As dental management advisors and coaches, we all too often hear from dentists “I don’t know what she’s doing up at the front desk” or “I don’t know what they do all day up there at the front.” I can understand the doctors’ frustrations at having to produce at the chair in the back and rarely seeing or hearing business team members talking to the patients, plus doctors don’t always have the time to monitor how many tasks are being handled in a timely way. I’m sure to a dentist it feels like there is much more structure to appointments that occur back in the clinical area, and the doctors repeatedly are present to witness what their dental assistants or hygienists say to patients. Trust builds when dentists have personally experienced team members using great verbal skills with patients and delivering on tasks they are responsible for.
So what can be done to build trust with the business team? A dentist doesn’t have to leave it to chance – structure ways to build trust in what happens in the business area.
Use your team meetings to develop and share scripts for ideal ways to communicate with your patients. By scripts, I don’t mean there is only one way to say something to patients. A script can give a framework so it is clear to anyone on the team what the ideal model is. Some movie directors will allow actors to interpret a scene and ad lib as long as the emotional intent is achieved. Same idea with verbal scripts for patient situations in a dental office.
Job task lists
Have your business team member draft a task list for each day of the week or list the tasks and group by time frames when the task is to be done − daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly. Once the task list is drafted, the doctor can review, discuss with the team member and edit to fit your expectations.
Another use of regular team meetings is to have 10 minutes devoted to practicing some verbal skills. Don’t make people get up in front of everyone else and role play. This is a sure-fire way to have high absenteeism on team meeting day! Simply pair up; have some steps listed on a flip chart or on a handout everyone receives and have people practice an effective verbal skill for designated patient situations. Let people use these aids until they get more confident. Keep rotating partners. This is a great way for doctors to experience multiple team members’ communication abilities at handling patient situations. Trust can build this way and the doctor can feel reassured about how people on the business team talk to patients.
When a dentist has a hole in his/her schedule, spend a few minutes listening in to what is happening in the business office area. Try to be the proverbial fly on the wall. Look busy with something while you are hanging around – be on a computer or at the fax machine or paging through a journal or looking at a lab case. Try not to engage with patients since you want to hear how your business team members are handling patients. When you hear your team using great verbal skills or artfully handling some patient situation, let them know you heard them doing great and appreciate the effort. Use the technique of catching them doing something right! This will offset the feeling you are spying on them trying to catch them making some mistake. Focus on the positives.
Business team members will ultimately appreciate the doctor making efforts to learn more about what they do daily and what challenges they handle. At the same time, a doctor’s comfort grows with knowing more what goes on “up there” and that builds trust and confidence, which is good for everybody.