Friday, March 25, 2011

Make it Easy

Here is a simple leadership truth to live by:

Make it easy for people to do what you want them to

do and

hard for them to do what you don’t what them to do.

That simple truth can be applied to just about every area of practice and life and when you abide by it, it will make everything so much easier for you.

The best illustration of this is in setting up the systems in your practice to make it easy for patients to keep their commitments and hard for them to no show or cancel.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Separate the time of payment from the time of service so patients don’t get the “financial flu” on the day of treatment. (Easier to show up on the day of treatment.)

2. Change the message on your appointment card to emphasize their commitment to you and the appointment time instead of “inviting” them to cancel 24 hours in advance. (Easier to keep their commitment. See: “The Best Cancellation Policy.”)

3. And change your after-hours phone message to say: “If you have a dental emergency or a conflict with your scheduled appointment, please call the doctor at 777-7777. This system is not monitored for scheduling changes.” (Hard to cancel an appointment.)

There are many more specific applications in the area of cancellations, but let’s take a look at other areas of the practice where you can make it easier for patients do to what you want them to do and hard to do what you don’t want them to do.

Sometimes it is as simple as making small changes in the way you present things:

1. Instead of giving someone a “chance” to do something, give them a “choice” to do one of two things, either one of which would work just fine for you. For example, instead of saying, “Can you come in on Monday?” Ask would Monday at 10 AM or 2 PM be more convenient for you? Or instead of asking them “if” they want fluoride treatment, ask, “Would you like mint or grape flavored fluoride today?”

2. Make it easy to say “yes” with a clear plan of action. Instead of presenting multiple options with the pros and cons of each that will only give the person too many things to think about and weigh in their mind, you can say instead, “Can I share with you what I would do if this were my mouth that would be the best course of action based on what you said you wanted?”

3. Instead of making a request, ask for a commitment. Instead of the hygienist making a request when doing the homecare demonstration by saying “It is important to brush and floss every day,” the hygienist can ask for a commitment by asking, “Will you bush and floss every day?”

Finally, make it easy for the team to do what they ought to do and hard to do what they shouldn’t do.

1. Instead of having to go through the office rounding everyone up to come to the morning meeting, set an alarm clock for 3 minutes before the start of the meeting in a place that will be heard all over the office. Then everyone knows they have 3 minutes to get to the meeting and you don’t have to hound everyone. Plus, you will start on time.

2. Want the bathrooms in your office to be spotless throughout the day? Create the same chart log that many restaurants and airports use that is signed with the time by the person who cleaned and tidied up the bathroom last and then give a small reward each week to the team member whose name appears the most on the log. (The log does not have to be posted in the bathroom.)

3. Do you want every team member to come to the morning meeting with a more positive attitude with which to start each day? Make the first item on your morning meeting agenda “The best thing that happened in our office yesterday,” and let everyone know that they may be called on to share at any given day. That way, everyone will be thinking of the good things that happened yesterday as they drive to work each day.

If there is anything that you are trying to make work better, patients that you would like to be more cooperative, or a frustration with something or someone, just remember, “Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do and hard for them to do what you don’t what them to do.” It is a simple formula for success.

Make sure to join us for an upcoming special webinar with dozens of ways to make it easier for your patients to say “yes” on Tuesday, April 5 at Noon Central. It is FREE to all Crown Council member offices. For more information and registration, just e-mail us at

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dealing with the DIFFICULT Patient

Years ago we had a bookkeeper that was “difficult.” (Or so I thought.) It seemed like every time I presented any type of idea to her, she found multiple reasons why it would not work or why it was not a good idea. For example, one day I was talking with her and suggested that it was probably time to hire another team member in the accounting department because we were growing and the amount of work was expanding. She immediately responded that she was too busy already and had no time to train and manage yet another person. It would be easier to just do the work herself. That is how it went with just about every conversation we had.

All of us have had at least one fellow team member or multiple patients like this. It seems like no matter what we say, they take the opposing point of view to the extent that we label them as being “negative.” If it is a patient, it is the one that no matter the treatment plan, he or she comes up with multiple concerns including why the timing is not right and why the treatment won’t work because…

The truth is that these “negative” people are not negative at all. They are just “wired” differently.

Everyone “sorts” or organizes information differently. Some people “sort” information by “likes” and some by “difference.” Those who sort by “likes” organize things by how they are “like” other things. If you give them an idea, they immediately think of all of the other things they can think of that are similar or “like” it.

Those or sort by “differences” or opposites immediately think of how things are opposite or different from what they are hearing. If you give them an idea, they immediately think of how it is different from what they know to work. For example, you suggest a new marketing idea to the team. An opposite sorting team member will immediately share the challenges and difficulties with this idea by saying things like, “that won’t work because…, I used to work in a practice that tried that and it did not work, the office down the street tried that and it was a disaster!” Having an opposite sorter in the room when you are working on new ideas presents some challenges! Presenting treatment to an opposite sorter is tough as well unless you know how.

