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Archive for category: Customer Service

Do More With What You Have… Or Lose More of What You Got

Do More With What You Have… Or Lose More of What You Got

Every business has assets and liabilities.

But if you’re not maximizing your assets, that’s a liability.

And in today’s competitive market, you can’t afford to turn strength into weakness. But that’s what many practices are unintentionally doing.

The #1 mismanaged asset in a dental practice is the patient base. Time and time again, when we analyze practices, we find that they have…

  • Hundreds of inactive patients due to lack of follow-up
  • Scores of overdue patients who haven’t been scheduled
  • Dozens of patients with unfinished treatment
  • Countless one-and-done patients who were never contacted after their initial appointment

Not Enough Patients… or Not Reaching Out Enough?

Practices typically spend thousands of dollars trying to attract new patients, yet most offices devote little time to rescheduling overdue and inactive patients. Just as your financial coordinator should regularly contact patients who owe the practice money, the scheduling coordinator should designate at least one hour a week to bringing unscheduled and inactive patients back into the practice. If you have a backlog of “idle” patients, then you’ll need to devote significant resources to play catch-up.

Many of these patients will come back… if you contact them and use influential scripting to remind them that regular appointments are critical for maintaining optimal oral health and identifying minor issues before they become major problems.

Conclusion

New patients matter, but so do the patients already “on the books.”  Put procedures in place to reschedule patients who cancel and to reactivate patients who haven’t been in the office in 12–18 months. By bringing these patients back, you’ll have a fuller hygiene schedule and an infusion of new revenue.


Additional Resource

Need a systems checkup? Find out how a Practice Performance Analysis can pinpoint whatever’s limiting your growth. To learn more, click here.

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Get Ready for the Second Half of the Year

Get Ready for the Second Half of the Year

This is a dangerous time for many practices. As we enter the second half of the year, there can be a tendency to relax a little, especially if your practice is ahead of last year’s pace. You want to keep any momentum you’ve built up going for the entire year. If your practice’s off to a slow start, now’s the time to make positive changes that will pay dividends later on.

Here are three strategies for ramping up growth in the next six months:

1. Make Referrals Rewarding for Patients, Too

Patients may know someone who needs a dentist, but making a referral isn’t on the top of their to-do list. But if you can make the referral process a little more fun for them, you’ll be surprised at the results. How do you do that? By incentivizing the process.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to set up a refer-a-friend program…

  • Any patient who makes a successful referral will be entered into a drawing to win a prize. Make it something worthwhile like a gift card for dinner at a nice restaurant.
  • If patients make more than one referral, then their name goes into “the hat” that many times, increasing their chances of winning.
  • Each month give away a different prize.
  • Place signs in high-traffic areas touting the program. Train your team to promote it during interactions with patients.
  • Take photos of all the winners and place those pictures in the reception area. Also, use social media to create awareness about the program.

2. Don’t Let Money Walk Out the Door

Practices are only collecting 91% of their production, according to the latest survey by the Levin Group Data Center. If you’re below 95%, making a few adjustments can lead to a big improvement in your bottom line. Train your team to ask for payment at the time of service, including co-payments. If this is the policy, verify that it’s being followed. If members of your front desk team are uncomfortable asking for payment, give them the training they need to perform at a higher level. In addition, the financial coordinator should contact all patients who owe the practice money. Levin Group recommends a 3–3–3 system of 3 phone calls, 3 emails and 3 letters over 9 weeks. Using this system, our clients have recouped significant amounts of revenue they once thought uncollectible.

3. Give Your Patients One More Thing to Smile About

People at any age want to look their best. Most practices aren’t doing enough to create awareness about their cosmetic services. Have you ever had regular patients come in with a brand-new cosmetically enhanced smile… that they got from another dentist? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard similar stories from many other dentists. If you’re not actively letting patients know about what cosmetic treatments you offer, you’re basically telling them to go elsewhere.

Conclusion

Owning a practice is like running a marathon, not a sprint. There are plenty of mile markers along the way, but you don’t cross the finish line until the end of the year. Use these three strategies to build on your success and to grow your practice even more in the next six months.


Additional Resource

Need more patients? Learn more about our marketing consulting program by clicking here.

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What’s the Quickest Way to Lose Patients?

What’s the Quickest Way to Lose Patients?

That’s an easy one––don’t listen to them. People find it infuriating when they’re ignored especially by the person they’re talking to. In a dental practice, this happens when staff members fail to give patients their undivided attention by multi-tasking, answering phones, texting, talking to their colleagues, looking at their computers, etc.

