Jodena Consulting Blog
Consistent and Creative Internal Marketing – Strategy #3 to Increase Growth and Profitability in 2018
January 17, 2018
A key component of growth for successful practices is the acquisition of new patients – patients hopefully who appreciate good clinical dentistry and are happy and willing to pay for it.
This result is not going to happen by joining every PPO plan. It is not going to happen by offering free exams and free consultations to every bargain hunter. It is not going to happen by offering Groupon type programs- those kinds of approaches were an unmitigated disaster. And it is not going to happen by trying to compete on price – someone will always be willing to charge less.
Over the years, I have found the best source of quality new patients is referrals from your existing patient base. Word-of-mouth advertising is by far the most positive and effective and inexpensive way to market your practice. So how do you create the WOW experience that compels people to rave about you?
• An extraordinary customer service experience at every level with every interaction with every person in the office. This is easier said than done. The effort to achieve this needs to be continuous and consistent. Something that always gets people talking at cocktail parties is when they have received post treatment telephone calls by doctors and hygienists following difficult procedures.
• Rewarding patients for referrals. The greatest management principle in the world says that if you reward good behavior, you will get more of that behavior. So you certainly want to thank patients in meaningful and creative ways for the referrals of friends and family.
• Informing patients of how much you care. Every day we hear through the patient grapevine about someone in the practice who has suffered a tragedy – a parent, spouse or relative dying; someone who may be gravely ill; someone who perhaps lost a job. We also hear wonderful success stories – kids getting into the college of their choice, job promotions, or new business achievements. The magic of a short personalized handwritten note from the DOCTOR will bring a smile to the face of your patient. In the mind of the public, such behavior from a busy doctor’s office is unheard of. You will forever be marked “special”.
There is an old saying that relates to fee sensitivity. “Why pay the difference if you can’t tell the difference?” Accept the challenge to make it very obvious to your patients that your office is indeed different. Take every opportunity to let your patients know that you care.
It is impossible in a 500 word post to give all of the details and all of the specifics and innuendos of how to implement an effective Internal Marketing program. Please contact me if you are seeking more information.
This is the third in a series of five posts about how to create growth and profitability in successful dental practices in 2018. Next post –improving leadership skills.
January 10, 2018
I firmly believe that the doctor is ultimately responsible for staying on time. No matter how perfectly crafted a schedule might be at the start of a day, it can all go to hell in a handbag if the doctor does not stick with the program. At the core, it becomes simply an issue of respect – an agreement and an understanding that the patient’s time and the patient’s life is just as important as yours. And I do find that people/patients will respect your time in direct proportion to the way you respect theirs. It has to become a major part of the DNA of the practice–we will stay on time!
So what can a doctor do to consistently maintain an on –time schedule?
• Do not perform definitive therapy for emergency patients. While I strongly advocate that emergencies should be seen on the day of the call, the main goal should be to relieve pain or anxiety. Diagnose the problem. Get them comfortable, of course. And then reschedule for definitive therapy.
• Resist the temptation to present elaborate treatment plans in the hygiene room. This creates delays in both the hygiene schedule and the doctor schedule.
• Stop taking personal calls during business hours –from your stockbroker or a golf buddy. Totally unacceptable. And please don’t think that patients in treatment rooms are not aware of what is going on. When some-one is reclined in the dental chair and hears the doctor gabbing instead of paying attention to them, it is very aggravating.
• Do not agree to or allow a treatment schedule that you know is unsustainable or unrealistic. I could spend six hours discussing proper scheduling, but this is obviously not the place to do that. However the two most common scheduling errors that I observe are related to unbridled optimism: an inadequate time allowance for a known procedure, and an inadequate time allowance for a patient put in the schedule for an unknown procedure like a toothache or broken filling. Both of these situations almost guarantee that the doctor will fall behind.
• Be aware of the implications of bad judgment calls. This typically happens when a scheduled procedure is not progressing well. Maybe the patient was late, maybe an impression has to be repeated because the tissue was bleeding. There are a million examples. It’s important to know when to punt. Don’t mess up an entire morning or afternoon by stubborn determination to finish a procedure.
• Insist on a morning huddle. I find that practices that consistently use a huddle significantly increase productivity, reduce stress, and are way better at staying on time throughout the day.
