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Practice Profile

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Scott A. Norton, DMD, MSD

Scott A. Norton, DMD, MSD

Focus on family, patients, friends, growth, and community What can you tell us about your background? For as long as I can remember, I wanted to make people smile. I always loved getting the class laughing in grade school. Looking back, I am sure...

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Dr. Fleur A. Blethen

Dr. Fleur A. Blethen

Empathy, tenacity, and perseverance are keys to this clinician’s flourishing practice  What can you tell us about your background? I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and lived there until I was 13 years old. My family relocated...

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Dr. Ernest Reeh, Practice Profile

Dr. Ernest Reeh, Practice Profile

Focus on patients, family, academics, and endodontics What can you tell us about your background? I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in business. I was accepted off of the alternate list for dental school and then attained...

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Clinical Articles

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GuttaCore® system: a step forward in the evolution of endodontics

GuttaCore® system: a step forward in the evolution of endodontics

Dr. Andrei Zoryan dispels some of the common myths surrounding carrier-based obturation Carrier-based gutta percha Carrier-based obturation (such as Thermafil®, GT® obturator, ProTaper® obturator [Dentsply Tulsa Dental Specialties]) is one...

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Endodontic retreatment of a lower right first molar with WaveOne®

Endodontic retreatment of a lower right first molar with WaveOne®

Dr. David C. Baker uses a technique that facilitates quick and predictable results Patient history The patient is a 34-year-old female who was referred by a local colleague. She had broken her lower right first molar and complained of some general...

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The Laschal FXP set incorporates transferred oscillation technology

Background There are other ultrasonic devices on the market that depend upon direct contact with a separated file to loosen and remove. However, it is absolutely impossible to restrict the contact of the tip to the file remnant itself. The vibrations...

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Practice Management

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Superior customer service

Superior customer service

Dr. Roger Levin presents the 10 top ways to help create a perfect dental team With the changes brought on by the economy, top companies are bringing in the best resources they can find to evaluate where their organizations stand. They want to know...

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Office Matters: Hard-piped filtered water system vs. self-contained bottled water system

John Bednar helps avert problems coming down the pipe If your office currently has a hard-piped filtered water system, now is a good time to consider if and when you should change to a self-contained bottled water system. A hard-piped filtered water...

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Secrets to financial and personal freedom for endodontists

Secrets to financial and personal freedom for endodontists

In part 1 of his series, Dr. Ace Goerig offers the first steps to becoming debt-free I was presenting at a recent AAE national meeting with over 200 endodontists in the room, and I asked the question, “How many of you are completely debt-free?” ...

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Ashley Latter shares a few strategies that reception can adopt when dealing with new leads

gold_bar I often say that the receptionist is probably the most important person in your practice. They can decide whether patients even come into the practice or not when they deal with new inquiries. Therefore, they play a large part in your practice’s success. Here is a true story to back this up, and although it is related to a hotel, there is plenty to learn from the experience.

My parents were having a party on a Sunday afternoon a while ago. My brother called me and suggested that it would be a good idea if the two families stayed in a hotel the night before and had a family get together. I thought it was a great idea, and said that I would contact the hotel where we have both stayed on several occasions. It is a family hotel, with a swimming pool, play area, and great food. Here is how the conversation went, more or less word-for-word.

AL: Hello, can I please book two family rooms for a week from Saturday? Do you have availability? (By the way, I am holding my credit card in my hand.)

SPO: Yes we have availability, but I cannot offer you those rooms unless you stay Friday night as well.

AL: I’m sorry, but my brother works on a Saturday, and we can only stay on the Saturday night. Can you please accommodate

us?

SPO: No, I am sorry; it is the policy of the hotel.

AL: We really like your hotel. Do you have any family rooms available?

SPO: Yes, they are all available.

AL: How much is it to stay then?

SPO: $264 a night, bed and breakfast.

AL: So, for 2 nights it would be $254 times two?

SPO: Yes.

AL: Okay, so it looks like you cannot help me here?

SPO: No, I am afraid not, sorry.

AL: Bye, then.

SPO: Goodnight.