Active listening is a physical activity. It takes focus and energy to listen to someone and not do anything else. Even routine requests require active listening. If patients feel that the practice doesn’t value their time, there’s a good chance they won’t be back.

The Impact of Not Listening

I recently spoke to a dentist who was upset because his front desk coordinator had cost the practice a patient and her family. The mother was trying to schedule her three children for appointments. She told the staff member that she needed to leave quickly to pick up one of her kids. The front desk coordinator kept stopping to answer the phone and talking with callers before returning to the waiting patient. After the third call, the mother canceled all of our appointments and stormed out of the office. It’s obvious that the mother felt that customer service was less than satisfactory, but she also felt she wasn’t being heard.

Scenarios like this happen every day in dental practices. During interactions with dentists and staff, patients want to feel they are your #1 priority. They don’t want to repeat things two or three times, be put on hold endlessly, or be left in the treatment room unattended for 10 minutes. All of these are great ways to lose patients quickly.

How do you actively listen? Here are a few key tips:

  1. Always look directly at patients when they are speaking. This will keep you from multi-tasking and reassure them that you are focused on them.
  2. Repeat and summarize what they said. For example start the sentence with “So what I hear you saying is ….”
  3. Ask questions if clarification is needed. For example, “So you would prefer a Tuesday afternoon over a Thursday morning?”
  4. Nod and smile at patients when they are speaking. Even leaning forward creates a positive energy and a sense of listening.

Additional Resource

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper Stage III Customer Service by clicking here.

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Case Presentation: 4 Easy Fixes

Case Presentation: 4 Easy Fixes

You’re the expert on oral health, yet you have trouble persuading patients to accept beneficial treatment. They feign interest in your recommendations, but most of the time they  don’t follow through, especially for larger cases and cosmetic treatment. It’s frustrating.

That lack of success can quickly turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t want to come into the presentation with a negative mindset that patients will automatically turn down your treatment. Break the cycle of rejection with these four simple but effective “powers of persuasion” to win over patients:

  1. Be Enthusiastic
    Enthusiasm engages patients. Many dentists are simply too professorial in their presentations. You’re not pontificating on a research paper at a symposium––you’re beautifying smiles, saving teeth and improving lives. All good things, right? Your attitude, demeanor and manner should reflect that critical mission.
  2. Stay Focused
    During the case presentation, there’s nothing more important than the patient in the chair.Don’t get distracted. Tell your team you’re not to be interrupted, except for a major emergency. Make eye contact, use the patient’s name, and periodically ask if there are any questions. Act as if the only thing you have to do that day is talk to that patient about treatment. Rushing, interruptions, and bad body language will guarantee that the answer is NO.
  3. Be Compelling
    We’ve all seen TV shows and movies where lawyers make a powerful case in court. The operatory is your courtroom and the patient is the judge and jury. If you think through every element of the case––the type of treatment, benefits, points to emphasize, financial issues, potential patient concerns, etc.––you can anticipate patient objections. Never react defensively when a patient asks a tough question. Treat it simply as a normal part of the discussion. Throughout the presentation, make sure patients know you have their best interests in mind.
  4. Ask For The Close
    In any type of sales situation, and case presentation is a professional level of sales, you have to ask for the close. If you simply present a case without asking for the close, you’ve made it easy for patients to say “no.” In fact, they don’t have to say anything. By asking for the close, patients are compelled to respond.  If you’ve done an excellent job at making the case treatment, more patients will say “yes.”An excellent script to ask for the close is “Mrs. Jones, would you like to have this treatment performed?” Give the patient time to think and respond and then be ready to answer questions or objections.

Conclusion

Everything matters during case presentation. Even the seemingly small stuff. Make these “little” adjustments to your case presentations and you’ll reap big rewards.


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from 43 Rules to Increase Practice Production by clicking here

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The Top 3 Reasons New Patients Are Avoiding Your Practice

The Top 3 Reasons New Patients Are Avoiding Your Practice

Every practice wants more new patients. You need them to grow your production and help maintain your current level of revenue because every year you will lose patients. That’s a fact!

Your practice may have the greatest team in the world and you may be the most beloved dentist in the tristate region, but you’re still going to lose patients because people…

  • Move away
  • Become sick or incapacitated
  • Die

There’s nothing you can do about those patients. Then there are those other patients who decide to stop coming in due to a variety of reasons:

  • They lost or changed their dental insurance
  • They had a bad experience at your practice
  • They switched to another dentist

Depending on your customer service and patient outreach, you and your team may be able to persuade some, but not all, of them to return to your practice. But that’s not enough. You’ll always need a steady stream of new patients coming in the door to ensure practice success.

