Hygiene coordinators do not have an easy job. It’s tough calling people and constantly facing the apathy of patients who don’t value hygiene appointments, because after all, it’s just a cleaning, it can wait! If you continue doing things the same way, you are very likely to get the same result. I was in an office last week where the hygiene coordinator asked me a very valid question – “How many times are we supposed to call people before we stop?” Great Question!! It made me stop and think that the methods that we are using are not working, so now what? Let’s try something different.
I asked this lovely lady to show me some examples of how many times she had called patients. First, we looked at the recall list where next to each name I could only see L/M, L/M, L/M, L/M, (left message). I understand that it is difficult to reach patients through the day and everyone seems to have voicemail, so the path to least resistance is to leave a message and wait for the patient to call back. We know that doesn’t work, so don’t repeat it. I also noted in the patient’s record that the first call was made in April, the second in May, the third in September, the fourth in November. The problem wasn’t in the number of calls made, but the length of time between the calls. By the time the fourth call was made, the patient was already 7 months overdue for his/her recall. Why does that matter? Because, if
2 or 3 or 7 months can lapse between telephone calls, it is not urgent or important for the patient to call you back and by then your patient has forgotten about the first telephone call.
New Strategy Now for something completely different.
3 Steps for Total Recall Success
Step 1. – Make the first telephone call using the following wording:
“”Mrs. Smith, this is Sandie from Dr. Jones’ office. You are due for your dental hygiene appointment and I’m calling to schedule that for you. When you get this message, would you please call me back at ___________. I look forward to speaking with you. Have a great day. “
Note in the computer record – call no. 1 placed.
Step 2 – within one week of the first call, call again using the following wording:
“Mrs. Smith, this is Sandie again. I left a message for you last week. Dr. Jones has asked me to call you to schedule your dental hygiene appointment. Could you please call me back as soon as possible at _______________. Thanks so much and I’m looking forward to speaking with you.”
Note in the computer record – call no. 2 placed.
Step 3 – within the next week after the second call
After the third call and if there is still no response from the patient, send him/her the attached letter:
“Mrs. Smith, this is Sandie from Dr. Jones’ office. Dr. Jones has asked me to
call you. Could you please call me back as soon as possible at _______________.
Thanks so much and I’m looking forward to speaking with you.”
Dear Mrs. Smith
Dr. Jones has reviewed your dental chart and noticed that you are overdue for
your continuing care appointment. Regular examinations and hygiene appointments
are necessary to maintain good dental health and prevent more complicated problems
Preventive dentistry results in saving you time and money. Most dental
conditions are easier to treat when diagnosed in the early stages and result
in less complicated and costly procedures becoming necessary. Please call me at
________ to schedule your appointment. If you have any questions, please
do not hesitate to contact us.
Dental Hygiene Coordinator
All 3 calls should be made within the same month. There should be no time lapse between. That’s the difference.
Using this 3-step strategy helps patients to realize that dental hygiene appointments are not ‘just a cleaning’ – they are very important steps to oral health . If patients don’t hear from you for one or two months between calls, you are sending them a message that it’s o.k. to wait. Doing so, puts your hygiene recalls months behind and makes it difficult to catch up. This is further reinforcement that it’s o.k.
to wait, it’s not a big hairy deal.
Ideally, no patients should leave your practice without a prescheduled appointment, but if they do, help them to see that this is an important and valuable dental appointment.
Preventive dentistry will save them time and money in the long run. It is our job, as dental professionals, to help our patients see the value in keeping their appointments.
It is never a matter of pestering patients, it’s a matter of doing our jobs!
How to Be an Encouraging Dental Office Manager and Help Employees Feel Empowered, Informed and Invaluable
A good manager helps people do their best. But that’s hard to achieve if employees, for whatever reason, feel anxious in the workplace–more worried about surviving than thriving. Even at the best dental offices, you can’t eliminate uncertainty. There are too many forces beyond our control that can affect business–from the weather to the economy to changing technology. However, you don’t want to eliminate healthy caution. One reckless employee can bring down a dental office. It’s important to reduce unproductive fear, the anxiety that keeps people from doing their best work. That sort of fear distracts employees, saps their energy, and leads to discouraging attitudes.
Every manager has the power to help people gain the confidence and energy to do their best and create an environment in which people feel “EN-couraged” every day. You can make this happen by helping people feel empowered to solve problems, informed about important issues, and invaluable to the organization. An effective office manager will help employees to feel empowered, informed, and invaluable. This doesn’t happen overnight and one person can’t single-handedly transform the culture of the office, but he/she can certainly have a positive impact.
Encouragement spreads from the top down. Encouraged employees tend to be the top performers and that makes encouraging behavior very contagious. When you genuinely involve your staff in problem-solving, you help them feel empowered, and that’s when they give you their best, most creative ideas.
At your next staff meeting, start by taking as many ideas as possible. Do not make critical comments, just write them all down and include them on the agenda. Then get the group to help you evaluate and discuss each one. That way each employee gets their voice head and you won’t have to be the one pointing out the problems. In fact, you can set a positive tone, encouraging people to solve those problems, which is exactly what you had in mind in the first place.
Helping employees feel well-informed is an important part of creating an encouraging workplace. People need to trust that they’ll be kept “in the loop” about important developments. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if they always imagine there’s something sinister afoot. Informed employees are more relaxed, more confident, more productive. Honest communication can put a lot of fears to rest. Encouraging managers keep people informed. Employees know they’ll be entrusted with important information, because open communication is the rule. It happens informally, every day, whenever managers interact with employees.
An effective manager won’t try to solve all the problems either. That sort of environment’s no fun for employees and it’s no fun for managers, either, who find themselves consulted on every small decision. When employees feel invaluable, they make their own decisions, use their best judgment, and solve problems. People feel valued when their managers show genuine, unqualified appreciation. It’s the difference between employees who are afraid to make a move and people who get things done even when the pressure’s on.
An important part of being an encouraging manager is setting a confident and positive tone. Your employees take their cue from you. Involve people in problem-solving, hold regular meetings and express appreciation every day.
The manager must also feel empowered, informed, and invaluable. Employees want to feel their manager’s part of the team that’s steering the office. It is important that the manager to takes ownership of the policies and procedures of the office, explain the reasoning behind them and productive ways of working within them. That gives employees the encouraging feeling that the manager is in control and if provides a sense of comfort and reassurance to employees.
There’s another way managers can set an encouraging tone in the workplace and that is demonstrating cooperation and mutual respect in their dealings with one another. To do their best work, employees need to feel that everyone’s on the same team, working towards a common goal.
To help people feel empowered, encourage them to participate fully in problem-solving, demonstrate your respect for their opinions, and be sure to put their good ideas into action. People feel most empowered when they see themselves making a difference.
To help people feel informed, set a tone of honest, open communication. Keep people “in the loop,” with regular updates on common goals and important issues. Make sure employees know what’s expected of them, what they must do to succeed and how their performance will be measured.
To help people feel invaluable, let them know you recognize and appreciate their initiative. Maintain an adult, mutually respectful relationship with every employee. Most important, don’t be shy about telling people–often–that you value them and their contributions.
As an effective manager, you have the power to create an encouraging workplace, full of confident, comfortable people doing their best work. You do it by helping employees feel empowered, informed, and invaluable. Help to free up your employees to do their very best work.