Green Light Messages Attract More Patients to Your Practice

Today’s episode of The Personal Report is all about those green light messages to bring more patients into your office.  To see the video now on YouTube, click here.

I haven’t done a scientific survey but let me give you an example of my unscientific survey in going to many practices and talking to patients.  You know what I’ve learned? About a third of the patients think you are accepting new patients. Great, that’s the green light. About a third, they’re not sure, we call those the yellow light patients and well, the other third, they’re convinced because it’s hard to get an appointment sometimes, that you’re not taking new patients.

Really only about a third of your patients are absolutely sure it’s okay to refer. We’ve got to do better than that because those patients have record of such a good source of patients for you. The very first thing I want to tell you is put good signage out. When somebody walks into your office, we don’t want them to see all these signs that say don’t do this, don’t do that, take out your credit card, take your insurance card, or check your guns at the door. We don’t want all these negative signs. We want a sign that says “New Patients Welcome.” It sounds simple but you’d be amazed at how many practices don’t do it and how many practices start doing it after I suggest it and then say “Wow, this really works!”

The next one is we have to use the best verbal skills in as few words as possible. So walking somebody up to the front desk and saying something like, “You’re a great patient. We could use more patients like you.” Or, “Mrs. Higgenlooper when do we get to meet your husband?” Or, “Thank you so much for coming to us for all these years. Our practice is growing because of patients like you.”  Those are all green light messages.

There are a lot of ways to say it, but really an economy of words is ideal. My suggestion is to get the green light message out in response to a compliment. So when somebody says to you, “You’re fantastic, thanks so much,” or “this was so much easier than I expected,” they’ve given you a compliment. What do you do? Get your green light message out at that time: “Thanks so much for the compliment. “We really enjoy having you as a patient and we’re accepting new patients.” Or, “do you know how we get most of our new patients? It’s not from the radio, it’s not from TV, it’s really not from the Internet.  The way we get most of our new patients is from patients like you.”

You’re just making sure that people know you are accepting new patients. If you say nothing other than, “we are accepting new patients,” you’ve done a pretty good job.

My suggestion is to find your comfort level. There are all kinds of ways to say it and I’ve given you a bunch of them. But I want you to find the words that you like, that you feel most comfortable with, and then those are the words you’re going to use. The goal is to take that roughly 33% who know that you’re accepting new patients and make that go higher. Wouldn’t you love to get patients, not from 33% of your patients, but from 90% or 95% or 98%? That’s really our goal and if we can get that message out all the time, through signage and through verbal skills, we’re giving the green light message and that will really help your practice.

If you’d like more information, if you’d like me to send you our free report, “The Three Common Mistakes Dental Practices Must Avoid,” then just send an email to I’ll be glad to send it to you. You’re also welcome to find me on the web at

No Cost Dental Team Motivation

No Cost Dental Team Motivation is the topic of Episode 2 of The Personal Report, which is now available on YouTube. To see the video, click here:

Here’s the transcript of Episode 2 on motivation.

We have a great topic for you today: No Cost Team Motivation. So, how do we keep the team motivated?

Well, let me just tell you a little story. Some years ago, I was involved in a focus group. Do you ever watch “Law and Order”? They watch through the glass and they’ve got somebody in the box and the people who are being interrogated can’t see you through the one-way mirror.

Well, a focus group works that way and we interviewed people who are in the dental profession, hygienists and assistants, and so forth, and asked them what motivated them. We actually divided them into two groups. We preselected them, through a survey, happy people and unhappy people. And it didn’t matter whether we interviewed the happy people or the unhappy people: when they made a list with the focus group facilitator about what motivated them, money was not number one. Oh, it was on the list, and it’s important, but it wasn’t number one.

