Your Success Is on the Line by Jay Geier

Your Success Is on the Line 

A great end-to-end experience starts on the phone

by Jay Geier

In the July/August issue, I talked about three ways to grow a specialty practice. The most important is to deliver a great end-to-end patient experience that ensures continued referrals from general dentists. That point deserves some elaboration.

Your clinical expertise and experience are, of course, the key determining factors in the quality of orthodontic treatment the patient receives. However, your team determines the quality of the overall experience the patient receives through the many more interactions they have with the patient—phone calls, conversations, decisions and actions—than you do. Even gestures and nonverbal communication are important. When any of those touchpoints don’t impress the patient or parent, the referring dentist will hear about it.

Likewise, your people need to impress referring doctors and their team members who interact with your team to coordinate care, paperwork, schedules and maybe even insurance benefits. If the general dentist’s team doesn’t respect the competence and efficiency of your team or thinks they’re a hassle to work with, the dentist will hear about that, too. Over time, the negativity will wear down that relationship, no matter how much your colleague respects your clinical prowess.

As a specialist, you’ll rarely if ever get walk-in patients; their first contact with your practice will most likely be over the telephone. This is also true for interactions with referring offices. Most practice owners think it’s enough if their team members are personable on the phone, but this is not the case. Sure, you want your people to be friendly, but you want patients to recognize that your business has many other positive attributes, too.

Every interaction, starting with that first call, is a reflection of your organization’s culture. And your culture determines how patients and everyone else who interacts with the business feel about you, your team and the caliber of your practice.

Culture is your best competitive advantage
Before I started studying culture, I thought it was something rather “touchy-feely,” something to be delegated to the person who was best at planning team parties and decorating the office for holidays. I thought it was only about employee morale. Boy, was I wrong!

I have since come to learn a great culture is the biggest competitive advantage a business can have. The culture of your practice is unique to you and your team—it defines and demonstrates what you want for your patients, your practice and your community. Your culture cannot be replicated by a competitor or a cookie-cutter DSO.

A great culture is an advantageous recruiting tool, which is especially important if you have to replace good people you may have lost in recent years. Based on a 2018 study conducted by Chick-Fil-A,1 today’s top talent looks for three things when job-seeking, all inherent to a great culture:

  • A better boss. A manager who cares about them as individuals, treats them with respect and listens to them.

  •  A brighter future. They want to be trained, developed, coached and mentored.

  • A bigger vision. A business that does meaningful work and contributes to the people and world around them.
In short, learning about culture isn’t a soft skill. It’s a hardcore business strategy for success rooted in performance goals; accountability for results; and highly trained, engaged people who share your commitment to patient care and service and the future of the practice..

Create the culture you want
Every business has a culture—by design or default. A default culture is never a good one because few if any elements necessary to make the culture positive are present: leadership; a vision and values to live by; measurable goals; performance expectations; accountability; training and development; communication and motivation; and recognition and reward.

We coach clients to create a high-performing, patient-centric, growth-oriented culture. The order of those three descriptors is no accident. Your people need to be well trained to become a high-performing team capable of delivering a patent-centric experience that grows the practice. Without the necessary training, the team’s collective performance sinks to the level of the weakest performer, to the frustration of good people who are likely to look elsewhere for more professionally satisfying pastures.

Creating a great culture takes intention, time and patience. You’ll probably need to weed out a few naysayers who demonstrate their unwillingness or inability to learn better habits for the sake of the patients and the practice.

Once you have embedded a culture, it tends to run on autopilot to some degree. That doesn’t mean you don’t continue to reinforce and nurture culture through leadership, but you can be confident that most of the patient experience touchpoints are occurring as you want and need them to. Everyone on the team knows that’s the way things are done at your practice and they are trained on how to meet these expectations.

Make the right first impression
Culture—good or bad—is not just pervasive throughout an organization; it’s felt throughout the room. When a patient walks into your office, there’s a vibe: Ideally, everyone is working well together, being efficient yet attentive and warm yet professional. Otherwise, there’s a palpable air of tension, stress and inefficiency. Patients feel as if they’re an inconvenience to the staff who are busy with apparently more important tasks.

That same vibe will be felt over the phone before a patient ever gets to the office. That first phone call is your team’s only opportunity to make the right first impression. The call must be handled with care and efficiency and with the patient’s convenience and satisfaction in mind. The same is true if a referring doctor or a team member calls.

General dentists lose scads of potential new patients every day because their team members aren’t trained to properly handle those first calls. You’re less likely to lose the patient entirely, but a bad first impression will influence their opinion of your people, your practice, and even of you and the quality of care they can expect before they ever meet you. It may not be fair but it’s human nature. A bad first impression takes a long time to overcome.

Train your people on how to work together as a high-performing team to deliver a great end-to-end experience that grows the business by making patients feel cared for and cared about and general dentists and their teams feel respected and appreciated. Start with those all-important phone calls.

1. “What Top Talent Really Wants in a Job,” Mark Miller for Michael Hyatt & Co., 2/20/2018. talent-wants.

Author Bio
Author Jay Geier is a world authority on growing independent practices to keep for a lifetime of revenue or sell for maximum value. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in team training and doctor coaching to help people reach their full potential by uncovering blind spots holding them back and limiting growth and profitability. To schedule a front desk audit for your practice, go to

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