Eliminate the speed bumps!

Changing times can mean unpredictable results. Our business goal is to have systems in place, with committed staff and excellent leadership, creating solid results. We want to eliminate the practice of "speed bumps," which can cause irritation, rather than wild enthusiasm.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

Changing times can mean unpredictable results. Our business goal is to have systems in place, with committed staff and excellent leadership, creating solid results. We want to eliminate the practice of "speed bumps," which can cause irritation, rather than wild enthusiasm. What are some habits we have which actually keep patients away from our practice?

Lack of attention to time is a speed bump. We can consistently exceed people's expectations of dentistry by being in on time and out on time. This is a factor of leadership and complete treatment-planning and diagnosis. It also is preparation for the appointment so an assistant never leaves the patient. It is releasing the patient, even when treatment doesn't go as planned or is not complete. Being an "on-time practice" is simply a decision, and then following through by sticking to it.

By being on time, you can eliminate the name of the first room your guests enter - the "waiting room." Rename it a welcome room, a reception area, or an inspiration room. Speed bumps are having patients sit in the waiting room until you seem to squeeze them in, or taking them back to a treatment room to read People magazine until you are ready to treat them. Speed bumps are having your reception room messy with periodicals and newspapers. Eliminate the magazines and replace them with hardback pictorials of local history, industries, humor, even local cookbooks. Create a juice bar with real cups for a wide variety of mixes. Evaluate the message of warmth your present reception-area d

Eliminate the speed bump of a new patient being greeted in your office with a long health-history form to complete while sitting alone in the "waiting room." How does this encourage a warm relationship with your patient? Instead, focus on a few health questions that are important for the first appointment, and work with your guest to answer these questions. Think of the health history as part of building a friendship, rather than the first barrier to being seen at your office. The complete health history isn't needed until major treatment begins.

Eliminate the speed bump of busyness by committing to "block-booking." Impress guests with your total focus, preparedness, and organization with longer appointments People gravitate to successful professionals who focus solely on them. The "dental zoo" is on the opposite end of the spectrum!

Evaluate the logistics of your initial appointments. Speed bumps are when patients call and ask to have their teeth cleaned, and you insist on a complete hour-long exam before they can come back and have their teeth cleaned. Find a way to give patients what they want.

Another common speed bump is when the doctor or staff asks, "When was the last time you had your teeth cleaned?" Everyone knows they should be seen at six-month intervals. When you ask new patients this question, they may be embarrassed to tell you how long it's been or even feel pressured to lie about it. Either way, you are not creating a trusting relationship. Instead, compliment new patients on caring enough to come to see you and on their warm smile. Start out on a positive note to create a friend.

Not everyone knows your area and location as well as you do. So, eliminate the speed bump of location by creating an easy map to your office from all directions and putting it on your letterhead. Fax the directions to your new clients and tell them, "Our patients tell us how easy it is to find our office."

Eliminate the speed bump of miscommunication with written post-operative instructions. Include these instructions on your Web site and tell patients your Web site address. Personally call patients you've seen that day, and leave your pager number or home phone on your answering machine in the evening.

What speed bumps do you have in your practice that keep patients away? Are you open to the possibility that you can create more relationship opportunities and leave patients with a better initial impression if you eliminate the speed bumps?

Dr. Bill Blatchford, a practice-management coach only to dentists, has developed a distance learning coaching program utilizing conference calls, personal phone coaching, the Internet, and email. Minimizing the travel requirements, Blatchford coaching is now available anytime and anywhere. Based in Sunriver, Ore., Dr. Blatchford is speaking at the Chicago Midwinter, Profitable Dentistry's Destin Seminar, and Discus Dental's Las Vegas Seminar in 2003. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at www.blatchford.com.

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