You know what number one was? Praise, recognition, somebody cares, somebody noticed. So, the no cost way is to praise, but let’s be more specific about that, and when you give praise, always make it specific. Don’t just say, “Oh, you know, you’re wonderful,” or “Oh, I’m so happy you’re here.” That’s good, you need to say that, but make it more specific. “Yesterday, when the patient was starting to get upset, you handled it so well.” The other day the entire schedule was going to fall apart, but you got on the phone and we had a good schedule. The schedule is full–wow, what a great job!”

So you want to be very specific in your praise. We always say, praise in public, criticize in private. Now, you can praise in private, but if you happen to say it publicly, if you praise in public, if other people hear the praise, believe me, the person who’s hearing the praise, they’re not going to mind that other people know that somebody is getting praise and that they’re the one who’s being praised, because they did a good job for something specific.

Any criticism, though, has to be in private. No matter how mild the criticism, you want to really make that private, but that praise, specific praise, and public praise, are very, very important. And the next thing I will tell you is, don’t couch the praise; never use the word “but” when you’re praising.

Here’s what you don’t want to do: you don’t want to say, “You know yesterday, you stayed late, nobody asked you stay late, You took your initiative and you just did it without anybody asking and you got all the work done, but you know, if you were more organized, you wouldn’t have to stay late.” You’ve just taken it all away. First you were on a roll, you were saying all these good things, and then you added “but,” and here comes some criticism in underneath.

Praise is praise. “You did a great job.” Period. And let people know that. Now, if at another time, you need to talk to somebody on the side and say, “work on your organizational skills,” that’s a different story, but praise has to be specific and it has to be unqualified; we don’t want to say the word “but.”

Let me leave you with this thought: when I talk about praise, I can just hear all the staff out there saying, “yeah, I’ve got to get the doctor to watch this video. See, see, you should say nice things about us.” Okay, fair point, but I think that everybody on the team needs to praise other people on the team–when it’s deserved, of course. When somebody does something praise worthy, don’t be shy, tell them. And, by the way, sometimes even the doctor does something praise worthy and you can say something nice about him or her also.

I hope you’re enjoying the Personal Report. You know, I do have my Free Report; we’re getting a lot of good feedback. If you want a copy of the Free Report, “The Three Mistakes Every Dental Practice Must Avoid,” then just go to Just send a quick email to and we’ll send you the Free Report.

You’re always, of course, welcome to contact me through my website, which is Thanks so much for watching The Personal Report.

You May Need a Coach If. . .

Great athletes need coaches.  Great dentists need coaches, too.  Take advantage of the free consultation offer below.

You may need a dental coach if:

  1. You are facing major decisions about the future of your practice. You are wondering if you should buy, sell, expand, cut back, or bring in another dentist.  Ask yourself:  Do I need a trusted confident, outside of my business and family—someone who can lead me to the right choices?
  2. You feel that your team needs more training. Ask yourself:  Could targeted training for specific individuals improve their performance and help the bottom line?
  3. You are not sure if all team members “get it.” Ask yourself: Have I clearly and consistently communicated my expectations to my team?
  4. You feel that your practice has reached a plateau. Ask yourself:  Am I feeling burned out?  Or, do I have a lot of energy but just need direction?
  5. You think that case acceptance should be higher. Ask yourself:  Am I using the best verbal skills and teaching my team to follow my lead?  Do I have an effective follow-up protocol in place to prevent patients from “falling through the cracks”?
  6. You are feeling unsure about your management style. Ask yourself: As an employer, am I too harsh, too lenient, or just right? 
  7. You are worried about overhead but you need more help at busy times. Ask yourself: Am I adequately staffed to provide outstanding customer service?  Am I utilizing the full talents of everyone on the payroll?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions—or if you have other issues that you would like to discuss in confidence with a highly experienced dental coach, please contact me.

Coaching services are conducted by phone consultations, in-person visits to the office, or both.

Free consultation.  Contact me to schedule a free 30-minute telephone coaching session (limited time offer) so I can start helping you immediately.  I promise to listen carefully and provide cogent, confidential advice.

