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Archive for category: Scripting

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Team

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Team

Words matter. What you say to your team can inspire them or demoralize them… encourage them or infuriate them… empower them or repulse them.

Of course, no one’s perfect. You may occasionally miscommunicate. If you say the wrong thing, find a way to correct the situation as soon as you can.

However, there are some phrases no dentist should ever utter. Here are three of them:

1. We don’t need to double-check Thelma. I trust her with our finances.

Embezzlement can happen to any practice… even your practice. No matter how trustworthy your financial coordinator is, you never want to give one employee sole control over all the money matters in your practice. It’s always better to have several staff members handling practice finances. In addition, use an outside accounting firm to conduct unscheduled audits. A series of checks and balances––with the appropriate in-house and outside oversight––can help prevent any financial impropriety.

2. Just shut up and do your job.

It’s not easy being the boss some days. You and your staff members aren’t always going to see eye to eye, but you never want to lose your temper and utter such a comment. It’s verbal abuse, pure and simple.

If you and a staff member are having a disagreement, ask to see that person in private. Listen to her concerns objectively. If you disagree, state your points dispassionately. Focus on the higher goal, such as what’s in the best interest of patients or the entire team. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

3. Let’s go on a date.

Big mistake. You’re asking for a whole lot of trouble, especially if one or both of you are already in a relationship. Even if you’re both single, your language could be perceived as coercive or harassing, which opens the practice to legal action. No matter how friendly you are with your team, do not cross this line.

I’ve met too many dentists who destroyed their marriages, damaged their practices and wreaked havoc on their finances by engaging in a romantic relationship with a staff member. It’s not worth it. End of story.


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book Essential Scripts for Patients Communication by clicking here and then hitting the Read an Excerpt button.

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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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Don’t Let Emergencies Blow Up Your Schedule

Don’t Let Emergencies Blow Up Your Schedule

How many times have you had a near-perfect day crash and burn… because an emergency patient showed up? Your schedule is humming along like a well-oiled machine with every patient being seen on time… until you get the call. It’s Mrs. Jones or Mr. Wilson, and they got a dental emergency.

Shortly after they arrive, there’s a big boom! That’s the sound of your schedule imploding. Moments later, a giant creaking sound… that’s the sound of your customer service system about to give way.

Your team struggles mightily to do what they can, but as the schedule falls more and more behind, your reception area fills up with patients who are waiting and waiting. They become increasingly restless and impatient and frustrated. They glower at their phones, shoot angry glances at the front desk, and a few of them even get into testy exchanges with team members. Some cancel their appointments. Some just walk out… perhaps never to be seen again.

In the span of a few hours, a seemingly great day quickly turned into a practice management nightmare. How can you prevent that from happening again?

Well, here a few things NOT to do:

Don’t tell every emergency patient to come in right away. Big mistake. Not all emergencies are the same. There are emergencies and then there are emergencies. Train your front desk team to triage patients over the phone to assess how urgent the emergency is asking patients questions such as:

  • Are you in extreme pain?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being extreme pain), how would you rate the discomfort you are experiencing?
  • Have you taken anything to relieve the pain? Is that working?

If patients are in extreme pain, then bring them in right away. If they aren’t, you have greater flexibility with scheduling them later in the day.

Don’t take patients back to the operatory and forget about them. Patients in pain are usually extremely anxious, too. The longer they have to wait to be seen, the more time they have to worry unnecessarily about their condition. If you’re going to tell them to come in, make sure you see them as soon as possible. A quick examination followed by palliative care will ease their pain and anxiety. If the practice is extremely busy, tell them a staff member will check on them every 10 or 15 minutes and you’ll be in as soon as possible. Give them an accurate estimate, if that’s possible. These measures reassure patients that they matter and that their care is a priority.

Don’t pretend everything is normal when you are running way behind schedule. One emergency patient, even when the case is well-managed, can wreck the schedule. If that happens, you owe it to your regularly scheduled patients to tell them what’s going on. A simple script such as the following can help: “We’re running a little behind today because Dr. Davis is taking care of a patient with a dental emergency. We apologize for the inconvenience. We expect him to able to see you in X minutes. We understand if that doesn’t work for you and we can reschedule you if you would like.”