There will be, of course, situations where despite your best efforts, you get behind schedule. If you can anticipate this, it is always a good idea to call a patient to let them know you are running late. This beats their sitting in your reception room waiting – and waiting – staring at the front desk person and looking at their watch. When you keep someone waiting more than fifteen minutes, they start mentally counting up all your faults! In this day and age where new patient flow is so key to success, be aware that it is unlikely that a patient will feel compelled to refer friends and family to your office when that patient is kept waiting. “Why further compound my problem and make this doctor even busier when he doesn’t even have time to see me!”
Above all else, take the stress out of your life. Stay on time. Everyone will be much happier.
This is the second of five posts on how successful dental practices can increase their growth and profitability in 2018. Next week’s topic – consistent Internal Marketing.
January 3, 2018
The front desk of a dental practice, as I like to say, could often be described as the busiest place on the planet. Answering the telephone, scheduling appointments, changing appointments, making financial arrangements, treatment plan coordination, insurance coordination, billing, collection calls, payroll, etc. The list of administrative responsibilities goes on and on and it is virtually endless. There are constant interruptions. There are always tasks to do with not enough hours in the work day to finish them. And that list is only for daily responsibilities. There is also a need to set aside blocks of time for specific projects like HR management, HIPAA and OSHA compliance, marketing initiatives, and website maintenance.
Yet while all of these tasks need to be accomplished, they must always be sublimated or set aside in order to consistently be able to offer an exquisite customer service experience, where every patient feels special and important and recognized. That is the constant dilemma – how can you organize your time to be able to accomplish your tasks but still give the feeling to every patient that they have your undivided attention?
There is no “one size fits all” solution. Depending on the size of the practice, the staffing requirements will be completely different. The challenges of the smaller office can often be even greater than the larger one. In my opinion, for every practice, there needs to be a conscious attempt to upgrade systems that will allow the front desk to operate more efficiently. These include but are not limited to on-line appointment scheduling, appointment confirmation, on-line payments, daily deposits from the comfort of your office, and electronic tablets to input patient data.
There are other behavioral changes that do not need new technology that can be a huge help to your administrative staff.
• Practice management software training at least once per year.
• Support from clinical staff – especially Hygiene – to schedule future appointments from the treatment room.
• The doctor understanding the work flow at the front and not requesting “stuff” to be done unless it is urgent or really important.
• Cross training for front desk personnel in order to mitigate the impact of vacations and sick days.
I hope that these suggestions will stimulate you to develop an action plan to retool the workings of your front desk. This is not an overnight fix. This will take time and creativity. Schedule a number of meetings with your staff this month. Listen to their input. Get consensus. And then start to create some momentum. Continuing to do what you’ve always done and expecting better results – I don’t think so! It’s a New Year – how about a New You.
This is the first of five posts on how successful dental practices can increase their growth and profitability in 2018. Next week’s topic – staying on time.
December 20, 2017
Starting in October 2017, Google Chrome will begin showing large red colored “NOT SECURE” warnings when users try to complete a form on a website that doesn’t have secure SSL encryption set up. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is used for establishing a secure link between a browser (like Chrome) and a web server that hosts a website like jodena.com. SSL is an industry standard used by more and more websites these days to protect online transactions with visitors. The insecure designation will show up in some way for all browsers but at the moment will be most visible in Chrome.
An SSL certificate can be added to your website by your webmaster or hosting company that verifies authenticity of a website and shows up as a “locked” or secure site once installed. Secure sites have https in front of the domain rather than http – and the S is a big deal.
SSL is a ranking factor. Research now shows that https sites typically rank higher than their http counterparts. This means that if two websites are equally relevant in all other factors, the https or secure site will rank better in many cases. SSL also leads to increased trust with visitors to your site. Seeing that prominent NOT SECURE next to your website address is not a real confidence booster to patients visiting your site for the first time. And SSL is safer for your visitors as https protects user data and ensures that you are connecting to an authentic site and not a fake one.
My site is now secure. You can see the picture of the lock next to my url. And if you click on the url you can see that it is now https. A good certificate for a dental website is not expensive – probably shouldn’t cost you more than $10 per month.
One last point – and a very important one. There is a significant amount of work involved to make this changeover for sites that are optimized for search. You can’t simply add the SSL lock without suffering catastrophic failure of top search results. Http to https is like changing your domain. You must create a roadmap (.htaccess file) that tells search engines that everything that used to be http is now https. If you forget this step you will lose rank big time. So you need to hire a professional to do this for you. I would heartily endorse and recommend my friends at TNT Dental. You can give Tim Healy a call at 214-680-1270.
