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Peak practice performance – Lisa Bainham


  Posted by: The Probe      1st June 2018

Many thanks once again, Edd, for talking to me and our topic today is what we can all do to improve the performance at our practices.

EJ: Thanks Lisa and obviously this is a key area and I imagine what a lot of we practice managers spend our time thinking about! There are a number of priorities and I think a brief timeline is the most straightforward way to illustrate what we should be doing.

1. Practice vision

We all need to understand what we’re trying to achieve. What stage of life are you at? For instance, if you bought your practice some years ago and approaching your 50’s, you are likely to be thinking about a practice sale. If you’ve just bought a practice, your vision might be different, like: in five years I want ‘X’ revenue and ‘X’ number of plan patients, and I want to be working ‘X’ days a week. You’d need to position yourself a certain way to achieve that. If you want a certain level of personal income, but only want to work three days a week, you’ll need to position your practice and design your services accordingly to ensure you’ve got enough quality patients paying the right fees. So this part is about finding your objectives and figuring out your approach, which leads on to sorting out your product.

2. Know your product

This is one for the whole team. Everyone must understand what you’re offering, regarding treatments, prices, customer service and added value (like free Wi-Fi, coffee, and allowing a nervous patient’s friends and family into the surgery). How do you treat new and old patients? Your team needs to buy into your core values and your approach to customer service. When this happens there’ll be a palpable customer service ethos that gives your patients confidence. One mistake a lot of dentists make is to focus only on the clinical side of things. Obviously that’s important, but this is a service-based industry, it’s about how you make people feel. You want to make them feel wanted, interesting, valued and welcome. Some people are better at this than others, which doesn’t have to be a problem. The ones who realise they’re not very good at it can recruit a team around them that is. If the nurses, front of house team and manager are good with people, it will help alleviate that issue.

3. Get your team to buy-in

If your patients are told things like: “You can buy this electric toothbrush from us… But it’s cheaper in Superdrug!” or, “I know we’re expensive, but…” they will lose faith in the value of your service, as those phrases show a lack of belief in your own products/services. The message should be: “We’re confident this is the best service and option for you.” If you believe it, they will. ‘Sales’ is still a dirty word in dentistry – which is surprising. For example, if you want to buy a TV, even if you know what you want, if the person selling it isn’t enthusiastic and doesn’t really know their stuff, you’ll probably end up looking elsewhere.

Dentistry is no different. The whole team needs regular, appropriate training. Involve the team in making decisions on how you approach each aspect of your service offering. Team buy-in is about having an inclusive environment where people get listened to, not shot down. Otherwise you won’t hear about that great idea.

4. Service

Service covers everything from how you talk to patients, the music in your waiting room, to how you deliver that all-important personal touch. If you learn of important events in your patient’s lives, such as a new house, or bereavement, make it protocol to send a card. It takes two minutes. The difference it makes is what counts – not what everyone else is doing.

5. Measure it

Is what you’re doing actually working? Obviously you need to be measuring it and this is where key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. Productivity and actual income are the two basic ones. When you have plan patients, to measure the productivity you need to look at the number of appointments and what they would be worth privately. Then look at your operating costs. You need to measure your marketing to get numbers around how much enquiries are costing you. Make sure that you record new patient enquiries and then go through the diary and see how many new patient assessments you’ve completed, which gives a conversion rate. If you know how much you’ve spent on marketing, divide it by the number of assessments and you have the price per enquiry (per month). This is an easy to understand number to share with the team, so you can tell them: “Every time you answer the phone or answer an email it costs the practice £70.” This can often be a bit of a revelation for your team!

LB: I think these five points sum it beautifully Edd – vision, product, team, services and measurement. I am aware however, that it is always easier to say this than do it! I have found at my practice that getting the team and dentists out of the practice to a neutral venue works well. And as we have said, it is so important that you listen to all of the team – if you don’t then you will store up trouble!

EJ: I completely agree, Lisa – your team are the face of your practice and if they haven’t bought in to what you are trying to

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