Click for contact info.

Subscribe to The Personal Report video program.

Diffusing Difficult Situations in the Dental Office

The Personal Report has just launched on YouTube!  To see the video, click hereThe Personal Report will appear regularly with new episodes to help you train your team, educate your patients, and grow your practice.

Here is the transcript of Episode 1.

Welcome to The Personal Report.   Today, we have a great topic for you. It’s called “How to Diffuse Difficult Situations in the Dental Office.” Are there difficult situation in the dental office? You bet. Most patients are very nice, but every once in a while, we have conflicts. We have tension.

Why do you want to diffuse them? Because you want to release the anxiety. You want everybody to relax. You want the patients to be relaxed and happy, the staff to be relaxed and happy, and you want case acceptance to go up.

So how do we do that? We do it through some great verbal skills.

Let me tell you a story. We had a person that I worked with. She worked in the dental office, really terrific person, and her doctor’s fantastic, but there was a problem. She said that sometimes she would get flummoxed. She would get upset. She was not using the right verbal skills with patients when they were insistent, and they wanted certain things, and she couldn’t accommodate them.

So I asked her, “What the most difficult problem you face?” Now, the answer surprised me. I thought she was going to say, “Well, sometimes I don’t say the right thing,” but that’s not what she said. Her answer was, “Sometimes, I really don’t know what to say. I just don’t have the words at all.”

That could be awkward. You know, on radio, they call that “dead air.” Can you imagine, you’re on the phone with someone, and then you say, “I just don’t know what to say.” So I helped her. We gave her great verbal skills. Now she’s confident. She’s happy. She’s relaxed. The whole practice is more relaxed, and, yes, the doctor is happy too.

So how do we do this? Let’s look at some verbal skills. The number one thing to keep in mind is empathy. Empathy means what? It means seeing it from the patient’s point of view. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to see it from somebody else’s point of view because what’s the dynamic that we have?

We’ve got a patient on one side, in some cases, and staff on the other. Example. Somebody calls and says they want an appointment in the next couple of days. Well, there are no appointments in the next couple of days. The next appointment is actually a few weeks out. I’m not talking about somebody who’s in pain or has an emergency or anything like that. I’m talking about somebody who could wait, but they just choose not to.

So then, the staff person says, “Well, I’m sorry, our next available is three weeks out,” and then you have an insistent patient who is really trying to push and get in. So think about that. We’ve got a conflict. The patient wants to storm the gates and get past the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper says, “No, no, no. We can’t have any more people today because we’re just too full.”

So how do we resolve the situation? A great thing to remember is that we’re talking about empathy. We’re talking about reducing tension. We’re talking about seeing it from the patient’s point of view.

A couple of great verbal skills would be to say things like this. “I understand. You know, let’s work together. I’m going to work with you, and together, we’re going to solve this problem.” And then, the patient relaxes a little bit. Another great verbal skill is, “May I make a suggestion?”

The patient says, “Well, if you’re going to work with me, if you’re going to help me resolve the situation, sure. What’s your suggestion?” The person says to the patient, “I know you don’t want to wait three weeks to come in. I understand, but let me make this suggestion.”

“Why don’t you take an appointment that’s three weeks out, just as a placeholder. We’ll put you down, put you on the schedule, and what that will do is it will get you into our system. And there’s going to be a change in our schedule over the next few weeks. I can guarantee you that.

“So when it happens, when we do have that change, that opening, I’ll call you. Now, I don’t know if it’ll be tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, but we’ll definitely call you. And then, you can move up and get a much closer slot.”

And that usually works out great because now, you’ve resolved the situation. You’ve lowered the tension. So what you’ve done is you’ve used some great verbal skills. So I hope you can take this to heart and use it.

Let me leave you with one other point. I’m using the example of somebody on the phone. This is not just for somebody on the phone. This is also for in-person interactions. This is for the assistant, the hygienist, the doctor, anybody who can say to somebody, “I’m on your side. I want to work with you. I understand, and make a suggestion, and then work it out with the patient that way.”