First, let me please acknowledge that I respect their business model. If they fill their rooms just for one night, then it is obviously going to affect their profits, as they would be turning away weekend bookings. I understand; I am in business myself. However, the receptionist could have done several things differently:

  1. Asked me my name and thanked me for inquiring about their services. Maybe even asked how we heard about the hotel. This is essential, as you need to see how they heard of you.
  2. If she had done this and checked her computer, she would have established that we had stayed there several times before. We were existing, happy customers.
  3. She could have been flexible and, on this occasion, offered us the rooms. She did say that they were all available, and it was less than 10 days before we wanted to visit the hotel.
  4. At the very least, she could have taken our details and offered to ring us back if anything changed. For example, if they had not sold any weekend packages, they could have then offered us the rooms. This would have meant a win-win situation for both parties.

I would have been delighted if they had offered us the last option, as our family likes the hotel and the brand.

The result was no sale and a lost opportunity. The hotel probably lost a sale of around $960; after all, we would have had dinner there, a few bottles of wine, etc. They have probably lost future sales from us as well.

As good as gold
It really hit home to me how important the receptionist is in a dental practice─they can make or break your practice. A good receptionist is worth his/her weight in gold, while a bad one has the potential to ruin your practice, as the receptionist is probably doing for this hotel.

I know a lot of practices that spend thousands of dollars on advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) for their websites, and other marketing strategies. The inquiries that they generate are worth thousands of dollars and should be treated like gold.

It is imperative that your receptionist’s end goal is to ensure that any new inquiries make an appointment with your practice and not another.

Measuring inquiries
One thing I urge you to do is to measure how many new inquiries your practice receives and, most importantly, how the new patient has heard about you. This is vital to your operation as you might be spending money on marketing to attract new patients. This could be in the form of SEO, websites, advertising in the local newspaper or magazines, etc. You need to know what is working and if you are getting a return on your investment. You might be wasting your money, and as an owner you need to know what is working and what is not.

I would also urge you to get your receptionist to ask further questions and dig for more information. For example, if the patient saw your website and it prompted them to contact you, ask the patient what it was about your website that they liked. Again, it is useful information, especially if you are constantly updating your websites, and you can establish what your potential patients like about your current format.

If it is a referral, find out who the introducer was, and you can then thank them in an appropriate way. This is vital information to your practice. If it is referral, it will be easy to build rapport with the new patient, and it will also demonstrate that you have a very keen client.

At a future team meeting, I urge you to ask this question and discuss it in detail: “What is the lifetime value of an average patient to your practice?”

I’m going to use an example to show why this is so important: Let’s say, for example, a patient is on a membership scheme with you and they pay $27 per month. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s say they stay with you for 20 years. That means without the patient even spending a penny on treatment with you, which I am sure they will, conservatively allowing for inflation and membership increases, this patient could possibly spend between $8,000 and $9,600 over a lifetime with you. Remember that this does not include any referrals they may give you, such as family members or friends, etc.

So why is this important? I want your receptionist and everyone in the practice to answer the telephone as if the patient is worth $11,000 to the practice.

If they did, would they possibly handle it differently than they do now? It is certainly worth a discussion.

Each new lead to your practice should be treated like gold. I know I do this in my business. Through my experience, I know that each client is worth thousands of dollars. I have clients who have taken several programs with me and have also introduced many new clients to my business.

I honestly believe that if people are calling your practice inquiring about your services, they are genuinely interested in buying. People do not create a list of people to call to annoy and waste time. We all know some people like shopping around, so please ensure that your practice stands out from the crowd and that they end up at your practice and on your appointment book.

Top tips for making your practice more productive:

  • Keep score of each new inquiry
  • Find out how they have heard of you and what prompted them to call you
  • Have a discussion about the lifetime value of a patient with your whole team
  • Treat each new lead like gold. Remember, if people are contacting you, then chances are they are genuinely interested in buying your services
  • Patients might be making the call at lunchtime; ensure that you have someone answering the telephone, and you are not using an answering machine during the lunch hour.
RF-8-2010-USEBio-
Over the last 18 years, Ashley Latter has coached and trained more than 4,500 delegates on his 2-day dental ethical sales and communication program.

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