Dental practice management 101: “Service always starts with serving one another”
Judy Kay Mausolf is a dental consultant, coach and author of three books on dental practice management. This year, she will be sharing her extensive knowledge of working with dental teams at the 2023 Midwinter Meeting organized by the Chicago Dental Society. In the run-up to the event, Dental Tribune International spoke with Mausolf about topics such as the importance of quality customer service in dentistry, a positive working environment and team relationships.
Mrs. Mausolf, could you tell our readers something about your background in dentistry and about what motivated you to become a coach?
I started my dental career working as a receptionist in general practice in Bismarck in North Dakota in the US. Within two years, I became the practice administrator. I worked as a practice administrator for another 24 years. During that time, I also assisted many other practices. It just seemed natural to become a coach since I had been coaching for years.
Positive treatment outcomes are a major source of patient satisfaction. However, how important is it to successfully manage the non-clinical aspects of a dental practice?
A positive clinical outcome is a result of a highly skilled and engaged team. The team should be able to successfully communicate and work well together.
What is wow factor service, and how can it be achieved to build patient loyalty?
Wow factor service is about building a brand that creates exceptional patient experiences. A clear and consistent brand builds patient trust and loyalty. Your brand must be all three of the following: who you are, who you say you are and what your patients consistently experience.
Owner-dentists choose four core value words to build the brand. They use this choice as a decision-making strategy for what they will implement in their practice. Everything that will be implemented must clearly and consistently support the core value words.
Having a consistent brand manages patients’ expectations and builds loyalty. Similarly, we are loyal to products and services that consistently deliver what they promise and fit our wants and needs.
Experiences start with first impressions. We can simplify the way in which we can deliver wow factor first impressions by breaking them down into the five senses. What do our patients see, hear, touch, smell and taste? I’m going to add a sixth question. Is it convenient? We have become a society focused on convenience, and it matters—a lot. Utilise the six questions to analyse each patient experience. Always consider what your patients may need or want. The patient experiences are the initial phone call, the check-in, the clinical office experience, the consultation room experience and the check-out.
How can a dental team be inspired to deliver excellent customer service?
It starts with how we take care of one another. We must treat one another and our patients as a team. No double standards. Service always starts with serving one another. We need to truly create a culture where serving the patients flows naturally.
Dental staff are sometimes required to manage challenging behaviour in the workplace. What are some of the skills needed to positively and effectively communicate with staff and patients who have difficult personalities?
Regarding our patient relationships, we want to try to understand why they are being difficult and to not take it personally. Ask questions to understand what is driving the fear, frustration or anger. Stay calm, show compassion and keep the patient informed. We have all had patients who were difficult during the first couple of visits but ended up becoming favorites of the team.
Regarding team relationships, it is important to establish standards as a team and make agreements to support those standards. “I” is who I am outside the office. “We” is who I am inside the office. We create clear ABC team standards: attitude, behaviour and communication. Difficult personalities are not accepted or allowed in a happy, healthy, high-performing culture.
It is about making agreements to hold ourselves and one another accountable for having healthy adult relationships. As a team, we should define what that means specifically.
“A positive clinical outcome is a result of a highly skilled and engaged team.”
What is a “kudos” environment, and why do you think it is crucial to acknowledge and celebrate team success in a dental practice?
The creation of a “kudos” environment starts with the entire team being observant and aware of what is good and right in the practice culture. This is followed by acknowledging this with a kudos statement. For example: “Susie, great job on helping the patient understand her treatment to overcome her fear!”
The magic about a kudos culture is that we shift the team’s focus from what is not working to what is, from what is not positive to what is positive. This is extremely powerful because what we look for, we find.
Dental practices are currently plagued with staffing shortages. Could you give examples of how orchestrating productive and engaging team meetings help foster a positive work culture and lead to improved case acceptance?
This is a two-part question. Engaging team meetings that empower the team to openly and respectfully communicate without repercussions will help them work together better. Frustration and stress lessen when the team can discuss and resolve what is working and what is not. Staff turnover goes down when a team is happy working together.
Similarly, case acceptance goes up when the entire team understands the treatments being offered and why they are offered. Discussing word choice and practising role-playing to overcome patient objections helps build confidence in the team. For example, try discussing: “What are some ways we could respond when Mrs. Patient says __________?”
Would you like to add anything else?
We all have tasks we do not like. Do not get bogged down in mundane tasks! It is the people we serve and care for that matter. We are blessed to work in an incredible industry that helps people be able to live healthier lives. We give function and aesthetics, which results in patient confidence, health and improved quality of life.