November 25, 2015
A few weeks ago, my wife and I treated ourselves to a quick two day trip to New York City. Immersing yourself in the city is always an exciting high energy jolt to the system–and we just love the experience. One of our most interesting adventures was taking a subway for a visit to the Tenement Museum on Delancey Street on the lower East Side of Manhattan.
The Museum offers a number of walking tours all of which examine the period of time from the 1880’s to the 1920’s when hordes of Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants came to the United States to escape persecution and seek a brighter future. This influx of immigrants to New York City, more specifically the Lower East Side, sparked unprecedented demand for supplies and amenities to keep the city’s workforce clothed, fed, and able to survive this strange new land.
We took the Sweat Shop Tour where you get to spend some time in an actual restored tenement house. Five floors with four 300 sq ft apartments per floor. No electricity – no running water – one window. It was the norm that each of these tiny apartments served as the home for a family of five to seven people. As you can see from the photo, the street in front of these tenements was unbelievably crowded and congested. The work week was six days – 10 to 12 hours per day!
It was such a wake up call to actually see these apartments and realize how difficult life was back then. These people were amazingly tough and resilient, and it is only because of their fortitude and strength that many of us are here today.
And so at this Thanksgiving, along with everything else that I am grateful for, I will also be thinking of my ancestors, and giving thanks for all the bounties I have because of the sacrifices they made.
November 9, 2015
Erma Bombeck once said “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” In other words, if you can’t control it, don’t worry about it. In a dental practice, we can’t control inadequate insurance reimbursements. We certainly can’t control the weather that blows up the schedule, and we can’t control increasingly costly and oppressive government mandates. But we certainly can control how someone answers your telephone.
The person answering your office telephone is the face of the practice. She has to be kind, well spoken, extremely friendly, and actually sound like she enjoys her job. So I am continually shocked and amazed at how often the person answering the telephone appears clueless in the art of customer service. Here are five telephone no-nos that absolutely are to be avoided at all costs.
1. Placing a caller on hold without asking for their permission. This is flat out rude. As I said in a recent blog post, “Dr. Jones’ office – hold please” is simply not an acceptable greeting. If you are on another call, or assisting someone at the desk, simply excuse yourself from the primary conversation. Then answer your telephone with the normal telephone greeting–find out who is calling–tell them you are on another call–and asked them if they would like to hold or be called back in a few minutes. I promise you this will not take longer than 20 seconds.
2. Placing someone on hold without music. When you are placed on hold with no music or information to listen to, it is a lonely feeling. And after a minute or two, you are unsure if the connection is still live. There is a real temptation to hang up. And if you are holding for longer than two minutes, the person is aggravated when the conversation finally begins. Nothing good has happened here!
3. Using the end of the day message machine during normal business hours. How stupid is it when someone hears “our office hours are 8 AM to 5:30 PM Monday through Friday,” and it is 10:30 AM on a Tuesday morning? I hear this all the time. You absolutely need an inter-day recorded message to use when you get overwhelmed at the front desk.
4. Using the wrong inter-day message. Most of the time you hear something that says “we are busy assisting other patients and we will return your call as soon as possible.” I much prefer the following: “This is Judy at Dr. Smith’s office. I am so sorry that I was not able to answer your call. Please leave me a message, and I promise to call you back within 30 minutes or sooner.”
5. Answering the telephone without identifying yourself. This is a real pet peeve of mine. People want to know your name because they want to know to whom they are speaking. That is how conversations begin. This is my name–what is yours? It shows a willingness to be friendly and personable and encourages relationship building.
I am convinced that doctors are completely unaware of how inadequately their telephone is being answered. Why would you spend significant marketing dollars designed to get more people to call your office, and then mess it all up with improper telephone technique? This is in your control. Stop shooting yourself in the foot. It really shouldn’t be that hard to be good when so many are so bad.
October 27, 2015
I would like to share information with you about a new extended financing option that should absolutely give Care Credit a run for its money–no pun intended. Prosper Healthcare Lending has just entered the dental financing marketplace. The parent company, Prosper Marketplace, has been providing financing for other healthcare verticals such as cosmetic surgery, bariatric, and fertility since 2009.