December 4, 2017
In the blink of an eye, the New Year will be here. December is usually a very very busy month. Patients trying to maximize their yearly insurance benefits makes for a hectic schedule. A good problem to have, but one that creates an inordinate amount of pressure on everyone. And the holidays in general, with shopping, and parties, and family gatherings and kids out of school, are quite stressful. Certainly not the best environment to be able to sit down and take the time to carefully plan for 2018 and develop strategies on how to improve the performance of your dental practice.
From my vantage point as a coach working with many successful dental practices seeking ways to become more successful, I get to see first hand on a daily basis the good and the bad, the elation and the frustration, what works well and what doesn’t. Here is a list of five common problems – in no particular order – that I repeatedly observe. Finding a fix will go a long way towards creating growth and increasing your profitability.
• Front desk overload.
• Inability to consistently stay on time.
• Inconsistent and/or schizophrenic Internal Marketing.
• Lack of leadership and poor communication with staff by the doctor.
• Not enough second visit treatment plan consultation appointments.
My plan is to write a weekly blog post – rather than my normal every other week – and attempt to address each of these five topics with as much detail as possible. Hopefully these posts and the suggestions they contain will be good source material for some January staff meetings.
So go ahead and enjoy this Holiday Season, but please be prepared to set aside the necessary time as 2018 unfolds to introduce some system changes in your office that will give you the maximum opportunity to make 2018 your best year ever.
November 20, 2017
Thanksgiving is far and away my best day of the year. Family, friends, great food and drink, and plenty of football. What could be better? The older I get, the more appreciative I am for all of my many blessings.
We, as most families have, for many years, continued a tradition of having everyone around the table articulate what they are most thankful for. It was always interesting to hear the comments, especially from the kids. “I am grateful for my family even though I sometimes fight with my sister”. “I am grateful that we can all be here today together to celebrate.” “I am grateful that I don’t have to go to school until Monday!”
How times have changed. Now we are grateful for:
• A month without a mass shooting.
• A week without an act of terrorism being perpetrated on innocent civilians.
• A day without political partisanship and the spewings of the extremists on both the left and the right.
• A day without another exposé of sexual harassment that is so demeaning.
• A day without the politicization of sports.
• A day when I can actually get back to being able to believe as truth what I read in the newspaper or see on TV.
Next Thursday my plan is to take a complete break from email and social media. I will turn off the computer and my iPhone. I will decompress and enjoy the day and the company.
America is still the greatest country on Earth. The eternal optimist in me believes that normalcy and respect and goodness to others will return. And for that we will happily give thanks.
November 6, 2017
This past Labor Day Weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Iowa City to spend time with two of our grandchildren. Daniel is a junior and Samantha a freshman at the University of Iowa. One of the many highlights of our visit was to attend a Big Ten football game. 68,000 raucous and loyal Hawkeyes fans – standing room only – you truly had to be there to believe the scene!
Directly adjacent to the Stadium is the brand new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. High over the stadium on the hospital’s 12th floor – with a wraparound birds-eye view of the field – patients and families and caregivers gather to watch the game. But on this day, something special happened for the very first time. At the end of the first quarter, prompted by the public address announcer, the huge crowd rose as one, turned to look up at the kids, and for a long sustained moment, waved at them. It was electric, exciting, and so emotional to be there!
I had forgotten about that experience until I read this past Friday’s USA TODAY. There is a fabulous article about The Wave and how it has now become a weekly tradition at Kinnick Stadium. The article features the story of a young boy, born with a serious heart defect, who at the age of six, finally received a heart transplant. As of this date, he has been in the hospital for almost 300 days. His mom has not left his side the entire time, sleeping on a pullout cart in his room. His dad, who ironically is a football coach in a community one hour away, comes on weekends and when he can during the week. Do yourself a favor and read this article – it will bring tears to your eyes.
The United States in 2017 has had more than its fair share of tragedies: hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico; wildfires in California; a mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas; and a terrorist attack on a bike path in lower Manhattan. I thought it would be refreshing to finally focus for a moment on a beautiful story of courage and hope and the transformative healing effects of a crowd of people at a football game.
October 23, 2017
In my most recent blog post, I briefly discussed five insurance products that should be considered as an integral part of any natural disaster plan. Since that post was published, another natural disaster of overwhelming magnitude has occurred. The devastating fires in California have left a huge footprint of death and total destruction. It is painful to even try to imagine what it would be like to own a dental practice in that region. This unfortunate event reinforces once again the need to have adequate protection for your business.
