Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Power of Labels

Having just concluded our ToPS “Total Immersion” course in San Jose, CA, I found myself standing at the entrance to the security checkpoint at the airport with some decisions to make. I had to decide what type of traveler I was before I entered the line:
  • Casual Traveler,
  • Family Traveler, or
  • Expert Traveler.

There was a separate line for each. The problem was that the expert traveler line started further down the concourse, so it was not worth the trip. I was not with my family, so I was left with the “casual traveler” choice. I remarked to our team that I was probably the furthest thing from a casual traveler, but forced to make the decision at hand, I could fake it for the next few minutes. I almost had to catch myself as my pace slowed and my step swaggered a bit as I took on the characteristics of the “label” that had been placed on me by virtue of the line I had chosen. After all, if you are in the “casual traveler” line, you better act the part!

Labels. They can help you. They can hurt you. It all depends on the labels you choose. While some may dismiss their importance, they wield powerful influence over human behavior.

I consider my mother as one of the masters of positive labels. As a young teenager, I was riding along with my mom one day when the topic turned to driving. With my 16th birthday approaching sometime in the next 12 months, she very astutely said, “I just know that you are going to be the best driver in the family.” Call it affirmation or expectation, the positive label she placed on me as “the best driver in the family” made me take extra care to live up to the label she had given me.

In contrast, consider the negative label most unthinking adults give their up-and-coming teenage driver. “The roads aren’t safe anymore,” they will say jokingly. But, label has been cast and the behavior will most likely follow.

Consider some of the labels in the dental office that could be and should be changed in order to naturally achieve a more desirable result:

Change the “Morning Huddle” to the “Morning Opportunity Meeting.” The most effective huddles we see are those that focus on uncovering opportunities for the day. If that is the main purpose, then let’s put the proper label on it and the behavior will follow. Everyone will come more prepared to find opportunities for the day.

Change “re-care” to “continuing care.” To “re” anything is to do it over. No one likes to have to do something over again that they already did once. We all like to progress, improve, and to move on. “Continuing care” is the label that will encourage the positive behavior we seek.

Change “dental insurance” to “dental benefits.” After all, it is not insurance in the pure definition of the word. Legitimate “insurance” covers or reduces your “risk.” That is not what dental “insurance” does. On the other hand, a “benefit” is something that is provided as a “perk” or additional help to defray the investment someone is making. Put the right label on it and it will help people understand what it really is.

Replace “job” with “career.” A “job” is a paid position of regular employment. A “career” is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life with opportunities for progress. The label we choose determines the mindset with which we approach our daily responsibilities.

Then there is my favorite: Replace “staff” with “team.” A staff is just the people employed by an organization. A team works together. The label you choose for the group may very well project onto them the behavior they will ultimately exhibit.

Take a look at the
labels you choose for everything in your office and your life. They have the power to influence your behavior and the behavior of others.

Now that you have been reminded of the importance of labels, you are likely to do something about it because anyone who has read this far is serious about what they are doing and is an excellent implementer.
An excellent implementer – that is a label you can live with!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Activity vs. Accomplishment

If there is one most frequently asked question by dentists to their front office team when the schedule is showing some open time it is “Are you working the re-care list?” The answer to that question by any well-meaning team member is an emphatic “yes.” But what does “yes” mean? Does it mean one call has been made or twenty. Who knows? The fact is, “Are you working re-care?” is the wrong question. Let me share a better question and a better system that will put your mind at ease and ensure that you will have better scheduling results.

It is easy in any practice, any business, or any organization for that matter to confuse activity with accomplishment. We confuse being busy with accomplishing something worthwhile. Everyone in dentistry has had one of those days where the activity rose to a fevered pitch and lasted all day. By the time the last patient left, you drug yourself, exhausted, to the front desk and asked, “How much did we produce today?” To which the business coordinator answered, “Nothing!” You were busy all day, but just not busy doing things that amounted to any production.