After several years of working with the bookkeeper on our team, I realized that she was an opposite sorter. (It takes me awhile sometimes!) As soon as I came to that realization, I immediately changed my approach. I went into her office the next day and said, “I was thinking yesterday and had this crazy idea. In fact, it is so crazy, I am sure it won’t work.” She asked what the idea was. I said that that I did not want to waste her time with useless ideas that would not work, but I was thinking that adding another team member in the accounting department might lighten the load for everyone and help us be more responsive to our customers. I concluded by saying that it would probably take too much time to train and manage a new person so it would not be feasible. With that, I turned and started walking out of her office. But she would not let me leave. “Wait a minute,” she said. And then she started listing all of the reasons why it was a good idea and how we could make it work!

Because she is wired to think of opposites, she immediately took the opposing side. That is how she thinks. And it is good that she does. As an accountant, she spends her days analyzing and making sure there are no numbers out of place. If she sorted by likes, there would probably be multiple accounting errors every day.

Let’s go to the treatment room. You suspect that you have a patient in the chair that sorts by opposites. Nothing you say seems to connect. He or she takes the opposite point of view on everything you present. To make progress, just agree by saying, “You may be right! This may not work for you.” Then start listing all the reasons why it may not work. If the person is a true opposite sorter, he or she will immediately jump to the other side and start talking about how it will work!

There are few people who are “pure” opposite or sameness sorters. Most have a mixture of both so proceed with caution. But the next time you find yourself frustrated with what you previously thought was a “negative” person, remember that he or she may be sorting the information received differently than you are. The moment you take the correct approach, you may find that the “difficult” person is not difficult at all! He or she just thinks “differently” than you do!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Best Cancellation Policy

I get asked a lot about what the best cancellation / no-show policy is. After 20 years of research and trial and error, here it is…

But before it is revealed, let me share some secrets!

1. Most “policies” are born out of frustration with poor customer behavior. Just take a look at the front office window of your typical physician. It is littered with the policies of the day like: “Payment is expected on day services are performed.” “You must fill out updated insurance information on EVERY visit.” “We no longer accept checks.” Etc., etc. Whatever the policy, the underlying message is usually, “Our customers think so little of us and treat us so badly, we have had to come up with a checklist of do’s and don’ts to survive.”

2. It is a funny thing about life. You most often get what you expect. If the message you send with all of your “policies” is that your patients’ behavior is pretty bad, you’ll most likely get more of it! Every policy sends a message of what “most patients do.” Since people tend to follow the crowd, every policy sends the message of what the crowd tends to do or wants to do.

3. You can’t focus on the opposite of an idea. If I told NOT to think of the Statue of Liberty, it would be impossible not to do it. The mere mention of the object immediately creates an image in your mind that you cannot erase unless you replace it with a different image or different idea. Translation: you can’t talk about NOT cancelling without planting the seed of a cancellation.

Here’s the bottom line: Let’s say your “cancellation policy” is that patients must call your office 24 hours in advance to cancel or change an appointment or they will be charged a fee. Guess what? That is not a “cancellation policy” or prevention tactic. It is a cancellation invitation. Why? Because you just said to your patients, “When you make a commitment to an appointment, it is really not a commitment until the day of the appointment. So change it any time! Make us crazy so we have to constantly try to fill the appointment book at the last minute.”

So what’s the best “cancellation policy?" No cancellation policy at all! Crazy? Maybe. But before you dismiss the idea, consider the following:

What if you raised your expectations of what you expect from your patients by expecting the best. For example, instead of your appointment card having your “cancellation policy” it says instead:

“You have a confirmed reservation with (Name of your office.) (Name of patient), your reserved appointment is on: (Day), (Date), (Time). Please mark this important appointment on your calendar today. We look forward to seeing you at this time that has been reserved especially for you.”

What’s the underlying message here? “We are making a commitment to you, we know that you are making the commitment to us, and we know we can count on you.” That is a higher level of relationship than telling someone you are going to charge him or her when or if there is a no-show or cancellation. It places you in a higher-level category in their mind, separating you from any other dental office they may have been to in the past.

Finally, what kind of relationship do you have or do you want to have with your patients? If your goal is to have a relationship of trust and respect, then create it. For example, if you set a lunch date with a trusted friend or mentor, you would never consider sending them an email or text that says: “I’m really busy so if you don’t show up or change this at the last minute, I am sending you a bill for the lunch anyway!” You would never do that to someone you respect. You might consider the same for your patients. How much do you really respect them? If the answer is “not much,” your patients probably don’t respect you or your practice much either.

So as you reconsider your “cancellation policy,” have a conversation with the entire team about what you really believe about your patients and their behavior. What do you expect from them? What would happen if you raised your expectations? Would they respond accordingly.

Consider it and raise your expectations. You may be surprised how your patients treat you better!

Make it happen!

P.S. Your “Cancellation Policy” and wording on your appointment card are all part of a much more extensive plan to “Stop Cancellations” including verbal skills for everyone on the team, “confirmation call” wording, and how to handle “frequent offenders.” For more information on how to “Stop Cancellations” contact the Total Patient Service Institute team at 1-877-399-8677 or