The big difference with Prosper is that you are not submitting an inquiry for a credit card. Loans at Prosper Healthcare Lending are simple installment loans with no retroactive interest and no prepayment penalties. Their online automated system makes it simple. You can fill out, submit an inquiry, and receive a decision in less than two minutes.
The provider fees to your dental practice are significantly less with Prosper. For extended plans, there is NO merchants fee to the practice compared to a 5% merchants fee with Care Credit. The interest free plan fees are also lower cost. For 6 months interest free to the patient, the practice pays 4.9% with Prosper and 5.9% with Care Credit. For 12 months interest free, the practice pays 8.9% with Prosper and 9.9% with Care Credit.
Care Credit Prosper Healthcare
Revolving Line of Credit Simple Interest Installment Loans
6 and 12 month 0% Interest 6 and 12 month 0% Interest
26.99% Retroactive Interest No Retroactive Interest
No Pre-Payment penalties No Pre-Payment Penalties
Terms up to 60 Months Terms up to 60 Months
Patient Rates from 14.9% Patient Rates from 9.99%
Inquiry Affects Patient’s Credit Inquiry does NOT affect Patients Credit
Patient must be on the loan Patient is not required on the loan
5% Practice Fee for Extended Plans No Practice Fee for Extended Plans
When you review this information, I think you can clearly see significant benefits to your practice and to your patients. There is no question that for over 25 years, Care Credit has been the gold standard for outsourcing dental financing. But for treatment amounts over $2000, I suggest that you add Prosper to your armamentarium of financial options. You can call Cameron Crawford at 801-335-9188 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
October 9, 2015
In my experience, dentists do not understand the value of Facebook marketing and often minimize it as unprofessional or a nuisance. They almost always do not have the time or the interest to manage their Facebook page.
Well it is time to wake up and realize that Facebook can and should be an important driver of new patient traffic to your practice. The key is to understand how to use it. Posting information on office activities, charity events, “cutesy” photos, Halloween candy buybacks, etc.–while demonstrating an “active” Facebook presence–rarely seems to bring in new patients.
Facebook as a business service is no longer free. There are two kinds of ads that you can pay for on Facebook. One type is a pay per click or pay per impression ad that can be seen both in a newsfeed on a mobile device or on the right-hand side of the desk top device. These ads can be highly targeted to geography, age, gender, and income level. Over the last few years, Facebook has done an amazing job of collecting data on all of us! The ad can promote a particular service like invisible braces, or sedation, or cosmetic procedures like whitening or veneers. You have to be careful with these subliminal ads because Facebook will not run them if they are considered too promotional.
The second option for an ad is what is called a “promoted or boosted” post. These posts appear on your Facebook page and discuss the same services or treatments as the subliminal ads. However, these posts cannot be as highly targeted as the pay per click or pay per impression ads. For these posts, Facebook only allows age and geographical range.
So what is your strategy? I believe that these ads should be used as a two pronged approach. Use the subliminal ads to get the highly targeted people in your geographical area to Like your page. You can port these people to your Facebook page hoping that they will Like the page, or you can port them to your website. When you have increased the number of Likes – say to over 600-700 – then you should start using the boosted posts to show prospective patients the services you are hoping to promote.
These days, I am comfortable with a marketing budget of 2-3% of annual collections. Facebook advertising definitely should be a part of that allocation. The costs for Facebook advertising are very reasonable, and you can set your own budget to your comfort level. This should be a slow and steady process, and in the beginning, be more about branding and name recognition. An interesting observation is that Google and Facebook actually work together. For instance, if you are branding your practice on Facebook using subliminal ads in your service area, and someone sees them continually, when they go to Google to do a search–and see your practice listed–they will have familiarity which increases the odds that they might choose your practice.
I don’t believe that this is a job for a staff member. It is technical and time-consuming and probably should be outsourced to a media professional. I am sure that you can find people in your town who do this. I certainly am also happy to make a recommendation.
September 23, 2015
We all recognize that our world and our life as we know it is changing dramatically and quickly. Politically, economically, socially, culturally – you name it–nothing is the same as it used to be. So we all need to adopt new strategies to remain successful and competitive in the marketplace of public opinion.
I recently read a wonderful article by Saul Kaplan entitled Reinvention As A Life Skill. Saul is a friend, a successful entrepreneur, and the founder of the Business Innovation Factory. “If anything is clear about the 21st century, it’s that change happens faster than it used to. Reinvention isn’t something to be done only as a last resort. It is something we need to do all the time in order to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.”
