Intentional Words Increase Engagement and Profit

Communication Profit Poem

The way we communicate to one and all,

Can make or break a 1:1, a consultation, or a call.

Be thoughtful when selecting certain words and phrases…choosing the ones that can pay,

Or you could end up having an abrupt ending to a conversation… and a very long, bad day.

If we insert the right word in the most effective place…we will set a better tone,

Small generational verbal changes lead to communication profit…in person or on the phone.

A profession that uses the word BUY… it may behoove you to switch,

INVEST implies a profit, or a win….and much less of a sales pitch.

SELL is a word that many dislike… when using or hearing it aloud,

A CUSTOMIZED RECOMMENDATION, however…leaves the patient feeling special and proud.

PATIENT terminology is universal… but overused and dated,

CLIENT is one level up from that and very highly rated.

To make the best impression…a title that will ensure comfort, trust, and ease,

Refer to everyone as a GUEST… and include an abundance of touchpoints, thank you and please!

Word Solutions

WAITING ROOM vs. RECEPTION AREA or LOUNGE …either has a more calming implication,

If your schedule is delayed and the guest awaits…treat them like they’re on a vacation.

CLOSING, as in closing the deal…can imply termination or the end,

OPEN means the beginning…a partnership in the relationship trend.

EARNINGS gives you an accurate number…and practical information,

PROFIT indicates you have a gain…a positive interpretation.

A BILL is added to the stack on the desk…to get around to it when you can,

An INVOICE has better credibility… and details the payment plan.

SIGNING a document or APPROVING a treatment plan…which has a better feel?

If you selected APPROVING, you’re on the right track…to better guest appeal.

Select one or two words…three if you’re feeling quite smart,

Practice replacing the good with the better…a perfect place to start.

Communication strategies can positively impact your day-to-day profit and plan,

You’ll see changes in relationships by implementing positive chatter…and quickly become a fan.

Intentional vocabulary starts with awareness…and a willingness to adjust,

Begin by having a communication plan and a system that you trust.

Bonus: Watch How to Increase Treatment Case Acceptance from a Generational Approach

Principles of Building Team Wellness and Patient Relationships

Relationships are the bridges that lead us to success, build trust, and loyalty. Practice high-quality communication first, followed by our technical excellence for patients to understand their needs. Communication consistency is the key.

Unclear communication impacts relationships among team members, referring doctors, and vendors that we interact with regularly. By building communication bridges we grow our practice.  If we customize our language, and how we speak to our patients and each other, we will encounter fewer misunderstandings, less stress, and improve productivity. Customizing our language is achieved by standardizing and practicing scripts and guidelines collaboratively developed by the team.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many practices deliver information the same way to every patient. This can lead to confusion and/or resistance. I frequently challenge teams to customize their language to meet the patients’ expectations. 99% of the time they have never thought of changing their delivery style.

Clarify with each patient their communication preferences.

Consider adding questions to your health history template, such as:

  • “What is your preferred method of communication?  
  • “Would you like me to text, email, or call you?”

A more senior generational patient will want a phone call because they enjoy speaking to people and they may not have advanced knowledge of technology. Gen X is all about efficiency and generally prefer texting. Gen Y/Millennials and Gen Z demand texting. They do not look at their email or check their voicemail. If you’re sending appointment reminders via email, you’re probably not getting a good response from younger generations. Nor is it creating a positive experience for them. For more generational guidelines click here.

Putting It All Into Practice

Building relationships is step one in educating and training the entire team.

When referring to the entire team, that includes the dentist. Too often, dentists send their team to an educational event, and they don’t participate. “The entire team” is all-inclusive.

All-team collaboration and learning builds a stable foundation that leads to increased engagement, productivity, and team wellness.

Each team member is responsible for understanding all of the procedures that your practice provides. We should be comfortable explaining and supporting every treatment opportunity we offer to our patients. Each department typically learns its own processes and procedures but doesn’t have an overall view of the practice menu of services. By developing guidelines for speaking the same language to patients, in reference to procedures, we will maximize the treatment case acceptance.

At your Morning Stand-up or Huddle, before you start seeing patients for the day, recognize specific needs of the scheduled patients. For example, “ Mr. Rogers is coming in at 11 am. We will need room #3 for treatment because he uses a wheelchair. He usually requires one or two bathroom breaks and has some special needs which are highlighted in his chart” Meeting the patient where they are and speaking the right generational language will positively impact their dental journey experience. Remember, relationships are the bridges that lead us to success.