Where Have All the New Patients Gone?

Most practices don’t have enough new patients. There are a lot of reasons why, but based on what we see in new consulting client practices, here are the top 3 reasons why new patients aren’t coming in…

1. Your Team’s Phone Skills are Terrible

Your marketing may be top-notch, but if your front desk team doesn’t know how to talk to prospective patients, it doesn’t matter. If your staff isn’t enthusiastic… isn’t building value for your skills, your team and your practice… isn’t motivating callers to schedule and show up for their appointments, then all the money you’re investing in marketing campaigns is going to waste.

Solution: Give your front desk the scripting and training they need to excel at what they do.

2. Your Website is Older than Betty White (and Far Less Interesting)

Does your website make people flashback to the days of AOL, Geocities and dial-up? If so, it’s like you posted a giant neon NO TRESPASSING sign on the internet, warning prospective patients not to visit your practice. If you don’t care enough to keep your website current, what does that say about the care and treatment patients can expect to receive at your office?

Solution: Work with a web design company to bring your website into the 21st century.

3. Your Customer Service is Worse than the Cable Company’s

In reality, your customer service doesn’t have to be awful to keep new patients from calling… it just has to be less than great. Because if your current patients aren’t singing your praises about the amazing customer service they experienced, you’re sabotaging your new patient outreach activities. You don’t want to be perceived as just another dental practice that “cleans” teeth and fills cavities. You want to stand out in a crowded field, and WOW customer service is one way to do that.

Solution: Review the entire patient experience through the eyes of new patients. Be as critical and thorough as possible, listing deficiencies and opportunities for improvement. Implement customer service upgrades for all noted items within two months.

Conclusion

Many practices are their own worst enemies when it comes to growing their patient base. They send mixed signals to prospective patients. A powerful marketing message is undermined by the front desk’s team poor phone skills, a lackluster website or less-than-stellar customer service. Take a hard look at your practice. If you have any of these issues, correct them now.


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book The 31 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make by clicking here and then hitting the Read an Excerpt button.

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Dentistry According to the Rolling Stones

Dentistry According to the Rolling Stones

What do Mick, Keith and the boys know about running a dental practice? Actually, more than you might think, judging from some of the songs in their catalogue. Let’s dust off a few classics as well as a few deep cuts and see what practice management lessons can be gleaned from the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band…

Start Me Up (from Tattoo You)

Kick off your day with a brief morning meeting. This keeps your entire team on the same page about what will be occurring in terms of new patients, patients with unaccepted treatment, patients who owe money, openings in the schedule, etc. The meeting should last 10 minutes or so. If you’re experiencing some customer service issues, the morning meeting is a good forum for reviewing practice policies, creating new scripts if necessary and role-playing different scenarios.

Miss You (from Some Girls)

Patients aren’t as loyal as they once were. They’ll jump to another practice if they see a coupon for a new patient exam or they’ll stop coming in for regular care for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s economic. They changed jobs and they no longer have dental insurance. Sometimes, it’s something you or your staff did. Your front desk coordinator was curt or you had an emergency and couldn’t spend much time, catching up with them.

Treat your patients like VIPs. Pretend your patients are actually the Rolling Stones or whoever your favorite musical artist is. Make every patient visit to your practice a special one.

Stop Breaking Down (from Exile on Main Street)

When systems are old, they constantly break down. When systems aren’t documented, team members don’t know what to do. When team members aren’t trained on the systems, things don’t get done the right way.

Practicing with outdated systems is like trying to run a marathon with 20-pound weights tied to your ankles. You’re going to expend a lot of energy trying to accomplish the simplest tasks. As those systems continue to age, those weights get heavier and heavier.

So, you have choice… tolerate old, inefficient systems or replace them.

Gimme Shelter (from Let It Bleed)

Some days, it’s hard being the boss. There are times when you’ve got to interact with unhappy patients, upset team members and difficult colleagues. As the practice owner, the buck stops with you. Of course, you should delegate all the small, non-clinical stuff to your team. But the big stuff still falls on your shoulders. And that makes it incredibly challenging to leave the job behind when you go home for the day.

To be an effective CEO, you need time away from the practice and you need to protect that time or else you end up working 12–14 hours every day, which isn’t good for you or your family.

What’s the point of owning a practice that produces $2 million a year if you have no time to enjoy your success and no one to enjoy it with?

Every dentist needs a life outside your practice. That means spending time with family and friends. That means pursuing hobbies and taking vacations. That means having down time, where you do absolutely nothing. Owning a dental practice can be all-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.

