Real People Made a Difference In most general dental offices staff costs are a very large part of overhead, approaching thirty percent in some offices. However, a great staff makes all the difference between a great practice and an office that is constantly struggling to be profitable. The current media hype is touting the use of automation and artificial intelligence as a way to cut costs or eliminate costly human error. Think carefully before jumping on the non-person bandwagon. The banking industry was an early adopter of automation with the ATM machine and internet banking. Now, you might note that many banks are using that same automation to guide (sometimes force) patrons to come into the bank for face to face interaction with a human. They have discovered that you will do more profitable interactions when you have a relationship with a real person. Many dental offices seem to believe that the “front desk person” can manage many areas of the office all at the same time. Often we see the business/ front desk area of dental practices understaffed and/or seriously under organized. It is not possible to be in a focused relationship with a client while trying to talk with an insurance company, greeting a new client and arranging a financial plan all at the same time. A recent study by Fred Joyal found that thirty eight percent of all calls to dental offices during normal working hours go unanswered! Whether they roll over to an answering machine or not, ninety percent of calls not answered by a person never call back. All of us respond positively when we hear a friendly voice answer the phone. Most successful offices have a policy that someone in the office will make sure that the phone is answered by the third ring. This can be a simple protocol that shifts over the course of the day depending on what area of the office is busy. If person A is busy person B will answer, if person B is busy person C will answer and so on. However, anyone in the office should be willing and able to answer the phone, including the doctor, if they see that it is necessary. Phone calls should be viewed as an opportunity, not an interruption. In a busy office that is easy to say and hard to do. Two items can help in maintaining a positive attitude: scripting and call checklists.
For years Roger Levin has been saying “if you have to say it twice, script it”. Anyone who is routinely on the phone should know the basic scripts for dealing with the most common calls – new clients, urgent care, managing appointments, recare visits. The goal is that clients get the same message from the office no matter who they speak to and that the office gathers the necessary information to serve the client well. Call Checklists have the same value as checklists in an airplane. They keep you from skipping a step that might lead to a crash and they keep you doing things in the proper order. In the dental office they help in transferring information between the business end of the office and the clinical staff. You can create your own checklist or find them on the internet. Reviewing your checklist as a part of a staff meeting is a good exercise. Does your checklist blend well with the scripting that you are using? Does everyone in the office understand the reason for the questions on the checklist and why they are in the order you are using? Does everyone grasp the value of the questions for both the office and the patient? If you want to have people understand that your office is truly special there is no better initial experience that having a real person with a high level of emotional intelligence answering the phone. Blg080517