Communication Consistency Is Key

Everybody should answer questions the same way all day, every day. That goes back to having guidelines. We know most of the questions the patients are going to ask:

  • How much is it going to cost?
  • How much does my insurance cover?
  • What are my other options?
  • Do you have payment options?
  • Is this treatment really necessary?
  • Can I wait to start the treatment?

As a team, we can come up with many different communications that we use regularly. Add onto this list at an all-team meeting and fabricate team answers for each question to guide the conversation. These scripts allow us to provide consistent information to our patients.  They are less likely to misunderstand or ‘test’ the team. If they ask a hygienist the same question that they ask an administrative assistant and get different answers, you’ve lost the patient’s trust. They probably will not schedule their next appointment until they understand the treatment better.

My Concern for You

If we don’t establish a relationship with the patient, they will not move forward with accepting the treatment plan. They may not refer patients because they aren’t as comfortable as they’d like to be in your practice. They don’t market your practice. They don’t contribute to your business growth or production.

If the patient says “NO”, the team should investigate why they are hesitant to commit to our practice and procedure recommendations.

  • What went wrong?
  • What was the first impression this patient had of us?
  • Did the patient have a negative experience?

Ask intentional questions and practice active listening to move the patient from “NO” to “YES”.

Want more communication tips?

Watch the short video below.

What Do Eating Pancakes and Shoveling Snow Have in Common?

If you had done either of these activities with my father, you would know the answer is “Systems”.

Growing up in a small suburb of Scranton PA, with a Pennsylvanian Dutch dad, we learned about systems and processes to be more effective and efficient in all of life’s tasks.

That included eating pancakes and shoveling snow.

In my opinion, the proper way to eat pancakes is to stack them up and cut a hole, my preference is square, in the center through the stack. Remove the pancake pieces from the hole and set them alongside the stack. Here’s the fun part, fill the hole with overflow syrup so it oozes down the stack. Start eating by dipping the pieces into the well of syrup. As you cut into the stack, leave the ‘syrup well’ in tack and work your way around the stack. Finally, break the syrup dam and enjoy several bites of pancake sponge! The last bite is always the best!

Snow shoveling followed a similar step-by-step process, in an organizational pattern, to finish quickly so we could play in the huge snowbanks!

Dentistry without systems is chaotic.

A successful practice is a product of the quality of your systems and the team’s ability to implement them.

Structuring systems is not an easy task. But the investment you make upfront will show in your practice productivity.

Systems should be non-negotiable, yet fluid, to allow for continual monitoring and updates. 

Get started by investigating some of your systems:

  • Practice Software:
    • Scheduling, communication tools, confirmation variety – customized to the patients preference
  • Telecommunications: 
    • Calibrated, consistent conversations
  • Lab Case Tracing
  • Referral Tracking
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Ongoing Team Communication / Systems Training
    • Consistent daily, weekly, monthly, and annual department/team meetings
    • Measure what is working, or not, and adapt accordingly

Now is the time to get more productive by revving up your systems.

This blog is dedicated to my father, who passed away recently at age 96!  

Guess all those systems paid off for a long, productive, happy life! 

Thanks for teaching me in so many ways dad. (1925-2021)

How to Improve Treatment Case Acceptance

We are in the midst of a shift from product-centricity to people-centricity. Investments in your team and your customer is essential.

Dental practices pushing services rather than focusing on the wants of the patient will see their revenues dwindle over time.

We must have a strong culture in order to be patient-centric because it requires knowing the patient and catering to their wants.

If there is a service that they need but do not want, IT IS THE TEAMS JOB to influence the patients’ mindset from a need to a want.

  • First, we have to be able to prove the value of the need to the patient. WIIFT!  What’s In It For Them?
  • The secondary approach is explaining how the treatment will benefit their long-term oral health.
  • Lastly, demonstrate how accepting treatment now will lower their long-term costs

Generations will respond better to treatment recommendations if we close the generational gap and deliver the information to them in the communication style they expect.

Baby Boomers

  • Need thorough explanations
  • Prefer conversations in person or by phone
  • Value an appealing smile and optimal dental health
  • Allow time to have a relaxed discussion
  • Schedule treatment and invite them to contact you with any other questions

Generation X

  • Respect authority, follow rules, and are often linear thinkers
  • High achievers, but not always creative thinkers
  • Recommend ideal treatment plan(s) with phased scheduling and payment options
  • Focus on good dental health for appearance and as part of total body care.  
  • Appreciate follow-up communication with text or email as their preferred engagement

Generation Y (Millennials)

  • Technology dependent
  • Want instant gratification, and are intolerant of waiting
  • “What is best for me?” attitude when it comes to dental care decisions
  • Be patient-attentive, without interruptions
  • Provide same day service and combine appointments

Gen Z (Age 5 – mid-20’s)

  • As digital natives they expect the use of advanced technology
  • Look to the future and are very money conscious
  • Want explanations and options that focus on prevention 
  • Goal is to avoid expenses in the future, that could be addressed now 

Sticky Notes Or Apps To Stay On Task?

