Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA
I hired a new business assistant about three months ago, and she has many good traits. She's friendly and organized, and she is a hard worker. However, some of her verbal skills are lacking. For example, the other day, a patient made a negative remark about the fee she was charged for her dentistry. The assistant was caught off-guard, and her answer was, "Yes, our fees are high. I don't know what else to say." Obviously, this was not the best answer. What would you suggest as an appropriate answer to remarks about fees?
- Dr. Paul
Dear Dr. Paul,
In consulting with many dental practices over the years, it's not uncommon to find staff members who are conflicted with the office fees. Unfortunately, I've even had staff members share with me that they would not refer their families or friends to the practice because they felt the fees were too high.
Your staff member may be inexperienced and not have any concept of practice overhead. All she knows is that collections are in the multiple thousands of dollars each month, which in her eyes is a fortune. This is one of the reasons that dental practices should have monthly staff meetings. Some of the practice statistics can be shared with the group, including production and adjustments, collections, new patients and source tracking, downtime percentage, and basic overhead information such as dental supply, lab, and overall expenses. Such meetings give staff members an opportunity to become stakeholders in the business by developing an understanding of some of the business statistics.
It is true that patients think all of our fees are high, no matter where the fees rank, so negative comments from patients should be expected from time to time.
What your business assistant should have said is this: "I understand why you may feel that way. But please understand that our fees reflect the quality of work we do, and we will not compromise on quality. We believe that all of our patients deserve the best." This statement expresses empathy but also presents a strong defense as to why the fees are what they are and should be stated with conviction and sincerity. In order to do this, your staff member needs to believe it.
Business assistants are often caught in the middle. They are tasked with keeping clinicians and patients happy, and that is not always easy. Further, when staff members do not feel appreciated and respected for their work, it becomes harder for them to be practice cheerleaders. No employer needs employees who are at work in body only with the sole purpose of drawing a paycheck. Employers need employees who have their backs and support their practices 110%. How does this happen? It begins with understanding that being the practice leader means you have to express respect and appreciation and provide an environment of continual learning for staff members. You have to be willing to trust them with certain business statistics to help them develop a business-owner mentality.
Business assistants often have to answer difficult questions and remarks from patients. Even the most seasoned business assistant can be caught off-guard occasionally. Verbal skills training for staff members should improve customer service and help staff members become prepared for better patient interactions.
All the best,
Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Please visit Dianne's website at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at [email protected] or call her at (301) 874-5240.