Looking at the bright side of a bad situation, I have identified the positive effects of COVID on dental practices. Here’s the brief video:
St. Louis and New Orleans, two cities with fairly comparable populations, have a huge disparity in the number of coronavirus cases.
Coronavirus Cases, March 26, 2020, 8:30 a.m. Central Time:
St. Louis (population 319,000) 69 cases.
New Orleans (population 391,000) 997 cases.
These statistics are for the respective cities only, not the surrounding areas. Similar differences in coronavirus cases appear across the country.
When will you be able to fully reopen your dental office?
Three factors will determine the answer to that question:
1. Where are you located? Hot spots such as New York will be locked down longer than many other areas.
2. Statewide versus county-by-county approach. Some states, such as California, have closed all non-essential businesses statewide; other states, such as Florida, are taking a more localized approach. The decisions made by your governor make a difference.
3. Availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Even if you are in an area that has been impacted less severely by the coronavirus, government officials will be reluctant to allow dental offices to open for business as usual as long as PPE is in scarce supply in some parts of the country.
In the coming weeks, look for a mixture of good and bad news: surging cases in hot spots, a push to reopen areas of the country with relatively few cases, and (possibly) an easing of the shortage of PPE.
When “Star Trek” premiered in the U.S. in 1966, the cost of a three-minute international phone call was about $12, which, adjusted for inflation, is $92 today.
Even in the 1980’s, when I was in graduate school, calling overseas was anything but cheap. I remember being in a hotel in Luxembourg as part of a work assignment for a bookseller and wanting to call home. The telephone table in the room was equipped with something akin to a taxi meter. When my overseas call to the U.S. was connected, the meter started clicking and turning. As the contraption shook, pens danced off the edge of the table.
The charges were calculated not in currency but in some unknown message units that started at 10,000. Every few seconds, the counter in the vibrating table would turn in increments of 2,500. After about two minutes, I had spent over 30,000 of these units, and I quickly ended my call. My employer paid the bill. I never learned exactly how much I had spent, but my boss made it clear that I was not to make any more calls during that trip.
I still travel frequently for my speaking and consulting business, but I also take advantage of video conferencing. There are platforms for webinars, which I have used very successfully, but I also really enjoy “virtual meetings” courtesy of services such as Skype.
In fact, when I train dental teams to use the best verbal skills, I often “beam in” to offices across North America via Skype. When participants are able to see and hear each other, we come very close to the experience of being in the same room. I marvel at the technology that allows me to be (virtually) in Texas at 2:00 p.m. and California at 3:00 p.m., which does not cost a penny more than what all of us pay anyway for our Internet connections.
During these sessions we cover verbal skills and other issues that come up in practices every day. If you would like valuable team training with zero travel cost, contact me for more information and we will make it so: email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Just send a quick email to email@example.com and we’ll send you the Free Report.
You’re always, of course, welcome to contact me through my website, which is davidschwab.com. Thanks so much for watching The Personal Report.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 amazon.com. 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 amazon.com, 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.
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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 amazon.com, 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.
- How can our appointment process by streamlined? How can we spend less time on the phone scheduling and confirming?
- How can we make better use of automated confirmation systems?
- How can communication between front and back be improved so we can schedule more efficiently?
- 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?
- 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.
Hospitality as the “secret sauce” in business success was explained recently in a segment on 60 Minutes. The interview featured Danny Meyer, an incredibly successful restaurateur. Meyer wrote a book called Setting the Table in 2009 that has since been reprinted and made available in an electronic format. You can find it on amazon.com
Meyer made it big in the restaurant business in New York. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” as the song says. It is even more impressive that Meyer achieved his phenomenal entrepreneurial success in the restaurant business, where the competition is brutal, profit margins are small, and so many things can go wrong.
His formula is simple yet compelling. Meyer says that in a restaurant, it is obvious that if the food is not good, then no one is going to come back. For that reason, he places tremendous emphasis on quality control—freshness, tried and true recipes that people like, attractive presentation, and ingredients that all work together to give customers a great taste sensation. People come for the food; the food has to consistently meet and exceed expectations.
The other, equally important factor is hospitality, the “secret sauce.” Meyer says that people have to have a great experience when they come to a restaurant. He explains that the experience is provided not only by friendly and competent servers, but by everyone in the restaurant who interacts with customers.
Meyer is always moving from table to table. He smiles, makes small talk, asks for feedback, and thanks people for coming in. The pride he takes in his work is evident and he genuinely wants everyone to have a good time. People like him and they appreciate the hospitality as much as they like the food.