When you tell patients what’s going on in the practice, they then then make an informed decision about whether they should continue waiting or reschedule the appointment. That kind of thoughtfulness is appreciated by patients.

Conclusion

Emergencies, by the very nature, are unpredictable. But they can be managed so they don’t blow up your schedule. If you’re making any of the three mistakes detailed above, now’s the time to take corrective action.


Additional Resource

Download a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular Power Cell Scheduling. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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3 Scheduling Mysteries Solved

3 Scheduling Mysteries Solved

There are three mysteries in scheduling that you must clear up immediately, because they can cost practices millions of dollars over the course of a career. The three scheduling mysteries are:

Mystery 1 – No-Shows and Last-Minute Cancellations

These are literally killing you by eviscerating your daily production goals and totals. You want your no-shows and last-minute cancellations—and make no mistake, a last-minute cancellation is as damaging as a no-show—under 1%.

Why do patients so often leave you with an opening that’s impossible to fill? You haven’t taught them to value their appointment.  Here’s a three-step process, based on phone scripts, that will solve this problem. When a patient no-shows, or cancels at the last minute:

  1. Have your scheduling coordinator create demand for the appointment by making the patient wait for a few weeks.
  2. If that doesn’t work, then threaten to charge the patient for the missed appointment (rather than actually charging, waive the fee as a favor, for which the patient will thank you every time).
  3. Put habitual no-show patients on a short list “to fill last-minute openings”… but don’t actually call them. They are money losers as regular patients. By default, whenever they do have a problem, they’ll be your future emergencies and add to production at that point.

Mystery 2 – Dealing With The Late Patient

Even the best patients will be late from time to time. There’s no way around it. Usually, if you don’t see them when they show up, you’ll lose money on the case. It’s far better to squeeze in the offenders as best you can and to stress with patients going forward that they run on time.

For habitually late patients, try this: schedule them 20 minutes earlier than the actual opening. When they show up late, as usual, they’ll actually be on time.

Mystery 3 – Losing 10 Minutes Per Hour

Levin Group has now analyzed thousands of scheduling systems with scientific time studies and found that the vast majority of offices can easily improve performance by 10 minutes per hour. You can achieve this by analyzing the amount of time needed per procedure, delegating responsibilities so the doctor can spend more time chairside, and breaking old, inefficient habits.

The results will be nothing short of incredible. It’s like gaining two extra months of potential doctor production time per year… which, over the course of 24 years, adds 48 months. This is the equivalent of generating an additional two years’ worth of production without working one more minute!


Additional Resource

Download a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book, Power Cell Scheduling. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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Three Things Dentists Shouldn’t Talk About with Patients

Three Things Dentists Shouldn’t Talk About with Patients

There’s a simple rule to keep you out of trouble when talking with staff members or patients. The rule is: Don’t discuss sex, religion or politics.

The reason is that all three subjects can be controversial, offensive or inappropriate. Comments that you think are interesting or humorous may very well be disturbing to someone else. Each of us has our own cultural and personal standards in these areas, and you risk ruining a practice-patient relationship—not to mention losing a patient, triggering negative social media posts, etc.—if you venture into these taboo topics.

There’s a fine line between an innocent remark and sexual harassment or embarrassment. Don’t take chances. Just skip anything related to sex altogether.

Religion, in its way, can be equally sensitive. There are many different beliefs and levels of intensity. Some people may find your religious comments perfectly acceptable, while others might be offended. Best to avoid this subject altogether.

And then there’s politics. People have become very polarized politically and often dislike it when others disagree with them. If you feel a need to express your views, reserve it for friends, family or cocktail parties… which, of course, could still be dangerous, but at least it won’t cost you patients!

Additional Resource

Learn more about communicating with patients in Dr. Levin’s book, What to Say, What Not to Say. Go here for details, and click the link to read an excerpt.

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What You Can Learn from Football

What You Can Learn from Football

There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from this year’s Super Bowl. (Yes, I know this is a little late, but everybody’s talking about football again after last week’s draft, so here’s my contribution.)

Peyton Manning, an old man by football standards at age 39, did a great job for the Denver Broncos, winning his second Super Bowl and raising the level of respect from football fans.He ended his career with grace, dignity and great sportsmanship.

