You went to dental school to be a health-care provider. Now as a dentist you’ve taken on multiple roles: business owner, business manager, boss, marketing guru, insurance billing administrator, scheduling coordinator, bank, accountant, in-house IT expert â€“ and probably more. Does it seem like sometimes those extra roles get in the way of actually providing the excellent dentistry you yearn so much to provide?
It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed. Keeping up with continuing education, insurance provider credentialing rules, OSHA standards, dental standards and procedure codes, malpractice insurance, employee manuals, payroll, equipment repair……the list goes on. Does the thought of running your business keep you up at night? Do you want to achieve a better balance and have a successful practice to boot?
Sky Dental Solutions can help. Think of us as your personal coach and mentors. We may not wear gym shorts and whistles, but we can stand beside you, encourage you and help you effectively put into place customized practices and procedures to help your business, no matter at what stage you are in your practice life-cycle. We have solutions for new grads and start-ups to those transitioning into retirement.
We can help you define your vision and establish the mission that makes your practice stand apart from the others. From front office management, effective communications, understanding the behavior styles of your team members, HR questions, clinical challenges and more…we have the resources and the experience to guide you through it all.
Check out the rest of our website and the programs we have to offer, and find us on Facebook and Twitter for valuable tips and information. We look forward to hearing of your success stories as you take your journey with us.
Just what does customer service entail for a dental practice? Unlike retail businesses, in the dental field we can’t offer 30-day return policies or hold store-wide clearance events. Yet we can implement tried-and-true â€“ and out-of-the-box customer service practices learned from our corporate brethren.
Consider the customer service offered at Disney theme parks, or Nordstrom department stores. How about those companies who have made the 2011 Customer Service Hall ofÂ Fame? Trader Joe’s, Costco, Southwest Airlines, FedEx and Amazon.com are on that enviable list. And so are Apple retail stores.
If you’ve never been in an Apple store, it can be an impressive experience. Stores are neat, clean and free of clutter. Plentifully staffed, employees are friendly, highly knowledgeable and strive to make immediate contact with visitors. There’s no pressure to make a purchase, because employees are taught not to sell but to â€œhelp customers solve problems.â€ One training manual states that the role of the sales associate is to â€œunderstand all of your customersâ€™ needs â€” some of which they may not even realize they have.â€
Apple’s policies are simply stated in the acronym â€œAPPLEâ€:
A â€“ Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome.
P â€“ Probe politely to understand all of the customerâ€™s needs.
P â€“ Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
L â€“ Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
E â€“ End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
Dental offices can be more like Apple Stores.Â Or we can learn from Zappos.com, the highly successful on-line shoe department store which recently was purchased by Amazon.com. In his book, â€œDelivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose,â€ by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, (Hsieh, T. (2010) Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, And Purpose . New York: Business Plus), Mr. Hsieh outlines values that he and his employees live by, including â€œDelivering WOW Through Service.â€
Mr. Hsieh describes â€œdelivering WOWâ€ as surprising and delighting the customer. For example, Zappos’ policy has been to not charge for shipping upon ordering OR returns. For frequent customers, Zappos will sometimes surprise them with an upgrade to priority overnight service. This means a customer can order shoes as late as midnight and have their order delivered by 8am the following morning, when they may be expecting three-to-five business days. WOW!
We’ve come up with our own acronym â€“ DENTIST – that like Apple, can be employed in any dental office.
D â€“ Deliver positive experiences
(Every interaction with a patient, from the first phone call, to every visit, to the pleasantness of the reception area, to the communication with staff, assistants or the doctor, actual treatment and care, to filling out forms, to confirmation techniques, to billing statements â€“ should leave a lasting positive experience).
E â€“ Employ high achievers
(Every team member should be on the customer service bandwagon of your practice and want to excel at providing it. The positive energy radiating from you and your staff will positively affect the relationship your practice has with its patients).
N â€“ Network in the community where your practice is located
(Getting involved as an office or by yourself in community events, charitable work or with local youth sports teams either as a sponsor or a participant makes for fantastic PR with far-reaching results).
T â€“ Take the extra step
(Fresh brewed coffee or a selection of teas, or even water bottles with your logo in the reception area? Warm blankets in the operatories? Ensure your patients are comfortable and at ease).
