A Change (is Necessary) to Do You Good
Steps to practice success start with shaking up your phone protocol
I like to shake things up all the time. Ask any of my employees. I never want to hear them say they do something because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” I encourage them to test new methods and do things differently because I discovered early in my career that growth is dependent on flexibility and change.
It’s human nature to shy away from change. It usually comes with discomfort, sometimes pain, and often conflict (internally or externally) of some sort.
Based on our vast experience with dentists, we know some of you are averse to changing how you think. When introduced to new or challenging information, these dentists are likely to decide it doesn’t apply to them. They make excuses and isolate themselves in their own world or refuse to admit their deficiencies. Often they are too proud to ask for and accept help in areas where they’re weak or struggling. In doing so for too long, something becomes not just an area of struggle, but also something that’s utterly detrimental to their business, to them personally, and to their family. Perhaps this description applies to you.
If it does, you have to accept this critical concept to get through those obstacles: You don’t know what you don’t know. For example:
• You know how to make as much money as the most you have ever made. If you have never made a million dollars, you don’t know how to make a million dollars.
• You know how to build and maintain the quality, size, and profitability of the practice that you have today. You only know how to make it as good as it is currently.
• Your team is as good as you know how to develop it. If you don’t have a high-performing team, it’s because you don’t know how to develop a team that’s better than the one you have.
• You know how to have the relationships with your significant other, kids, parents, and other family members that you have today, even if you wish they were better.
Your current capabilities have allowed you to do just what you’ve done. Your life is as good, happy, and balanced as you know how to make it. After all, if you knew how to make all that better, wouldn’t you have already done so? That’s not to say you don’t have the capacity or the potential to do much more. It just means you don’t know how.
In 1997, I started the Scheduling Institute after discovering a gap in answering the phones and actually scheduling appointments in the large, Atlanta-based practice where I worked at the time.
Our now extensive client base at the Scheduling Institute provides what I refer to as a huge “laboratory.” Consequently, we have an enormous database of information that means we know more about you than you may know about yourself. We know about the behaviors of dentists and we know a lot about dental office staff and how they operate and react to change.
Change requires patience and long-term thinking. It requires checkpoints and accountability. The first thing we do when we go into an office is to make quick changes—starting with the staff—and it is often met with resistance, most likely because you, their fearless leader, is also averse.
Let’s start with a quick change that has a huge impact on your staff and can be the catalyst for the beginning of change in your practice: your phones and the way they are answered. The fact is new patients are the lifeblood of your practice and if you’re not currently working to get a steady increase of them each month, there’s no way you will hit any long-term financial goals.
As the practice owner, you must place a huge emphasis on the importance of answering the phone and get everyone on board with this priority. At a minimum, you should be answering Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM. Competitive practices take calls before 8 AM and after 5 PM and often on Saturdays. Here are a few additional ideas to help you and your team get focused on the phones:
1. Overstaff Your Phones
One client practice that grosses $12 million annually has 11 people at the front desk dedicated to answering phones and scheduling patients—with a record of 501 new patients in a single month. Most practices are grossly understaffed at the front desk. As long as a scheduler is scheduling, she’s a productive employee.
2. Create a Call Center
This model pulls the phones off the front desk. As a result, the front desk staff can focus exclusively on the experience of the patients coming into the office and the call center staff can focus exclusively on the experience of the patients calling in. Call center staff and space do not need to be large, just dedicated and adequate for the assigned staff (as determined by call volume). This separates them from all the other activities in the office that become distractions. In most practices, the phones take a back seat when things get busy.
3. Track Inbound Calls
If you have a Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system, you should also be able to monitor your incoming and outgoing calls, as well as the number of answered versus unanswered calls daily.
4. Train Your Staff to Answer the Call Correctly
To turn every potential new patient into an actual scheduled new patient, whoever is answering the phone needs to know how to do that. If they aren’t trained properly, they don’t know what has been proven to work and what has not.
Our phone training is one of our flagship on-site programs. It’s the starting point for most of our clients because it’s the very first thing that needs fixing in virtually all offices. It also generates immediate results. In other words, new patient generation is the starting point when it comes to growing practice.
So if you’re the kind of practice owner who is “change averse,” challenge yourself. Use this new quarter and new season to focus only on making changes to the ways your phones are being answered. Follow your progress closely, be open to learn from your mistakes and then, most importantly, make changes from what you’ve learned. Take the first step by taking our 5-star challenge to see how your staff handles the phones. Then, get ready to start shaking things up at your practice!
About the Author
Jay Geier is the president and founder of the Scheduling Institute and the creator of the world-renowned five-star new patient generation training program that has revolutionized the way dentists attract new patients to their practices. He reveals his secret strategy on a single CD that you can request by visiting www.SchedulingInstitute.com/ID or go to The5StarChallenge.com to see how your practice handles the phones.