“Sticking to a checklist itself can not only help you increase focus, but crossing off each task may have cognitive benefits as well’.

Whichever process we apply: sticky note, app, calendar, or one of my favorites, highlighting, we can successfully achieve task completion by applying a single task action.

According to The Brain-Healthy Reason You Should Make Checklists, a systematic approach to our day can improve our wellness. If we are unable to complete a task, it can impact the quality of our next activity.

How Can We Apply This to Our Daily Tasks in Dentistry?

___________________________________________________________________________

Let’s break it down by dental practice departments.

ADMINISTRATION

Start the day by prioritizing and rating what needs to be completed.
We all know, the reception area has continual interruptions all day, every day.
In order to allow each person time to complete their priority tasks, rotate the admin team members to a “quiet zone” where disruptions are limited.
• Confirmation calls
• Insurance verification emails / calls
• Patient follow up from previous days’ procedures
• New patient scheduling
• Consultation / informational calls

DDS / DMD

The schedule dictates where the doctor spends time for the day.
It is critical to schedule procedure time matched with provider time accordingly.
Remember, each provider has different procedure completion times.
If your practice uses a scheduling template, be sure to adjust for each provider!

Wait times can impact office reviews, which in turn affects production and growth!
Watch my latest VLOG addressing the 20 minute rule.

In the Morning Stand-Up (aka Huddle), identify the available times that the doctor can address urgent issues and return calls / emails.
• Midmorning – Call referring doctors about patient treatment plans
• Before / After Lunch – Follow up with patients who need direct communication from the doctor
• End of day – Lab case review, study club collaboration

HYGIENE

Everyday tasks can become overwhelming and time consuming.
Having a process in place to systematically approach the day will reduce stress and help you complete the goals.
• Patient follow up from previous days’ procedures
• Follow up email / text to patients regarding information you discussed
• Referral follow up / call / closure if indicated
• Instrument sharpening
• Operatory re-stock

ASSISTING

Dental assisting requires multitasking and staying organized to keep the clinical cases, now-time treatment, and day running smoothly.
• Patient calls
• Lab work: impressions / models, whitening trays, lab Rx…
• Checking in / reviewing cases for delivery
• Ordering clinical supplies
• Operatory re-stock
• Sterilization monitoring

Throughout my 30-year career, I have been employed for every position in the office, except the doctor.
Which gives me an undeniable appreciation for every team member’s role and responsibilities.

Let’s commit to working smarter, not harder, by using a systemic approach to over achieve our practice goals.
Your brain will thank you!

Time to Change the Tires

Winter weather is upon us in Park City, UT. 

One of the changes I make every year is putting snow tires on my car in November. This year, the snow came early and I was not prepared.

For dental practices, the end of the year gives us the opportunity to make necessary changes that will prepare us for Q4 success and beyond.

Having a plan to finish off the year strong will help practices continue to recover. Below are a few strategies to consider.

7 END-OF-YEAR STRATEGIES

  1. Intentionally remind your patient data base to complete inactive treatment to fully utilize their benefits.
    • Keep it lighthearted and use your technology:  text, email, video
  2. Run a report indicating patients that still have remaining benefits to use.
    • Hint:  Many software programs have this feature.
  3. Thank your patients for remaining loyal and wish them well through the holiday season.
    • No strings attached.  Just a simple thank you.
  4. Add additional staff, days, or hours to accommodate the end of year “rush.”
    • Accommodate students on holiday break
    • Help patients maximize insurance benefits
    • Schedule the patients that were postponing due to COVID-19
  5. Thank your referring offices and vendors for the support they continue to demonstrate to your practice.
    • All team appreciation CEU
    • Charitable donation
    • Gift Basket
    • Pay for one month of their uniform cleaning service
  6. Celebrate your practice achievements and recognize / reward the team members for an incredible year under unprecedented circumstances.
    • Plan a fun, all team event
    • Bonus vs annual raise
    • Individual employee choice
  7. Schedule your annual strategic planning meeting with your team.
    • Time to make changes, BEFORE they are needed (think snow tires)