The ultimate training tool

April 1, 2003
A staff with poor verbal skills typically is unable to follow or implement other essential business systems for the practice.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

Staffing problems are reaching crisis proportions in dentistry, and it does not look as if there's any end in sight. Research now indicates that staff members remain with a practice an average of 3.5 years. Observation reveals that when a practice loses one or more of its long-term staff members, it is likely to lose several more over a 12- to 36-month period.

Hiring and retaining well-trained staff is likely to remain problematic. In fact, the situation will probably worsen. Practices will have to accept lower productivity levels — unless they implement better systems to hire and train staff and get them up to speed rapidly.

The answer lies in systems

Dentists often complain about the poor manners and verbal skills of their staff. This problem appears to be universal. The solution is to hire the best staff you can and then train them well.

Scripting is one system that can help staff members improve verbal interaction with customers. Here's how to do it:

1 Design a script for every routine conversation in your practice. Never tell patients why you want them to do something. Instead, tell them why they should want to do it. Here's an example:

"Mrs. Smith, after we replace this unstable bridge with implants, you will never have to worry about your smile or what you eat, and you'll save time in caring for your teeth. In fact, removing the tension that this particular bridge puts on your other teeth will help them last a lifetime."

2 Use power words — strong words used at the beginning of sentences, including "great," "terrific," "wonderful," "fantastic," and "outstanding." These words help patients respond well to staff members. Positive people are attractive, and their influence in the marketplace is significant.

3 Set aside a block of time every month to work on improving verbal skills. This will benefit patients directly and improve communication within the practice.

However, there is another excellent reason for this training: A staff with poor verbal skills typically is unable to follow or implement other essential business systems for the practice.

4 Include some time at every staff meeting to review scripting. We advise focusing on four or five key scripts at every staff meeting. Reviewing scripts helps the entire team absorb the practice philosophy, goals, and level of service the you strive to attain.

Scheduling, case presentation, patient-financial management, and other business systems are only as good as the team's verbal skills when carrying out these tasks. We've tracked the results of scripting from numerous practices for more than eight years and are convinced that its use is essential.

Summary

Today's dental teams require training, as will the teams of the future. The world keeps getting faster, more complicated and more technologically dependent. The expansion of dental services, software, and technology means that our teams have more to deal with and learn more than ever before. Clear scripting that accompanies business systems will help your team excel.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.

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