Time Waits for No One (from It’s Only Rock’n’Roll)

Your practice may have been doing great five years ago. But not so much right now. Dentistry is in a constant state of flux, and you have to keep up. Your once-new systems five years ago are now outdated. They don’t perform like they used to. Your practice has changed in terms of services, technology, software, goals and personnel, yet you’re still trying to force those old systems to do things they’re no longer capable of doing.

Change is a constant in business and life. If you do nothing to keep up, you will eventually be passed by. Your practice is the best investment you ever made, but it’s an ongoing investment. You can’t expect a plant to grow if you never water it. The same is true for your practice. To grow your practice, you need to invest in it… that means new technology, equipment, software, training, systems, décor, etc. Maybe not every year, but not once every 10 years either. You don’t want to be the owner of a fixer-upper practice. That’s a hard way to practice, and in the future that will be a hard practice to sell.

Satisfaction (from Hot Rocks)

Are you happy with your practice and your career? While a certain amount of dissatisfaction acts as fuel for making positive changes, you don’t want to dread waking up and going to the practice every day. That’s no way to have a career and, most important, that’s no way to live.

If you are unhappy about how your practice is performing, make a list of everything you’re dissatisfied with. Examine the list. What do you have in your power to fix? Go for the low-hanging fruit first. Don’t like how the doctor’s office is set up? Stay late and rearrange it. Once you get the easy stuff done, move to the more challenging fixes.

If you don’t have the skills or the know-how to improve the situation, get help. Have a tax issue? Call an accountant. Want a new business structure? Seek the advice of a dental-knowledgeable attorney. Need help with your management and marketing systems? Get the assistance of an expert consultant.

Aftermath

Taking advice from the Rolling Stones may seem a little far-fetched, but how many musical acts have been as successful as the bad boys of rock’n’roll? The next time your practice is giving you the blues, crank up your favorite Stones album… you’ll not only get to enjoy some in-your-face rock’n’roll, but perhaps also some relevant practice management advice as well.


Additional Resource

Need an Emotional Rescue? Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book, Get a Life and Keep It, by clicking here.
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The Power of Power Words

The Power of Power Words

Everyone learns to talk at an early age. Somehow we think this means we are all excellent speakers. Unfortunately, most of us are just adequate communicators. For dental practices, this is a challenge… because successful interactions with patients depend on clear, effective and positive communication.

Without superior verbal skills, staff members (and dentists) will find it difficult motivating patients to accept treatment, pay bills on time, and refer friends.

For 32 years, Levin Group has educated dentists on the importance of scripting. One key component of effective scripts is something we call power words. When used properly, they create energy. Why is that important? Because energy creates trust. People with high energy are more attractive to others, their energy is contagious, and what they recommend is acted on.

Can You Feel the Power?

What are some power words? Wonderful, excellent, terrific, fantastic, unbelievable, outstanding, delighted are all examples. What’s the most powerful power word? If you guessed power, you would be wrong. The answer is love.

Not love in a romantic sense, but rather from a viewpoint of appreciation. Let’s look at some examples of what I mean…You’ll love the way your new smile looks… You’ll love meeting our dentist and team… You’ll love our new extended hoursYou’ll love meeting our new hygienist.

Don’t believe me. Try adding a few of these phrases to your interactions with patients and see what happens. You’ll love the results. Sorry, couldn’t help myself there.

Power words are a life-changing concept that will attract other people to you and create far better results. As one dentist said recently, “I’m using power words in every aspect of my life, and it amazes me how much nicer people have become.”


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Roger P. Levin’s book Essential Scripts for Patient Communication. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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Service with a Shrug?

Service with a Shrug?

I had dinner the other night in a restaurant that came highly recommended. Although the food was excellent, service was very slow. We rarely saw our server, and when we needed anything, I actually had to get up to ask someone to help us. We were told they were having a slight problem in the kitchen.

Under normal circumstances, the slow service might have ruined the evening for me. As it happened, I wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t let it bother me, until…

At the end of the meal, the maître d’ stopped by our table to ask how the evening had been. I said, “Well, since you asked…” and proceeded to calmly explain the problems we had experienced with slow service. His only reply was, “I’m sorry to hear that.” As he walked away, I realized his question was nothing more than a “courtesy.” He had no intention of doing anything about the problem—not even bothering to explain why it happened.

Overcoming Mistakes

I wouldn’t have expected a discount or anything else from the restaurant. We’ve all experienced slow service from time to time. But the maître d’ obviously doesn’t understand one of the cardinal rules of customer service. When you make a mistake (and you will), what matters most is how you recover. Had he simply given me his card and suggested I call ahead next time so he could ensure I had a better experience, I would have walked out happy—and would definitely have taken him up on his offer. Instead, I won’t be returning to that establishment.