I â€“Â Â Identify and anticipate the needs of your patients
(Listen to your patients! This can be the most powerful customer service policy employed in your office. Patients want good feelings and solutions to problems above anything else your practice provides.)
S â€“ Surprise your patients with thoughtful service
(Do something radical and deliver the WOWâ€“ send flowers to a patient’s workplace at the end of their treatment. Make an impact with that patient’s co-workers. Secure a ride to an appointment for an elderly patient. Make a difference).
T â€“ Throw in something extra
(Have your patients leave with something after every visit, which could be as simple as an informational brochure about treatment you’ve recommended, to a coupon for teeth whitening, or even a gift card to a local business. The reciprocal reward from partnering with other local service-oriented businesses such as coffee houses, massage spas, or health clubs could be tremendous).
Simply taking the time as a team to brainstorm ways to improve service to your patients will bring forth a great return on your investment. Make it a priority to treat your patients the way THEY want to be treated.
Dentists – imagine this scenario: Your day starts with an early morning text from your indispensable dental assistant, who won’t make it to the office today due to caring for a sick toddler. You remember with a groan that you’re down to one handpiece, and you were informed yesterday evening that the office printer was out of ink. You’re running low on gas, and stops to fill up and the office supply store puts you at the office twenty minutes late. Walking in, your hygienist is sitting at the front desk, eating pistachios and leaving the cracked shells on the desk, and is wearing that horrendous â€œSmurfâ€-themed smock, which you despise. She cheerfully greets you with a â€œmyfirstpatienttodaycancelledâ€ garbled comment, while letting the phone ring. As you walk to the back, you see your first patient sitting in the chair, bibbed and chatting on her cell phone; you overhear her saying, â€œno, I’m still waitingâ€ to Your front office receptionist is in the break room making herself a cappuccino with the expensive specialty drink appliance she insisted the â€œofficeâ€ purchase. A quick glance at the printed schedule taped outside your office shows a packed day with no lunch break, with a double booking of a crown appointment and a bridge replacement for an especially hard-to-please patient at 11 am. After heaving a heavy sigh, you wonder how you will get through the day.
If only there was someone in charge of all this………
It is now that you realize â€“ you are the leader, the practice owner, the one to whom your staff needs to turn for firm decisions and policy setting. You establish the vision, set the ground rules, deliver the action plan and write the game plays. This is not, you recall, what you learned in dental school.
But how do you BE that leader? John C. Maxwell, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker defines a leader as â€œone who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.â€ Being a leader literally means to set the example for your team. Ask yourself what you want in each aspect of your practice, and what support you need and from whom you need to get it. Write it down. Communicate these with your staff.
In our above scenario, our poor example dentist might establish policies that include having a temporary dental assistant agency number on speed dial, a â€œno eating/drinking at the receptionist areaâ€ rule, a dress code (or purchase office uniforms for staff) and scheduling protocols. But beyond that, it also means following those protocols yourself. Your staff will quickly imitate your actions if you consistently show up late, don’t complete your assigned tasks or deliver inappropriate and unprofessional communications to patients and staff.
Great leaders aren’t necessarily born, although having the innate skills to lead certainly helps. And great leaders needn’t always be visionary, but know how to coach, guide and elicit their teams to reach goals and attain success. Leadership is the â€œart of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it,â€ Dwight D. Eisenhower once said.
Most importantly, model the behavior that supports the vision and goals of the practice. As the late Steve Jobs once said, â€œBe a yardstick of quality â€“ some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.â€ By practicing what you preach, leading by example follows naturally. Some quick leadership guidelines to follow:
â€¢ Show up on time!
â€¢ Be clear in your communications
â€¢ Have and attend the daily huddle
â€¢ Lead a weekly staff meeting
â€¢ Require daily, weekly, and monthly monitoring conventions and checklists
â€¢ Assign tasks appropriately and monitor for completeness
â€¢ Follow all the policies of the practice
â€¢ Schedule appropriate and on-going training for all tasks
â€¢ Establish performance expectations for each task with individual accountability
â€¢ Rate each individualâ€™s ability to successfully follow policies and use respective tools
â€¢ Provide quantifiable feedback to each team member on a monthly basis
â€¢ Reward staff for meeting and exceeding performance expectations