I saw this philosophy in action recently. I had lunch at a modest, family-run restaurant in a small town. The food was very good, but the experience was memorable because of the hospitality. The owner came out, introduced himself, thanked me for being a first-time customer, and explained that he is building his business one satisfied customer at a time. We had an enjoyable conversation. By the time I left the restaurant, I felt that I had made a friend. The next time I drive thorough that town, I will visit my friend the restaurant owner and have another meal. I have also told others about the restaurant.
I know dentists who not only provide quality dental care, but who walk into the reception area and greet patients. They are always gracious hosts, welcoming new patients, catching up with loyal patients of record, and connecting with everyone who comes to see them.
In these practices, people come back and tell their friends because the hospitality is as impressive as the dentistry.
Verbal skills in a dental office are very important. Here are three things never to say to a patient in your dental office:
1. We will be happy to make an appointment for your initial visit. The term “initial visit” sounds somewhere between bland and boring; it certainly does not communicate value. A better phrase is “comprehensive diagnostic evaluation.” Example: We can see you on Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. for your comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination, including x-rays, and answer all your questions. Patients sometimes complain about the high cost to walk in the door. Let them know that their first visit is not just to get acquainted but that the doctor will use his or her skills to make a professional assessment of the patient’s oral health.
2. I know it’s expensive but we have a financing plan. The word “expensive” to some people carries a connotation of “over-priced.” A much better alternative: The proposed treatment will never be more conservative, more cost-effective, or less invasive than it is today. We work with an independent financing company that allows patients to spread out payments over time with a low interest rate. Banish the word “expensive” from your vocabulary because it makes communicating value for the dollar more difficult.
3. I’m new. Everyone has to start somewhere, but when you say that you are new, you are telling the patient not to listen to you because you are trainee and you have no idea what you are talking about—at least not yet. It’s better to say, let me check for you and then proceed with the conversation. If you have been in dentistry for many years but you are new to the practice, then you can say,I recently started working here and it’s a great practice, and I have a number of years of prior experience. If you have no prior experience, impress the patient with your great work ethic and commitment to customer service and do not be afraid to ask your colleagues for help, but do not emphasize your lack of experience to patients if you can avoid it.
By having verbal skills at the ready, you will avoid pitfalls.
Dealing directly with your boss’s boss can be hazardous to your workplace health, something I know from experience. I used to work for a very large organization. The CEO was a whip-smart and affable guy. In my first few weeks on the job, I would banter with him on the elevator, but I did not have much direct contact with him. There were many layers of management between me and the CEO.
One day just before closing time, the CEO unexpectedly appeared in my Dilbert cubicle and sat down in front of me. Heads turned. Why was the CEO on this floor? Why was he talking to one of the new hires? Was he going to fire the new guy (me)?
It turned out that he wanted my advice on an issue. We had a five-minute discussion and he seemed pleased with my input. He gave me an assignment that would take me about two hours to complete. I told him I would have it done by the next morning. Always pleasant, the CEO stood up, thanked me, and walked away.
About thirty seconds after that impromptu meeting ended, my boss called me into her office. She was not amused. She gave me a dagger-like stare and demanded to know how I could have had the audacity to “go over her head.” I explained that the CEO had come to me; I had not initiated the meeting.
However, my boss did not believe me, instead implying that there was some conspiracy afoot. She suspected that I had been secretly speaking directly to the CEO for some time in an attempt to subvert her authority. I explained that there was no plot to overthrow her. I was just sitting at my desk when the CEO dropped by. While this explanation did not sound plausible, it happened to be true.
She must have subsequently talked to the CEO because her paranoia later subsided. However, I learned a valuable lesson: appearances count and one must always be keenly aware of the chain of command.
When there is an office manager in a dental practice, employees are often unaware this business etiquette. If they do not like the answer they get from their boss, the office manager, employees quite cavalierly go over that person’s head and ask the doctor the same question, hoping for a different response. The doctor is not an appellate judge who is standing by to overrule someone else’s decision. If the doctor reverses the office manager’s decision, then the office manager no longer has any authority.
To make the system work, employees need to know that going to one’s boss’s boss is not acceptable. The doctor has to back up the office manager almost all the time. When the office manager’s word means nothing, then the doctor has the worst of both worlds: paying an office manager who is not allowed to manage. If the office manager makes mistakes or handles situations inappropriately, the doctor has to coach the office manager to help that person grow, or, in some cases, replace that individual.
The good news is that many dental practices are substantial businesses. With good managers in place who keep the practice running and allow the doctor to take care of patients, the business can survive and thrive.