Dental practices are certainly not immune from the need for reinvention. If you hope to thrive in this current environment, you probably have to leave your comfort zone. Same old–same old–is simply not going to cut it. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.
1. Get more involved in your community as a volunteer. Perhaps your local hospital or your local Chamber of Commerce. The idea is to focus on meeting business leaders rather than limiting your out of office contacts to Dental Society meetings. You definitely have to increase your visibility.
2. Reach out to the HR department at two or three of the largest employers in your area. You probably have many patients that work at these companies. Ask them to connect you. Perhaps you can offer emergency care or complementary new patient exams.
3. Get way better at social media. This is especially important for doctors over the age of 50. I find that older doctors are very resistant to this path. But your existing and potential patients live in this world, and you have to join it and excel in it. Professional help in this area is certainly available.
4. Have some meetings with your staff and challenge them to help you develop new and exciting customer service ideas that truly separate you from your competition. Focus on great telephone communications. Take follow up care and concern for your patients to an even higher level. Write lots of personal notes. Make sure never to forget to recognize someone for a referral.
5. Consider investing in technologies and services that so many patients are demanding–like same-day crowns, implant placement, sedation dentistry, Invisalign, and Six Month Smiles.
6. Take a hard look at your practice data regarding numbers of new patients. Dr. Mike Abernathy wrote an excellent article that will help you evaluate where you are and where you could be.
The bottom line is that reinvention takes courage. According to Mark Twain, “courage is not the absence of fear; it is acting in spite of it.” John Wayne put it another way: “courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway!” The optimist in me believes we are all capable of expanding our horizons if we make the necessary commitment of time and energy. One day at a time. This is a marathon, and not a sprint.
September 8, 2015
In my last post, I discussed how Google has made it so much more difficult to be seen on their Map. I suggested that adding new content to your website using a Blog was more important than ever and one of the best ways to fight back. After all, Google still rewards relevance (new information) with higher placement. That has not changed. I received a lot of questions about the mechanics of how to do this, so let me share what I suggest to my clients.
Ask your webmaster to create a WordPress Blog. This then gives you access to a dashboard from which you write and publish posts. The stock format of a WordPress blog is free, but without modification, it is very basic and amateurish looking. Your webmaster can make the Blog Page the same color and format as your website. Your blog then becomes seamlessly integrated within your website in a way that the casual observer has no idea whether they landed on a page of content that is part of your website, or they are viewing an article that is part of your WordPress blog. Click here to see that the Jodena Consulting Blog Page looks exactly like my website.
Adding new content using a Blog serves two purposes. The first is that it satisfies Google’s aim to always bring new and updated material to the attention of the world, and thus reward you for your efforts with higher placement on the local Google business map. Examples I see frequently are articles about the need for regular check ups, or the benefits of fluoride, or why you need to floss your teeth – pretty basic and boring stuff. But the second and far greater benefit to your practice is if you add specific information about dental services for which a prospective patient would be searching. Best examples are whiter teeth, straighter teeth, cosmetics, sedation dentistry, and same day crowns. These are all procedures you would like to do more of. When you write about these topics, Google does an amazing job of connecting to your website prospective patients in your geographical area who are searching for these services.
So choose a procedure. Then sit down with a glass of wine or your favorite scotch and dictate information into a tape recorder. Take an hour. Just talk about your topic with no attempt at creating an actual blog post. Let it all hang out! Then pay a stenographer $50 to have this material transcribed. You will probably end up with at least 7500 words. Either you – or someone you can hire – will now have enough solid material to carve out eight to ten posts.
Maybe you are good at Invisalign and would like to do more cases. So start with a post about what the technology actually is. Then another post about how the technology has evolved. Or how it has changed over the years. Describe life altering patient experiences that you were able to facilitate. Talk about all of the advantages over full banded orthodontic treatment.
In each post you should add links to before and after photos. Google loves it when you also add links to other relevant articles that reinforce your positions. A good length for a post is 300 to 500 words. Commit to a schedule of a new post every 10 to 14 days. Develop a casual style. These blogs are not intended to be published as a professional article in a dental journal. It is fine to add a bit of humor.
