In this week’s podcast, we look specifically at how to not only build but maintain beneficial relationships with other dental practices. We cant stress enough how important this is to you and your practices success, so with that, lets get right into this week’s episode!
It’s a great podcast/videocast this week, scroll down even further for a transcription of this week’s show with Jared Young and Your Dental Marketing Department, enjoy!
——– Transcript Of Today’s Show ——–
Hi, I’m Jared with Big Diastema and Your Dental Marketing Department. Here with another edition of our podcast and videocast. Your Dental Marketing Department. This is the podcast for all things marketing and business related in the field of dentistry. We have it both on podcast on iTunes and on our website. You can watch it there or listen to it there streaming, but also as a video on our website, bigdiastema.com and dentalmarketingdepartment.com. Check it out in whichever format works best for you. Today we have a shorter episode coming for you, but I want to get started, before I get in to our main topic, by talking about this week’s Cool, New Stuff.
This week’s cool new stuff is the handleband, which mounts any phone on to the handle bars of your bike. This is a project that’s currently, as I make this, on kickstarter. It’s a very simple rubber band basic mount that will hold your phone right on to your bike. Why is this Cool, New Stuff? Something as simple as a piece of elastic? Well, we’re using our phones more and more for everything right now, from things like driving through our mapping system to making phone calls, obviously, searching the internet, playing games, and recently there’s been a run of apps that are fitness related. Not only can you map your runs, you can figure out your calories burned, you can figure out where you’re going, you can use the mapping system on your bicycles for trails more and more. This is a nice idea to have something that you’re already using every day mounted straight on to your handlebars in place of a traditional cyclometer, or as an addition to that. You can find it on kickstarter. It’s called the Handleband, and that’s this week’s Cool, New Stuff.
My tip this week for marketing is about what you do when your referral sources are not running their business properly, or when your referral sources are complaining that you’re not running your business properly. I’ve got a good example of this. We work with a practice that sends us a lot of business. They are in a different medical field, and we also send them a lot of business. This is for our holistic practice and a lot of what we do overlaps. They don’t have a dental component and we don’t have the medical components, so we send patients back and forth a lot. The problem is, they only have one person that does the scheduling for them. Why is that a problem? If you only have one person that does the scheduling, and we have a patient that’s standing in our office that needs to be scheduled over there, but that person’s on vacation, they simply won’t schedule it. Obviously, this causes a couple of problems. One is our patient can’t proceed with the work that they want, and two is their practice is not getting the patients that want to be there, so this is a real issue. It can work both ways. What if your referral source complains to you, the dentist, that your front office staff is difficult to deal with? I’m going to talk about both of those today, and hopefully this will help you out. Hopefully you never run in to this problem, but if you do, hopefully this will help out a little bit.
Number one is, obviously, you have to be diplomatic. If you are having difficulties dealing with the staff at one of the places that you refer patients or patients get referred to you from, then you need to be very diplomatic about it. If you’re getting business from them, you don’t want to start complaining immediately. The best idea is to sit down with the doctor. Give them a call; let them know. Maybe it’s by design. In this case, I know that it’s by design. They only have one person that does the scheduling. That streamlines a lot of their processes. Obviously, that creates a little bit of a hiccup and an inconvenience for our practice, but it would be presumptuous of me to immediately start complaining about a business policy that they set in place for a particular reason to benefit their business. They did not create that policy to benefit our business. If my staff says, “Hey, it’s really difficult. Our patients want to schedule over there. The scheduler is gone; we can’t get them in. It’s becoming a problem.” It’s only a problem for my front office staff. It’s not a problem for their front office staff, because that’s the way they want to run their business. So number one is don’t immediately jump to conclusions and don’t immediately start complaining. I would recommend you call up the doctor. Obviously, you have a relationship with the doctor, because they’re referring patients to you, and vice versa. Call up the doctor and ask if they’re aware that this particular situation is going on. You have two obvious answers. “Yes, I’m aware of it” (which means it was by design or it’s something that they haven’t gotten around to fixing). The other answer is, “No, I’m not aware of it. Thanks for making me aware of it. I’m going to go ahead and try to rectify that problem.” Now, if the doctor already knows about the problem and is aware of the situation, then there are two further answers for that. Number one, is you’ve got a doctor who is complacent and doesn’t really care that there is a problem. Or number two, a doctor that has created this situation by design.
Now, if they created this situation by design, it’s obviously time for you to sit down with your staff and explain the situation. It might not always be convenient for you to schedule with that practice, but that’s the way their business is run. They’re very well aware of the situation, and you will have to figure out a way internally to take care of it. Probably don’t call them anymore when your patient’s standing at the front desk. If you know they only have one person who schedules and they’re hard to get ahold of, don’t make the patient stand in front of you and wait. I’d recommend getting the patient’s name and phone number, which you already have in your system, and say, “Look, I’d like to schedule you an appointment over at Dr. So-and-so’s office. I’m going to try to get a hold of them this afternoon, and I will call you or email you with the appointment details. What times would be good for you? Give me a couple options so that when I call, I don’t have to play phone tag back and forth. That’s the best way to approach that.