In contrast, North Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton imploded. He’s an incredible athlete and lost just one game during the regular season, but he didn’t know how to handle defeat on football’s biggest stage. Instead of losing gracefully in a sportsmanlike way, he had a meltdown… not shaking hands with the Denver players and behaving horrifically at the post-game press conference. He earned a reputation as a bad sport that may take years to overcome.

The lesson in this for dental practices is that every doctor and team member should meet the highest standard of behavior every single day. Everyone has an occasional bad day, but in a service business like ours, you can’t let it show. When things go wrong, as they did for Newton, you need to smile and fake it. You owe it to your patients and to each other.


Additional Resource

Watch Dr. Levin’s free video “Working without Drama”

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Honest Mistake

Honest Mistake

One of the biggest mistakes dentists make as practice leaders is not being honest with their team members. I’m not suggesting that they say things that aren’t true. The problem is that they don’t say things that are true.

We’ve all been there. A member of your staff falls short of your expectations and, to avoid confrontation or discomfort, you say nothing. Hoping the problem will go away (which rarely happens), you tolerate her poor performance, negative attitude, or personal issue that’s disrupting office efficiency. As she spirals downward, your displeasure grows.

Eventually, you feel you have no choice but to terminate her. In short, your compassion has the opposite effect of what you intended. The team member in question—who may have had excellent potential—must move on, leaving behind a stressed and demoralized staff and a well-meaning team leader (you) who is learning to hate this part of practice ownership.

Rather than saying nothing about questionable staff behavior, speak up. Discuss the issue calmly and constructively in private with the team member. Help team members improve. Catch and help correct bad habits early and everyone will benefit… honest!

Additional Resource

For more about other honest mistakes practice owners make, read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s book, The 31 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make, go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

Attitude is Everything

Attitude is Everything

In the introduction to my book, Get a Life and Keep It!, I discuss how important it is to have the right attitude. For those of you who haven’t yet read the book, here’s an excerpt:


Leaders lead by example, and a dental team is always watching the doctor. If your outlook is not positive, you will find it difficult to motivate others and many won’t find you believable or persuasive.

Enthusiasm and great attitudes equal credibility in the minds of others.

If you want people to trust you, you will need to display an astonishing level of enthusiasm through an extremely positive attitude.

Do you want to have a great attitude? If the answer is yes, and I certainly hope it is, then all you have to do is make up your mind that a great attitude is what you want.You decide that from now on complaining, excuses or whining will not characterize your life. You will not react to circumstances with a “why did this happen to me?” mentality.


I wrote this a number of years ago, but it resonates more now. There will always be setbacks, challenges, bad days and long nights, but overcoming these obstacles usually starts by having a positive attitude.

Additional Resource

Dr. Levin’s book Get a Life and Keep It!, which focuses on the Levin Group mission of “improving the lives of dentists,” is available here. Click the “Read an Excerpt” button to read a sample.

Don’t Tolerate Poor Performance

Don’t Tolerate Poor Performance

Serving as CEO, team leader and doctor poses many challenges.

One of the biggest is being honest. I’m not saying that dentists are dishonest. Most dentists are honest to a fault in terms of what they say. But there are two types of honesty.

Beyond what you say, there’s the question of what you don’t say. If you’re not speaking up about certain subjects, that’s a form of dishonesty, too. Many of us (and I am definitely including myself here) don’t always say what we should.

As the team leader at your office, do you always tell team members what you’re thinking? Do you point out that you’re not happy with their performance?

We often avoid confrontation, hoping the problem will go away—which almost never happens. Too many team members who could have improved have ended up spiraling downward over time. Had the dentist communicated early on that there was displeasure in the way something was handled, things might have turned out better.

Compassion for the members of your team may lead you to suppress critical comments about their performance or attitude, but that may leave you no choice but to eventually terminate a team member. How compassionate is that?

Far better for everyone if you speak up as soon as you see a problem—and speak honestly. Your silence could have a very negative effect.

The next time you wonder if you should say something about a team member’s performance, make no mistake… you should say it.

 

Additional Resource

For more on this subject, check out Dr. Levin’s popular whitepaper “Level IV Leadership.

 

 

Go and get grab your copy now!