It’s never a bad time to plan goals that will increase your dental office’s productivity. But defining practical ones that ignite your office’s production and efficiency can sometimes be a challenge.
With the new year fast approaching, you’re probably thinking about ideas to improve your dental office productivity.
One option is to set New Year’s resolutions for the practice. They can jolt and focus your team from the get-go during a typically sluggish part of the year.
But like personal resolutions, office resolutions usually fall by the wayside by Valentine’s Day – unless they’re SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Here are some SMART resolutions for 2019 that your practice can commit to right away.
Cross-Train One New Skill per Quarter
These days, to increase your dental office productivity, you need agility. And nothing reflects agility like cross-training your dental team.
The goal of cross-training is to build a team full of versatile all-stars with “T-shaped” skills. That means that each teammate possesses deep expertise in one area, say, billing, but also has some general skills in other areas, like scheduling and dental marketing.
So how can that get done? Here are some quick tips:
- Map out which four new skills each teammate should cultivate during the year
- Chat with your team about which new skills they wish to develop
- Share relevant standard operating procedures among the appropriate team members
- Set up shadow meetings between the primary owner of the job and the cross-trainee
- Modify job descriptions to include the new skills, and add new (achievable) performance goals
Target Date: Complete by March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31
Go Paperless at Patient Intake
Creating a paperless dental office has a ton of benefits for dental practices these days. One obvious advantage of “green dentistry,” or a ecofriendly dental office, is the effect on the environment: one report from RDH, the national magazine for dental hygiene professionals, says that going digital can save about 10,000 pieces of paper each year!
But going completely paperless, yikes! That’s a major undertaking: it requires an immense amount of research, planning, and preparation.
Instead, be SMART — go paperless at patient intake. Here’s why:
Simplifies Life for the Team
Know what’s a drag on your dental office productivity? Organizing the clutter of all those new patient forms, and deciphering your patient’s handwriting. There’s no ROI for those tasks.
By opting for digital check-ins, your your team gains back a ton more time – and sanity.
As Wendy Aldhamen, Forever Green Consulting CEO, likes to say, going paperless could save practices $10,000 a year.
Think about what your office can do with $10,000 more in your budget! Your practice could invest in some new technology that makes visits easier for patients (for example, a new imaging solution), bring in some part-time support for your team, or upgrade other office systems, like your phones.
Makes Your Practice Stand Out
Patients today are constantly on the go. To work, to daycare, to soccer practice, to the store. And nowadays, they expect their healthcare providers to keep up.
Online forms save your patients the hassle of filling out form after form. Able to be uploaded to your website or emailed directly to your patients, online forms show your patients how much your office understands them and their go-go-go daily life.
(And don’t forget: online forms also ensure you get the signed documentation ASAP, which means no more delays from your patients.)
Target Date: Complete by March 31
Master One Social Media Platform per Quarter
Remember a handful of years ago when it seemed like only a couple of social media platforms existed? But now? Forget about it. It seems like you can’t even count them on two hands.
That makes learning about them and using them for your practice’s social media marketing more difficult.
So what exactly should you focus on mastering? Start with these critical tasks:
- Creating a profile
- Updating your pictures and “about us” sections
- Engaging with new and current patients via automated or customized content
- Posting new types of content, like patient video testimonials
- Running ads (especially Facebook ads and Twitter ads)
- Understanding each platform’s engagement analytics
Target Date: Complete Facebook by March 31, Instagram June 30, Twitter by September 30, and LinkedIn December 31
Freshen Up Your Online Review Profile Twice a Year
Online dental patient reviews are today’s word-of-mouth marketing – and they can truly make or break your business.
So given their importance, you’ll want to make sure your online review pages, like those on Healthgrades, Yelp, and Google Reviews, are spick-and-span.
Here’s a quick hit list of easy ways to spruce up your online review pages:
- Claim your practice’s page (if you already haven’t)
- Ensure your practice information, like your address, website, hours and payment information, are still up-to-date
- Enhance your practice description, and include new keywords
- Add new photos of your practice
- Make a point of requesting more reviews from patients, or let RevenueWell do it for you
- Review your policies for responding to dental patients’ online reviews
Target Date: Complete by March 31 and September 30
Revamp Your Approach to Phone
For all the talk about digital dental marketing, guess what? The phone still matters in dental offices – a lot.
From a customer service perspective, the phone is often the first point of contact patients have with your practice. And from a revenue perspective, the team members working your phones can seriously drive production and new business. It’s also where you can do a little detective work to discover dental patients’ needs that your practice can fill.
Unfortunately, if neglected, the phone is also where your practice can lose new patients: 87% of new patients won’t leave a message or call back if their calls go to voicemail.
So make this the year that you rebuild your approach to the phone. Here’s where to start:
Evaluate Your Team’s Phone Skills
- How would you grade the team’s phone etiquette?