The same is true for other “activities” in the office. Are you just “busy” working re-care or the unscheduled treatment list, or are you really accomplishing something? Nobody knows unless you do the following:

  1. Start tracking the activity of any effort like re-care scheduling or unscheduled treatment calls. Keep a tally of how many calls are really being made and how many appointments are scheduled as a result.
  2. Keep tracking that activity for several weeks until you can start calculating some averages. Over a several week period you will start noticing some trends. Add up the total number of scheduled appointments you were able to make compared to the number of calls you had to initiate to make those appointments.
  3. Divide the number of appointments scheduled by the number of total number of calls to get your call to appointment ratio. For example, let’s say you made 40 calls and scheduled 10 appointments. That is a 25% success ratio. That means that, on average, you have to make 4 calls to schedule 1 appointment.
  4. Now that you know the number, you are dangerous because you know the exact amount of activity in which you have to engage to get the result you want. Let’s say you have 5 hygiene appointments to fill. Based on the ratios above, you better be prepared to make 20 calls on average to get those appointments filled.
  5. You can always be in competition with yourself to see if you can beat your average, but this system take all the guess work out of how much acitivty it will really take.

Now, let’s go back to the right question to ask. You are in the morning huddle and looking forward as a team to the rest of the week and see that there are 6 hygiene appointment times open. Knowing what the average call to scheduled appointment ratio is ( 4 to 1) you can turn to your team and ask, “Will you make 24 calls today to get those times filled? We need to fill all 6, and we know that we get 1 appointment on average every time we make 4 calls. So let’s make those 24 calls first. That will be most immediate step we can take to get the results we want.

The first goal is an activity goal…make 24 calls. The overall goal is 6 appointments, but we know what we have to do first – engage in the right activity and it will lead to accomplishment. You just have to know what activity you are managing. In this case, the question is no longer “Are you working recare?” it is “How many of the 24 calls have we made so far?”

So start accurately managing activity and you’ll be able to better lead your team to accomplishment. It is all in the questions you ask and the system you have in place to make it happen!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Your Market Position

If there is one thing that the last year and a half as taught us in dentistry, it’s that position matters. Where you decide to position your practice in the market can determine the degree of success you experience. Overwhelmingly, those who bought into the “boutique,” high-end, cosmetic practice model have learned by painful experience that the first thing to go when people shift into economic panic mode is elective, cosmetic procedures.

There is no question that things have changed in the market place. The biggest issue we see today is with practices that have a tough position in the market that are waiting for things to come back like they were 3, 4 and 5 years ago. Well, here’s a news flash: it’s not coming back. The demographics of five years ago are not the demographics of today. America is getting older. And as it does, the perceived needs and desires change along with it. The Baby Boom generation which fueled the rapid growth of elective dentistry for the last 15 years has changed as it has aged. It is common sense. What many in dentistry are failing to recognize is that the individuals in the target market have not changed over the last few years, it is just that what the people in that market want is changing. So is your practice changing with it or are you operating like you operated five years ago like nothing has changed?

Here’s an example: in meeting with a marketing team recently that had designed a direct mail campaign for dental practices, the topic of the mailing list came up. “Who are we mailing to?” The response was typical for the target market of the past: 35 to 50 year olds with higher household incomes. But wait a minute. The biggest segment of the population is now hitting 65. Are they no longer good prospects? As America has aged, we have been getting younger as we have gotten older. “50 is the new 40, 60 is the new 50, and 70 is the new 60.” We’re are staying active longer, working more years, and wanting to stay younger looking the older we get. While marketing to the 60+ group may not have been an attractive target market 15 years ago, it very well may be THE target market of tomorrow. It’s just one example of how things have changed and we have to shift accordingly.

It is time to adjust, change, refocus, redefine your target market, determine what they really want, and move forward. The good news is that there is a HUGE market for dental services today in all parts of the country. The real question is if you are positioned in the right place for potential patients to find you because you are offering what they are looking for AND if you are approaching your current patients in a way that makes sense to them. Are you giving them what they want, or are you offering them what you hope they will buy?!