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 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.

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 amazon.com 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 Amazon.com.”

Amazon.com 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 amazon.com 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 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.

  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.




Hospitality: The Secret Sauce in Business Success

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.


Get the Word Out: New Docs Joining Dental Practices

Summer is here and new doctors are joining dental practices.  Here are two great tips to get the word out to patients and the community.

First, send an e-mail or letter to patients of record and be sure to include a photo of the new doctor and the established doctor.  Show them smiling and shaking hands.  The established doctor has spent years building up trust with patients.  A photo of two doctors shaking hands strongly implies that the mantle of trust is now being shared with the new doctor.  If a new doctor is joining a group practice, then you need a photo of all the current doctors welcoming their new colleague.

One patient said that he had not been to see his dentist in two years.  He remembered getting a photo of the two doctors, so he called the practice and made an appointment with the new doctor.  He said he might have forgotten or passed over a written notice, but the image stuck in his mind.  When he was ready to seek dental services, he contacted the new dentist.

Next, send out a news release.  You want to generate some publicity for your practice, and bringing in a new doctor qualifies as “news.”  To learn more about the power of news releases, see my blog called “Five Ways News Releases Help Your Dental Practice.”

You may have heard the phrase, “yesterday’s news.”  For something to be newsworthy, it has to be fresh and new.  If the new doctor is joining the practice this summer, then now is the time to get the news release out.  Don’t wait until the fall or the end of the year; act now while the information is timely.  You should begin planning to get your release out even if the new doctor has not officially started.

I help practices get the word out to patients and the public about new events by creating well-crafted letters and news releases.  Take advantage of my “summer special.”  Contact me now for a free consultation and let’s talk about getting the word out regarding the new doctor in the practice: drdavidschwab@gmail.com.








The Best Reviews for Your Dental Practice: Five Stars on Google

Reviews by happy patients on any review site are always welcome, but the ones that count the most are Google.  Why are five-star Google reviews so valuable?

Google loves Google.  When you have many five-star reviews, you rank higher in search engine results.

When patients see five-star Google reviews, they are more likely to choose your practice.  A recent survey showed that 90% of respondents said that positive reviews of businesses influenced their purchasing decisions.

Those great testimonials on other sites are certainly worth having, but Google is the “gold standard.”  You gain credibility.  Think about it.  Because you are serving the public, you need a steady stream of new patients.  Those patients use Google.  They are influenced by what others are saying.  Take a look at how many great Google reviews your competitors have racked up and you be motivated to get more of your own.

You first have to create or claim your Google business listing. Navigate to Google My Business.

Just follow the instructions.  Make sure that the information is correct and be sure to add a photo if one is not already on your listing.

Ask patients who have already given you a five-star review to please review you on Google.  If you get just one new, five-star Google review per month, you will reap great benefits over time.


What is Your Biggest Challenge?

Take advantage of a FREE consultation to help you deal with your biggest challenge.

It could be:

  • Need more patients
  • Practice not growing
  • Staff issues
  • No shows
  • Case acceptance

You tell me.  This phone consultation is designed to help you.  I promise you that this is NOT a sales pitch.  My goal is to help you.  Consider it a “try before you buy.”

What’s the catch?  Time slots are limited and this offer will end soon.   This is a “summer special!”

Contact me now to arrange a time: drdavidschwab@gmail.com

David Schwab, Ph.D.






Five Great Ways to Answer the Cost Question

Many patients are shoppers and they often raise the cost question.  They want to know why it costs so much or they say they can get it cheaper somewhere else.  Here are five great responses.

  1. It’s never cheaper to do it twice. In our office, we are often called upon to give second opinions or to re-treat patients who were initially treated in another office.  Our goal is to do it once and do it right.  When you come to our office, you get the benefit of our time, our expertise, and the best dental materials available.
  2. Dentistry is an art and a science, and all treatment is unique. You can get similar treatment in another office, but just as every original work of art is one-of-a-kind, the care we provide is unique to this office.
  3. We occasionally lose patients because of fees, but we never lose patients because of quality. It’s always possible to shop around and find a lower fee, and we do not claim to be the lowest priced dental practice in our area.  However, we offer quality dental care.  We have many loyal patients who want only the best dental care possible.
  4. We invite you to review our testimonials. We understand that patients have concerns about fees, and we think that our best ambassadors are previous patients who have had extensive treatment in our office.  We have many happy patients because we have high standards and we truly care about our patients.
  5. Don’t compare apples and oranges when you ask the cost question. Sometimes patients are told that they can get “it” cheaper in another office, but that begs the question—what is “it”?  Be sure that you are comparing the exact same scope of treatment.  Ask about experience and follow-up care.  Savvy shoppers often choose us not because we have the lowest fee, but because we offer the best value.

When you are prepared for the cost question, you can confidently address patients’ concerns and reaffirm your commitment to quality dentistry.




Great Interview Questions to Help You Hire the Right Person in Your Dental Practice

Great interview questions, also called “killer” questions, were the subject of a previously published article.  You can see that information by clicking here.  Here are 10 more essential questions to help you find the right person.

My comments to you appear after each question in square brackets [like this].

  1. What marketing strategies should the practice use to attract new patients? [This one is on the list of great interview questions because marketing is everyone’s job.  You should not expect someone to give you a complete marketing plan, but everyone who works in a dental office should have ideas about practice growth.
  2. How will you help implement these ideas? [You want to know how your prospective employee will help in this regard, not just give you advice.]
  3. What are you looking for in a boss? [If the person gives a bland answer such as “nice” or “fair,” probe more deeply.  How does the person define those terms?]
  4. What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you? [Interviews can be stressful.  This question is designed to lighten the tone and let you find out if the interviewee has a sense of humor.]
  5. Someone who has not decided on a career asks you about opportunities in dentistry. What would you tell that person?  What pros and cons would you bring up?  [Prepare to be enlightened.  This answer will reveal whether the interviewee is truly dedicated to the dental profession and whether they are an optimist or a pessimist.]
  6. What are your interpersonal strengths? [The word “interpersonal” is key. Someone might talk about a specific skills, such as organizational ability, which is commendable, but you want to know about interpersonal strengths.  You are looking for someone who can get along with many different personality types.]
  7. No one is perfect. What are your weaknesses?  [There are people who try to spin this answer.  Someone might say, “Sometimes I work too hard” or “I have a tendency to be a perfectionist.”  You are looking for an honest self-assessment.]
  8. Describe a high pressure situation related or unrelated or unrelated to dentistry that you dealt with in the past. How did you handle it?  [Dealing with stress is an important skill.  This answer to this question will be very revealing.]
  9. Who has been the most important person in your own self-development? [Most people have mentors, role models, heroes.  You want to know about these key people who helped shape the interviewee.]
  10. Why do you have a passion for dentistry? [Of all the great interview questions, this one may be the best.  It assumes that the person does indeed have a passion for dentistry.  Be wary of the person who searches in vain for an answer, or the person who describes their “passion” in very flat terms.]

Caution: Do not conduct an interview with a prospective employee without using this list of great interview questions.  You and your practice deserve the best, and this list is a valuable aid.