If you’d like some additional information, a copy of my Free Report, Three Mistakes Every Dental Practice Should Avoid, then just send an email to Those three mistakes, believe me, every dental practice should avoid them. You don’t want to make them. So just write to us at

I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment, and certainly, you can follow me on the web at This is David Schwab, and we’ll see you on the next episode of The Personal Report.

Topic for the next episode of The Personal Report: No Cost Team Motivation.  Click to subscribe.


Team Training That Makes a Difference

Team training for your dental team.  Everyone talks about it, but how do you do it effectively?  I was in Minnesota recently where I spoke at a study club meeting (fantastic turnout and enthusiasm!) and also had the privilege of doing a dental team training session for Centrasota Oral Surgery.  What a great practice!

Part of the team training and team building involved using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  There are many different personality assessment tools, but the MBTI has withstood the test of time.  It has been validated over many decades.

I asked everyone on the dental team to complete the instrument online prior to the session.  I then compiled the results, compared them to national statistics, and explained what the MBTI reveals.

During the session, we explored preferences—how people see the world, whether they are introverted or extroverted, and how different personality types relate to one another.  The attendees were totally engaged in the process, and we had a number of “aha” moments when team members learned something about themselves and their colleagues.

The MBTI does not measure aptitude or intelligence.  It fact, it does not measure anything, because, strictly speaking, it is not a test.  The instrument identifies preferences.  No one personality type is better than another, but the interaction among types is fascinating and insightful.

One of the most important takeaway messages from the session was specific advice on how to deal with the various types when they are under stress.  If your coworker is totally stressed and having a bad day, what should you do or not do?  By being aware of that person’s type, all team members can learn to deal appropriately with such situations.  The result is more patience, understanding, tolerance, bonding—and, yes, team building.

There is one caveat.  Too often people get information off the Internet about personality differences and jump into discussions without the proper background.  I have been formally trained to administer the MBTI and facilitate meetings.  The MBTI is an amazing tool, but it needs to be used in the right context and with a full explanation so that it is meaningful.

When administered with proper supervision, the MBTI provides insights into people that are useful for a lifetime.  Many attendees in Minnesota left the team training meeting with a new understanding of themselves and their colleagues—and they immediately wanted their spouses and family members to take the instrument.

If you would like more information on how the MBTI can be used as a great dental team building tool, send an e-mail to with MBTI in the subject line.  Whether you have a small or large team, one office or many, the more you learn about how MBTI helps team training, the more you will want to learn.

Ultimate Secret of Practice Management

What is the ultimate secret of practice management? This blog is the final installment of my three-part series on how dental practices can learn from the phenomenal success of In the first part, I discussed the need for practice efficiency. The second lesson was about focusing on value, not price.

Another lesson from Jeff Bezos, founder of, is a relentless emphasis on customer service. As with the other great tips from Mr. Bezos, however, we need to adapt that lesson from amazon to the practice of dentistry.

Everyone knows that the patient comes first, and customer service is already stressed in most dental practices. I interpret the customer service lesson to be much more nuanced than a general desire to be polite and friendly. Customer service in a dental practice occurs not only because team members have an intuitive sense of how to treat people well, but because they are well trained.

The third—and most important—lesson we learn from amazon is the ultimate secret of practice management—a relentless emphasis on team training. Continual training gives the team the specific tools they need to provide outstanding customer service.

Here are three great ways to train your team:

1. Ask for examples. At a team meeting, ask everyone to give examples of great customer service they have experienced themselves. Don’t ask for service horror stories. Keep the conversation and the lesson positive. Ask what happened, why it was so memorable, and how great customer service has a lasting impact on one’s relationship with a company.

2. Set the standard. In my next blog, I will discuss “sticky situations” that occur in dental offices and how to resolve them. The doctor and office manager need to tell team members what to say in challenging situations.