Now, if the other doctor is aware of the situation, and did not create that situation by design, and is simply complacent and doesn’t want to deal with it, you have a different issue there. Not only do you have to manipulate your practice and your patients to figure out how to best schedule there, you don’t know how your patients are going to be treated once they get there. If that’s the case, it might be time to start finding other referral sources. The last thing you want to do is tell your patient, “Hey, I’ve got this great doctor that can help you fix your gout. I’m going to send you over to the gout doctor, and we don’t know when they’re going to be there. It’s hard to get ahold of them, and you may or may not be treated well, because the way they answer the phone is indicative of the way they’re going to treat you, but I swear that he’s a great doctor, and that you should go there.” Obviously, that’s not going to reflect very well on you and your practice. If their business practices are such that it gives you pause for concern on the way they treat their patients or the way your patients would be handled once they schedule there, then I would start looking for another gout doctor to start referring patients to. That’s the main issue here.
Now, I guess to back up a little bit, what you have to figure out first is, you as the doctor needs to call the other practitioner and ask, “Is this by design? Are you aware of this situation?” If they are aware of the situation, figure out why the situation is what it is. If they’ve got it by design, maybe a good explanation is there for it. Then you can also tell your staff, which will make it easier for them to understand, and then you can come up with a system internally to better facilitate referrals back and forth.
Now, if they’re not aware of it, you’ve done them a great service by making them aware of the situation and allowing them the opportunity to fix it. As a practitioner, I’m sure you would also want to know the same about your staff. Now, I manage offices and own offices, and I always want to know if my staff is not treating patients the way that they should be treated, or if our policies aren’t working as well as we think they are, or if my staff isn’t following the policies. A lot of times, the other practitioners are my eyes and ears, the patients and the other practitioners. I’m leery of coming up with knee-jerk reactions. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but one patient can ruin a great system. Just because one patient complains about something doesn’t mean the whole system is flawed. That patient could have had a bad day, that patient could have just been unlucky and gotten a bad situation, that patient may have had other issues going on. You just don’t know the situation if it’s just a one patient complaint or one doctor complaint or one staff member from another office complaint. I hear a lot from our staff that everybody is upset that we’re closed on Wednesdays. My first question is always, “How many people is everybody?”
“Lots and lots of people.”
“Ok, I need an actual number, and I want the names of each person that’s complained that we’re not open on Wednesdays.”
“Well, there was just Bob. Actually, it was just Bob.”
“Ok, well now we’re down to just one person.” So make sure you get to the heart of the matter as well. Just because you’ve been told that a lot of people are complaining about something, even if it’s another practice that’s saying a lot patients are complaining about something, or other staff members, or anything, make sure that you understand what ‘a lot’ is. One person could have called a lot of times, making it seem like a lot of people are complaining. If other offices are complaining about parts of your staff, it’s really time to accept that as constructive criticism and an opportunity to improve your business and become more profitable. If you turn a blind eye and say, “No, everything is perfect, and I don’t want to be criticized by you, because your office doesn’t run well either,” then what you’re really doing is just harming your long term prospects. They may have a very good opinion and a very valid belief on the way that your practice runs. Let’s say, going back to the Wednesdays closed thing, let’s say the other doctor says, “Hey, look. We have a lot of patients that would like to come in and see you on a Wednesday, but you’re not open on Wednesday. Would you be able to to open up?” Then you say,
“Well, no, because we work extra hours Monday and Tuesday, and we’re there at six in the morning.”
“What if all those patients aren’t able to go in to the office at six in the morning?” The next question is,
“Ok, we’ll consider opening on Wednesday. Maybe we’ll shave our hours on Monday and Tuesday, but who are all of these patients? How many patients are there? Could I have the names of those patients and call to speak with them? If they want to come in on a Wednesday, I can figure out if it’s worthwhile opening on a Wednesday.” So again, we’re figuring out what the definition of these terms is. What is ‘all these people?’ What are ‘a whole bunch’ or ‘a lot’ or ‘tons’ of people that complain about something? Take it as constructive criticism. Figure out the best way to improve moving forward. If you get a complaint from a staff member at another business, what my recommendation would be is, before you over react and do anything, I would call the practitioner that the staff member works for and ask them about the complaint from the staff member. Here’s why: That staff member could have a history of complaining about things and they’re just venting or voicing their opinion on something that’s really trivial. On the other hand, that staff member could be an eagle eye that finds little problems, fixes them, and increases efficiency at their practice all the time. Consider the source. Is it a constant complainer that’s just adding one more complaint to the pile, or is somebody who rarely complains but finds constructive ways to increase business? You might want to take that and treat it a little bit differently. So, if another staff or practitioner calls and complains about your policies or your staff or anything else, it’s a great opportunity for you to take a look at your business. Don’t take it personally. Take a step back, look and see, is there a way that I can figure our how to improve my business based on this advice? So, in summary, take feedback from other practitioners and feedback from your staff members with a grain of salt, but don’t deny or ignore those grains of salt, because a whole bunch of grains of salt can fill a salt shaker and cause a major issue.
This is Jared with Your Dental Marketing Department. Sorry for the short podcast this week. We hope it helps. Remember to keep your eyes and ears to the ground. Understand what your patients are going through with other practices and what other practices are going through when they’re dealing with your practice. You can find us online at dentalmarketingdepartment.com or bigdiastema.com, and you can find us on iTunes under Your Dental Marketing Department, the dental marketing podcast. Thanks so much, and we’ll see you next time.