A dental practice is a service business, too. When there’s a problem, your response can either make—or break—the relationship. If you pretend nothing happened or give lip service to fixing the problem, there’s a good chance you’ll lose that patient.

If, however, you apologize for the problem and then find a way to make it right, you’ve strengthened the bond between the patient and practice. And that should always be the goal.


Additional Resource

For more on this subject, download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper, “Stage III Customer Service,” by clicking here.

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What You Can Learn From Steve Jobs

What You Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a creative genius… and an amazingly successful businessman. An eccentric, enigmatic figure, he built one of the most valuable companies in the world by thinking differently than others.

One of Steve Jobs’ basic principles was that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. He could figure out what people wanted before they knew it themselves. That’s how he invented the Macintosh, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, etc. He was successful time and time again because he didn’t sit back waiting for market demand. He created demand.

As a dentist, you can learn a great deal from Steve Jobs. Following his example, you can put together an incredible patient experience. Like it or not, patients have negative feelings about going to the dentist. They’re afraid it will be uncomfortable, maybe even painful. And it can be expensive, too, especially for people who lack good dental insurance coverage. There are many things people would rather spend their time and money on besides dentistry. So where does that leave practices?

Adding the WOW Factor

At the American Dental Association Annual Meeting, I spoke about customer service. My thesis was that patients want to be delighted. You need to WOW each patient by creating an amazing experience. How? By thinking through every moment of a patient’s visit to your office, every aspect of the experience… and making everything delightful. You overcome those built-in negative feelings with a totally positive experience that’s planned, scripted and delivered enthusiastically by you and your team. That’s how to WOW.

As you can see, we capitalize WOW at Levin Group. We do that to show how powerful it is. Our consulting clients outperform their competition because we teach them to use the power of WOW every day, rising above mediocrity with an exceptional patient experience.

I can’t fit our entire customer service training program into this article, but I can tell you that our WOW-powered New Patient Experience consists of literally hundreds of simple, learnable steps any practice can master. With the right guidance, you can impress patients with everything you say and do. They’ll actually look forward to visiting your practice, knowing that they’ll be treated so well they’ll truly value the relationship with you and your team.

Do what Steve Jobs would do. WOW patients by creating an experience that will surprise and delight them. As he demonstrated again and again, it’s smart business.


Additional Resource

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper “Stage III Customer Service” by clicking here.

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Is Scripting Hurting Your Practice?

Is Scripting Hurting Your Practice?

Has your practice been taken over by a bunch of robots? Does it feel like your team is acting mechanically during interactions with patients? Has your customer service recently taken a nosedive?

The culprit could be scripting.

I bet more than a few of you are saying, “Wait a minute, Roger! Aren’t you one of the biggest proponents of scripting in dentistry and now you’re saying it’s bad for my practice?”

OK, before anyone blows a gasket, let’s take a step back just for just a minute…

Scripting is a tool, pure and simple. How it’s used can be good or bad. There’s a big misconception in dentistry that scripts, once created, must be followed word-for-word. When this happens, you get a team operating defensively. They’re afraid they’re going to forget the script… that they’re going to say the wrong thing. They’re so worried about making a mistake that they don’t respond genuinely to patients.

And then what happens when a patient asks a question that’s not in any script? Because, believe me, it will happen. You get a team that doesn’t know how to respond. They have become so dependent on just repeating the same scripted lines over and over that they no longer know how to actually communicate with patients.

The Right Way to Think about Scripting

Instead of being forced to memorize scripts, the staff should be taught to think of them as guides or talking points. Every script always has a goal. For instance, it can be scheduling the new patient or asking for a referral. There are multiple ways to accomplish both of these objectives, and team members should have the flexibility to hit the main points using their own words… as long as the goal is attained.

Role-playing scripts can help all team members to communicate more effectively with patients. It can also give staff the confidence to articulate the scripts in their own conversational manner. Rehearsing different versions of the same situation is another good training technique for stretching the verbal skills of each team member.

Conclusion

Let me set the record straight… Yes, I am still a big proponent of scripting, but its true goal isn’t rote memorization, but rather effective communication. You want to empower your team, not limit them. You want staff members who engage patients and visitors, rather than alienating them. Finally, you want to create a practice culture based on genuine interaction, not forced artificiality.


Additional Resource

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper “Five Ways to Improve Interpersonal Relationships with Patients” by clicking here.

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