3. Use outside resources. I have a Team Training Video Series and I also provide training by phone, Skype, and in person. Having a team coach is a great way to keep everyone trained, focused and motivated.

There is another great benefit of team training. It’s the reason team training is the ultimate secret of practice management. Team training feeds the other principles we have discussed in this series. With proper training, practice efficiency soars. Also, when team members have the right verbal skills, they are able to communicate value for the dollar and move past the cost objection.
There is a synergistic effect among the three principles because they are mutually reinforcing and underpinned by the ultimate secret of practice management: continual, relentless, purposeful team training.

Click to access the following resources:

Efficiency: Part 1.
Value, not Cost: Part 2

Price and Value Are Not the Same

Price and value are not the same! In my previous blog, I discussed lessons from founder Jeff Bezos. He identified three business fundamentals that are not going to change in the coming years. The first one is the need for speed, which I translated for the dental profession as the pursuit of efficiency.

Bezos says that customers never say they want higher prices, but the amazon model shows that people will pay more when they perceive value. The lesson for dentistry is not to run a race to the bottom by cutting fees in the face of competition. It’s all about value, not price.

Amazon plays the value game and plays it well. Consumer advocate and radio personality Clarke Howard cited a recent study:

“We all know Walmart is cheap and Amazon is convenient, right? But is that convenience worth paying up to 100% more to you? Because that’s the premium a new study says you’ll pay on select items when you choose to get them on” saves time. Why drive to Walmart or even shop online with Walmart when Amazon makes the customer experience so seamless and easy? Amazon is extraordinarily convenient. Consumers will pay for great service, and patients will pay for quality dentistry (a service) because they want it done right.

Your messages to your dental patients should be:

  • It’s never cheaper to do it twice. Our goal is to do it once and do it right.
  • We do not offer the cheapest dentistry. We offer a high quality service.
  • The dentistry we provide is a great value for the dollar.

Make sure all members of your team know the difference between price and value–something I cover in detail in my consulting work and lectures.

Even the most cost-conscious consumers want value, which means not spending any money unwisely.  People want to get the maximum return on their investment. It’s called value. That value is not the same as cost, but it does come at a price.

Next post: The third lesson from applied to dentistry.

Click here to read my blog on efficiency.

Click here for more info on the study referenced above.

Asking the Right Questions to Improve Efficiency

Are you asking the right questions? We all want to know what is going to change in the next ten years.  One of most prescient business leaders in the world, Jeff Bezos, founder of, says that we should ask another question: “What will not change in the next ten years?”

Bezos, quoted in Peter Diamandis’ book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World, says that no one has ever told him that Amazon’s delivery is too fast.  He concludes that in his business, one factor that will not change is the need to improve delivery speed.

Amazon is continually trying to deliver orders faster.  The company pioneered e-books.  No more waiting for a book to arrive; simply click and the books downloads to your Kindle or other device in seconds.  The company is now testing how to deliver tangible products in hours using drones.

There are three critical factors that will not change in dentistry.  Let’s discuss speed and how we can apply the lesson to dentistry.  I will address the other factors in subsequent posts as we continue to explore lessons from Amazon.

In dentistry, there is always a need to make the delivery of dental services faster by improving efficiency.  It is important to note that I am not advocating spending less time with patients.  On the contrary,  I am focusing on finding ways to use your time and the patient’s time more efficiently.

Here are the right questions for your team to discuss.

  1. How can our appointment process by streamlined? How can we spend less time on the phone scheduling and confirming?
  2. How can we make better use of automated confirmation systems?
  3. How can communication between front and back be improved so we can schedule more efficiently?
  4. How can we ensure that we have some openings in the schedule at the ready for new patients who want to be seen very soon, even if they do not have any urgent dental needs?
  5. How can we streamline the check out and fee collection process?