Of course there has to be a balance between overhead management and risk management. These policies come with a substantial cost. In doing my research for these posts, I spoke to many insurance professionals and visited many websites. The more I delved into this topic, the more I realized its complexity. The state where you practice, the age of your office building, the type of construction, square footage, building and personal property values, and a host of other factors will influence the cost and the availability of coverage.
I came away with some absolutes. First, there is a significant dollar savings in purchasing combined coverages in packaged policies versus individual stand alone products. Second, working with insurance professionals who have specific expertise for dental practices is a must. I would feel comfortable recommending two excellent companies for your consideration.
Risk Strategies Company – Their health care practice is one of the largest in the country and gives you access to specialists with industry experience in large brokerages, consultancies, and insurance companies. They provide innovative and practical approaches to the full spectrum of liability and risk that your business faces. Contact: Diane Veltri at 401-272-1358.
Click Insurance – This is a client focused agency that specializes in insurance education and advocacy. From their headquarters in Watertown, MA they use modern technology to bring the local agent feel to clients all over the country. Contact: Matt Stawarz at 781-819-0066.
After the horse has left the barn it is too late to lock the door. It is part of human nature to delay and procrastinate. I urge you immediately to take the steps to create and/or re-examine your insurance protection.
October 10, 2017
I sincerely hope that you personally were not adversely affected in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Marie. But if nothing else, by watching and reading about these weather events and the incredible devastation that they caused, I trust you have become super motivated to examine your own disaster coverage. Here is some information to help get you started.
1. Business Income or Business Interruption Insurance – This coverage provides cash relief as a result of any disaster that prevents your office from being open to see patients. After a minimum 24 hour waiting period, you will receive a daily dollar amount based on historical income and expense information that was provided at the time the policy was issued. The duration of the coverage is usually from one month to a maximum of six months. So based on the size of the practice, you could receive $1000, $5000, or $10,000/day – whatever is representative of past revenue. These plans always have a deductible, a specific dollar amount, and a fixed time period of coverage. The annual cost of the policy is priced accordingly.
2.Business Overhead Insurance – this is NOT natural disaster related, and should not be confused with such. This coverage provides income to cover fixed office overhead costs like staff, rent, loan payments, etc. in the event that the doctor is injured or sick and cannot practice. There are various waiting periods before coverage kicks in – and the policies are priced accordingly.
3. Business Personal Property Insurance – this coverage is for the costs to repair an office or office contents that are damaged by fire, wind, hurricane, and water damage from plumbing. Some policies have a small allowance for flood damage, but flood damage policies usually have to be purchased separately.
4. Flood Insurance – These policies are tricky. Flood as an insurance peril can complicate a business continuity plan. You have to be careful about the definition. We have all just witnessed the worst possible demonstration of why it is important to know and understand your flood risk and how your coverage operates following a disaster. Pricing is determined by where you live and how much you want in coverage.
5. “Civil Authority” Insurance – another kind of disaster coverage that is relatively new can be purchased as an adjunct to the business interruption insurance that I mentioned in item 1. This type of plan provides financial relief to you even if your physical space was not damaged but the surrounding community was. For example, in the recent Houston area incident, even if you were fortunate that your physical dental office was not damaged, there was so much flooding and power loss around you that patients could not travel to your office.
6. Although it is not an insurance product per se, you would be totally unprepared and out of touch with reality if you are not currently backing up computer data to an off-site server or to the Cloud.
In my next post, I plan to offer some concrete recommendations on how to go about purchasing the proper disaster insurance coverage.
September 22, 2017
Hurricane season has arrived in the United States with horrific and catastrophic consequences. As human beings, our hearts go out to the citizens of Texas who live in the greater Houston area and to so many millions of people living in the state of Florida. The effects of Harvey and Irma were devastating, with property damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars. As dentists, we sometimes think that our world is falling down around us when a patient cancels a two-hour crown and bridge visit at the last minute. Just imagine how you would feel if you were the owner of a dental practice in either of these geographic locations? We feel pity and empathy and sorrow for these communities, but we are almost embarrassingly guilty with the relief that it didn’t happen to us.
Which is the point I want to make. It could happen to you – and will you be properly insured? Recently I have been speaking with many insurance brokers and dentists. My sense from these conversations is that less than 35% of all dentists are adequately covered for a disaster. Over the next few weeks, I intend to share unbiased information about which risk products a dental practice should own, why they should own them, and what those costs are as a percentage of total overhead.