- Are you using “tell me” statements to draw patients out of their shells?
- Do you practice how to respond to questions about dental insurance or billing?
- Are you staying on the phone with a new patient for the right amount of time?
- How do you handle a patient who’s calling really to do price shopping?
Assess Your Office’s Phone System
- Does your phone system give you important patient info as soon as the phone rings?
- Can you text your patients from your main phone line’s number?
- When you’re on the phone, can your patients wait on hold, or are they sent to voicemail?
- Does it offer features, like auto-attendants, so you never miss a call?
- Does your phone system offer call recording for training purposes?
Target Date: Complete by March 31
Add Two New Marketing Touchpoints
This year, try adding at least two new touchpoints to your marketing efforts. Sometimes marketing gets a bad rap as being spammy or heavy-handed, but it doesn’t have to be! Get creative with your marketing, and patients will actually appreciate your outreach.
- Create some personal videos from the dentist or your dental office. Send them to patients after treatment to reaffirm what you told them in the chair — this personal touch goes a long way.
- Do you text message appointment reminders? You should. Start asking patients if they prefer to be texted. You might be surprised at the results.
- If you’re looking for a little something extra, consider specific dental videos to play on your waiting room TV. These are really good at educating patients about different treatment offerings.
The trick with adding these marketing touchpoints is starting right at the beginning of the year. Bake them into your workflow, and eventually they’ll become second nature. You just have to get past the jumping off point, and then it’s all downhill from there!
Target Date: Complete by March 31 and June 30
Tighten Up Your Daily Huddle
Some call it a meeting. Some call it a huddle. FAADOM member Deana Zost calls it a tailgate.
Whatever you call your practice’s daily huddle, this touch base is essential in every practice, regardless of size and volume.
An easy way to tighten up your morning huddle is to template it. For example:
- Monday – Take a look at the week ahead
- Tuesday – Work on your handoff
- Wednesday – Break down phone calls
- Thursday – Work on ways the team can fill holes in the schedule
- Friday – Look back at everything that went well during the week, along with areas where there’s room for improvement
This is just a sample, but structuring a daily huddle agenda will help in a couple of ways. For one, it keeps you organized and not scrambling to fill time in the huddle — each huddle will be meaningful. Secondly, team members will know exactly what’s being covered on that day.
If your morning huddles are already tight, consider a quick touch base after lunch. Make sure everyone is calibrated, and find out how everyone in the team can help out their fellow team members.
As you tighten up your daily huddle, just remember that overcommunication is never a bad thing.
Target Date: Complete by March 31
Spread the Word about One Service Per Month
As we mentioned above, not all dental marketing is created equal. Just as easily as you market your practice on the whole, you can easily market your services.
Do patients know you have a CEREC machine? If so, do they know just how much better it makes their visits? Are they aware you provide whitening services? Or Invisalign? Or that the mouth guards that come from your practice are much safer than the boil and bite variety?
This year, shoot to market one bit of service or technology every month. Again, it doesn’t have to be related to a promotion. Simply inform people that you offer such services. Show folks how much you’ve invested in your practice to ensure their visits are better.
This type of marketing is effective for selling elective dental services. But it’s also educational. You’re letting patients know that you provide more than a six-month cleaning and free spool of floss. Even better, the more you promote these wonderful services and technologies, the more stigma you remove from visiting the dentist.
Target Date: Complete by the last day of each month
Find One Moment of Joy to Share Per Week
In theory, this one should be simple. However, given the week or time of year, you may have to work on it a bit. Still, nothing moves people more than the power of positivity. It’s a major factor in your dental office productivity.
Your moment of joy can pertain to work: you’ve reached production goals, the team welcomed a new member, a patient wrote you a lovely Yelp review, everyone is successfully cross-trained and up-to-date on their CE credits, etc.
Or your weekly moment of joy can come from the outside: a team member just had a baby, it’s somebody’s birthday, your favorite patient is getting married, there’s a carnival in town, your local sports team just won the championship, etc.
Expand your brain! Moments of joy are all around. Start with finding one bit of happiness to instill in your team each week. From there, work towards doing it every day. The trickle down effect will be palpable!
Target Date: Complete by January 15
Share Resolutions and Revisit Them Constantly
The last of our tips to increase your dental office productivity, and hopefully it’s the easiest one: once your team agrees on resolutions, make them public.
Post them in your office. Show what kind of progress your practice is making. If your practice’s goals for 2019 aren’t visible, meeting them will be much, much harder.
Finally, revisit them as a team. Resolutions and goals are meant to focus our work.
Meeting resolutions won’t happen if they aren’t a part of daily work.
Target Date: Complete by January 1
There you have it. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound resolutions that will launch your dental office productivity into another hemisphere next year. Go get ’em!