I pose these questions to teams when I consult with practices and challenge the teams to find answers.  While practices do not arrive at perfect answers, they improve these processes, and that is the goal.

To have a substantive team meeting, work through these questions in depth to improve efficiency.  As I always say, you may not have all the answers, but if you have the right questions, you will improve your business.

Next post:  The second factor that will not change in dentistry and how you can improve.


Role Playing Made Fun and Effective

When it comes to the phrase “role playing,” many dental team members react the way lay people respond when they hear “root canal.”  They do not want any part of it.  Just as modern root canals are often comfortable for patients and the procedure removes the source of their discomfort, role playing can be made fun and effective. What’s the catch?  It has to be done right.

Here are some tips for running a successful role playing session.

  1. One person plays the role of the team member while someone else pretends to be the patient.  The person playing the patient role can offer objections to the cost of treatment or throw up other road blocks, but no one should overplay the part.  Forget the histrionics.  The “patient” can be skeptical but must always be polite and at least somewhat malleable.
  2. Each scenario should be no more than one minute long.
  3. Immediately following the session, ask everyone on the team what the role player did right. There can be no criticism until there is praise.
  4. Next, ask the role player what he or she did right.
  5. Ask the role player a key question: “What could you do next time to improve?”
  6. Other team members can chime in, but they have to be supportive. Example: “I agree that you could have asked more open questions, but you were doing great in the beginning.”
  7. Give the role player a chance for redemption by repeating the same scenario. The person you are training will inevitably do better the second time around.
  8. Ask the entire team for comment on why round two was better.
  9. Ask the person you are training if they felt more comfortable when they had a chance to improve. They will almost always concur because they learned what to say and what not to say.
  10. Have others role play.  When the entire session is done, summarize the learning experience and thank everyone for their cooperation.

As you can see, the goal is not to catch someone doing something wrong, but to reward good behavior and encourage the person being trained to make improvements.  The other team members are not really judges but a cheering section.  People tend to be harder on themselves than they are on other people, so don’t worry about bad behavior going unnoticed.

By role playing in a positive fashion, you will help team members learn to deal with difficult situations in the office in a supportive environment.

Turning the Tables on Corporate Dentistry

Imagine turning the tables on corporate dentistry.  The big guys have mega-advertising budgets, but they cannot match what you have to offer.  The secret is making the distinction.

Don’t get me wrong.  Corporate dentistry is not inherently bad.  There are some fine doctors who provide quality care and who just so happen to work for large corporations.  You, however, probably work in a more traditional fee-for-service model.  I want your voice to be heard over all the noise generated by corporate dentistry advertising.

So that you can clearly communicate the advantages of your practice, here are the key five points you need to make:

  1. When someone comes to your office, they are going to see the same dentist (you!) time after time.  You offer the “warm and fuzzy approach.”  Corporate dentistry is often a revolving door, which means the patient may see a different dentist today than the one they saw last time.
  2. You are not going anywhere. This means you can offer continuity of care.  If a corporate concern closes an office, merges with another company, of just flat goes out of business (and some do), then the patient is left without a dentist.  As a fee-for-service dentist, you are a constant, and that is reassuring.
  3. You and your team are dedicated to the best of both worlds, truly personalized service with state-of-the art technology. You actually get to know your patients and you also stay abreast of the latest advances in dentistry.
  4. In your practice, no one is pressured or rushed. You always take the time to listen to your patients.  People like your warmth and compassion.  No corporate executive is looking over your shoulder and pushing you to see more patients in less time.
  5. You have a thorough but conservative approach to treatment planning and you use only the best materials. While you do not claim to be the discount dentist, you also know that it is never cheaper to do the same procedure twice.  Your goal is to do it once and do it right.

I always enjoy helping fee-for-service doctors get the word out and distinguish themselves from corporate dentistry.  So go ahead.  Make the distinctions.  It’s an important part of patient education that allows you to continue to thrive as a fee-for-service dentist.