This is not easy. It is a challenge that requires discipline. Don’t be too harsh on yourself or your writing style. You are not aiming to be number one on the best seller list! But no question that your efforts will pay big dividends in the quest to conquer the online marketplace. And to your delight, you will attract many new patients who otherwise never would have found you.
August 24, 2015
No one involved with Internet Marketing can question the importance of having the name of your practice and its website prominently displayed when a prospective patient does a Google search for a dentist in your town. My definition of prominent has been to be one of the seven spots on the local Google business map. On August 6th, Google instituted a major change. The Google 7-Pack became the Google 3-Pack. As mobile usage continues to grow, Google has changed the desktop search to appear more like mobile search results. So now only the top 3 positions on the Map are shown. Positions 4-7 in the old map pack are still there if you click the “More Dentist” icon – now jokingly called the “hamburger”. So those practices that worked so hard to gain that visibility have been definitely penalized.
Another change is that you can no longer get to the Google Place Page of a dentist from the Map. When you click the results on the map, you get a hybrid Google Plus Page or “card”. The only way to get to the Plus Page and see all of the reviews is from the practice website.
A third change is that when you do a search from a mobile device, the paid ads (Google AdWords) for a dentist show up prominently and you need to scroll down to see other results. A fourth change that is really irritating is that Google no longer is including the full address of the practice on the Map.
I believe that Google – with these new changes – is doing everything they can to leverage their vast power and force more dentists to buy AdWords to guarantee a top position. If you don’t choose to pay for a top position, your SEO strategies have to be exquisitely executed. The challenge for organic optimization is greater than ever. Your next generation marketing platform for your website must focus on the following.
• Creating continuous additional content. The easiest way is with blog posts. These posts should contain key words and mention your geography. Google rewards relevance and proximity as contributing factors for ranking in the Pack.
• Listing your town and surrounding towns in the first paragraph of your Home Page.
• Using a call tracking telephone number for your website. Let’s see how people are getting to your site.
• Adding Google patient reviews on a consistent basis. Have your Google Plus Page linked from your website to make it easy for patients to leave a review. And be sure to change the ugly orange, blue and green generic Google banner with the banner of your website.
• Better consistency with directories (citations). This is often called NAP verification (name, address, telephone number). Making sure that the name of the practice, the name of the doctor, address, telephone number, dental degree, etc. are all exactly correct on the major directory sites like Angie’s List, Bing, Yahoo, and Yelp.
The challenge for effective Internet Marketing has become even more difficult. A dental practice needs professional technical advice. I highly recommend TNT Dental. I have been using them for many years. Call Tim Healy at 214-680-1270 and see how he can help.
August 11, 2015
I have long been an advocate for staff to wear name tags with a title. There are many benefits to this. There is a comfort factor for the patient to know your name, and a respect factor for the staff member to be recognized for her skill. Susan – Patient Treatment Coordinator. Laura – Clinical Assistant. Joyce – Dental Hygienist. People always relate better to you when they know your name. It stimulates conversation, and conversation builds relationships. And we all know how easy it is to forget a name, even if we were introduced a mere five minutes ago!
I’d like to bring to your attention a quality resource called Badge America. As with many topics that I blog about, I found out about this company at one of my client visits. Badge America is a small business owned by Rose Marie Branconnier.
The product that I am recommending is a two-sided card that contains the first name, title, AND a picture. The card is very sturdy–not flimsy at all. The card clips to scrubs or a jacket, rather than being pinned to the garment and making a hole. Using two sides makes a lot of sense so that the card is always visible, even if it gets twisted or caught in the folds of a uniform. The cost is only $15 per card. All you need to do to place an order is e-mail a digital photo along with the pertinent information for each employee to email@example.com. If you have any questions, you can speak to Rose at 401-766-1816. The delivery is quick–usually within three to five business days.
Just another simple way to distinguish your practice from the competition.
July 27, 2015
Dental partnerships, where two or more doctors own equal or minority/majority interests, are very complicated entities. The legal documentation for a dental partnership routinely runs over 100 pages, and unfortunately the value of these partnerships is often only as secure as the legal language describing them. Over the years, I have witnessed a lot of unhappy professional partnerships. My observations have reinforced the dictum that “one marriage is difficult enough!” There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and I have many clients who are successful with this model . But in general, I am not a big fan of dental partnerships and I believe there are better options.
