Mints on the pillow, bugs in the bed

April 1, 2004
You want a stellar reputation. You want to be known for kindness, service, and excellence. In every small business, guests return and new clients arrive because of positive buzz in the community and personal networking and marketing.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

You want a stellar reputation. You want to be known for kindness, service, and excellence. In every small business, guests return and new clients arrive because of positive buzz in the community and personal networking and marketing. The continual challenge is to serve your guests to the highest standards at every moment. As the great sales trainer Brian Tracey says, "Everything counts, and everything counts."

Hold a victory celebration when you complete treatment on a guest and your conversations are focused, listening is keen, timeliness is observed, finances work, and the guest is overjoyed with the technical results. Do you take time to recount all the "everythings" that allowed this guest to be ecstatic? Do your systems ensure every time your guests visit, your treatment will go smoothly? Do you have qualified staff members who understand each system? Do your staff members sing your praises and the reasons they are happy to be working in your office?

Patients depart because of unfulfilled expectations, usually in the administrative area. It's the bugs in the bed that create ruffled feathers, not the technical work. Our systems of communication and follow-up are critical.

An office culture can develop haphazardly. With little direction or distinction, staff members do what they did in other offices. We remain average. With each staff member working independently, we miss opportunities for great conversations with patients, guests slip through the cracks, and we achieve excellence in a random manner.

Strong systems form a practice culture when the leader is clear and communicates the bigger picture. Great staffs are drawn to clearly communicated passion and share the vision. Deep thought, clarity, and communication are the keys to invigorating your staff and being accountable. Where are the bugs in your bed that patients will notice?

• Timeliness — Unfulfilled promises of time. Running late is a symptom of a lack of direction from the leader. Are you Dr. Everything to everybody?

• The waiting game — Guests who have accepted treatment wait and wait for the doctor to appear, while they observe a flurry of activity elsewhere. Pareto's law of 80/20 indicates 80 percent of your profit comes from 20 percent of your patients. Do you know who they are and is their visit filled with exceptional care?

• Random scheduling — This creates chaos, little production, and an emotional void by the end of the day. Learn block-scheduling and schedule each day the same. Schedule to a daily goal by knowing your overhead per hour. Make that a figure to exceed.

• The insurance game — If you leave the patient out of the insurance loop, you make your office the center of insurance knowledge. Instead, collect upfront for most patients and give them the insurance form to submit for reimbursement. Quit creating work and trouble for yourself.

• Order-taking — Your first question to your patients shouldn't be, "What is your biggest concern?" If it is, your diagnosis and treatment result in "small-picture" items. In the sales world, this makes you an "order-taker," rather then a creator of opportunity. Learn modern sales skills and begin with, "How may I help you? How would you like your smile to look in 20 years?" The result of order-taking is your patient's assumption that your treatment mix is limited and "if I want to beautify at 55, I should seek that care elsewhere."

• Promises, promises — When you say you will do something, do it! Connect with patients and staff. Excellent communication with your lab and specialists and networking in your community all lead to excellent results. Do you have solid systems in place to keep promises?

• Layered staff — A common "bug in the bed" complaint I hear from airplane seatmates is, "I seldom see the doctor, because the staff does all the work." Consider using skilled treatment coordinators who see the guest through to a happy completion. "It's not my job" is a bug in the bed. Hygienists should know all fees, assistants should know the schedule and how to do complete financial arrangements, and the doctor should know how to handle patient phone calls. What systems do you need to implement to make sure you clearly hear your patients and they feel complete and special?

Mints on the pillows are wonderful, yet momentary. Bugs in the bed are stories that are repeated to friends and family in the community. Solid systems will eliminate the bugs. Is it time to get some help ... or do you want to continue to be average?

Dr. Bill Blatchford's Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with more than 1,100 offices, Dr. Blatchford's custom program involves minimal travel and maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors, and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case-presentation skills, communication, and profitability are emphasized. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at

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