaver – or at least a time saver!


Is Your Practice Major League or Minor League?

Is your practice Major League or Minor League?


Have tons of ideas, are excited about all of them and see none to fruition. 


Have tons of ideas, pick a few and do their best to make them happen. 


Are always worried about the practice down the street. 


Embrace their colleagues and network with them. 


Think they know everything. 


Are always learning. 


Are always gathering information but can never get things started. 


Know that sometimes you have to “ready, fire, aim!” 


Are made up of individuals who all scramble for credit. 


Are truly a team. 


Bitch and moan about things they can’t change. 


Accept the everyday headaches, change what they can and aren’t bothered by the rest. 


Blame outside forces when things go wrong. 


Use failure as a learning experience. 


Say “We’ve always done it that way.” 


Say “How can we do this better?” 


Pinch pennies when it comes to team compensation, continuing education and marketing. 


Know where to save money and where to spend it. 


See their work as a way to earn money so they can enjoy the other parts of their lives. 


Have fulfilling lives outside of dentistry, but also enjoy enriching the lives of their patients. 


Believe in instant success. 


Know anything worth accomplishing takes time, and what might look like overnight success is rarely such. 


Have “a crown prep in room three…..”


Are truly interested in their patients and treat them accordingly. 






Demonstrate their bile, they get frustrated or angry and it’s easy to see. 


Are cool, calm and collected.