One of the biggest challenges is how to fairly compensate a partner who becomes disabled and can no longer perform clinical procedures. Death, as they say, is easy. Life insurance policies will pay out the appropriate valuation to the estate of the deceased partner. The surviving partner does not take one dime out of his/her pocket. In the case of disability, however, usually there is the requirement for the healthy partner to buy out the interest of the disabled partner and become the 100% owner of the practice. In order to do this, the healthy doctor does in fact now have to go to the bank and get a loan to cover the buyout. This new debt service will put major stress on a business that is already revenue compromised.
I recently became aware of a great insurance product called Disability Buyout Insurance (DBO). A DBO policy is designed to fund a disability buy/sell agreement. It helps ensure that a professional practice can continue after the total disability of one of the owners or partners. It does this by requiring the disabled partner to sell his or her interest to the remaining owner for an agreed upon price and according to terms defined in the agreement.
I believe that the cost to purchase this type of insurance policy is relatively low considering the massive benefit. A $500,000 DBA policy for a healthy 45 year old costs about $4100/year. Considering that one out of three dentists will be disabled at some point in their career, it provides great peace of mind.
There are many guidelines and specifics for this type of policy, and not all situations will apply.
• The two doctors cannot be more than 15 years apart in age.
• The older partner cannot be more than age 51.
• The partners cannot be husband and wife or father/mother/child.
• The policy will cover siblings.
• The maximum limit of the policy is $2,000,000 with a valuation of no more than 1 X gross collections.
For obvious reasons, this very valuable insurance product does not apply to everyone. But if you think that you might fit into this narrow niche, you should call Tyler DeStefano at 978-907-6002 and get some advice from a real expert.
July 13, 2015
First impressions dominate. And by definition, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. So I am flabbergasted and certainly underwhelmed by what I often experience when I call a dental office. Here are my suggestions for proper telephone technique that are designed to impress.
1. A real live person should answer the telephone. I hate phone trees! A phone tree is an automated telephone information system that speaks to the caller with a combination of fixed voice menus in real time. The caller can respond by pressing phone keys or speaking words or short phrases. “Please listen closely because our menu options have changed: Press one for the doctor, press two for the hygienist, press three if you are in pain, press four if you are a new patient etc. Many times, after pressing all these buttons, you end up in voicemail anyway. I don’t care about listening to menu options that might have changed. I just want to speak to a real person who can take care of my request right away. When you call Lands’ End or LL Bean, the phone is always answered on the second ring and you speak to a friendly person who is ready to take your order. Why can’t this happen in your practice?
2. When someone answers your phone, please have her announce her name. “Dr. Jones’ office” is not an acceptable greeting. Patients really appreciate knowing to whom they are speaking. I like “Thanks for calling Dr. Jones’ office – this is Melissa”. And “this is Melissa” is said with an intonation that implies “how may I help you?”
3. Answer the telephone over lunch. For many people, the only time that they can call is during lunch. Arrange coverage utilizing all staff members. Pay them their normal hourly rate. But please–teach assistants and hygienists who normally do not answer the telephone the proper way to answer. You don’t want it to sound like the cleaning service is answering your phone.
4. Answer your phone on the weekends. You don’t want to miss these calls. It is very easy to arrange call forwarding to staff cell phones. Staff members should be required to take weekend coverage on a rotating basis and are compensated for their efforts.
5. If you must default to a message machine during normal business hours, please do not say “we will get back to you as soon as possible”. It is much friendlier to say “we promise to return your call within 15 minutes.” And then make sure you do!
6. Never place a person on hold without asking their permission. “Dr. Jones’ office – hold please” is simply not acceptable. If you are on another call, or assisting someone at the desk, simply excuse yourself from the primary conversation. Then answer your telephone with the normal telephone greeting – find out who is calling – tell them you are on another call – and then ask them if they would like to hold or be called back in a few minutes. That entire process will not take longer than 20 seconds. Time it if you don’t believe me.
7. Consider answering services as a possible alternative to an end of the day message machine. There are some good companiesout there that are cost effective. But be sure to do your due diligence and check references.
The telephone is the entryway to your dental practice, and the person answering your phone just might be the most important person in your employ. Exquisite telephone technique is part and parcel of exquisite customer service. You shouldn’t accept anything else.