How Your Staff Can Kill Your Dental Specialist Practice

There is a nice neighborhood restaurant minutes from my home with nice people, great food and a friendly atmosphere. I know and am friendly with the owners. I also know other customers that frequent their restaurant. Yet I go there a lot less than I did a few years ago, and every time we go, I make a mental note not to return. Why do I “choose off” this place that is convenient, nicely priced, pleasant, with consistently great food, and owned by people I like? Why has the frequency of my visits dropped from weekly to monthly or less, from 52X a year to less than 10X a year?

My customer value has dropped from at least $2500.00 to under $650.00. I bet the bus that the owner does not track by name his top 40 or all customers’ month by month and year to year customer value, he probably only has a vague idea I am there less and less often. He has, of course, done nothing to investigate the cause of my disaffection and defection. Why am I not eating there? An inquiring mind would want to know. I know I would.

Any dental practice owner treating hundreds or thousands of patients a year can still do account management. You don’t have to be ignorant. It’s a choice. I used to do this while owning a lawn service as far back as high school and college. It was my choice. You do it for the same reason: You should at least sign all of your own checks, walk around your own practice (enter through the front door), walk around the Parks like Walt used to, read your ‘white mail’ – because otherwise, you don’t know anything.

Literally every business has one thing that can sabotage everything else. You can be 99% right and still lose.

In this case, this particular restaurant employs pleasant wait staff who universally and consistently screw up orders. Obviously there is something in the air that saps memory function and it’s obviously contagious among all wait staff. Literally every time we go, wait staff forgets something, gets something wrong, and our to-go order is NEVER right. Seriously, how difficult is this?

Somehow this owner has managed to hire people who all fail at this one thing: getting the order right. For most, something as small as this is not that big a deal. Why? Because it happens frequently, it’s common place. But to me, a business owner who started from scratch, this one “little” thing outweighs great food, nice environment, and convenience.

This restaurant wins in all categories but the one that matters: retention and frequency of visits of high value customers. Because they fail at just one thing.

How You Define Failure Has A Lot To Do With How Much Of It You Suffer

I have consulted with a handful of practices across the U.S. who thought it was a good idea to generate marketing to increase the number of patients through the door into a place where failure lives is not very productive. Phones aren’t answered properly (sometimes not at all), staff are rude, the building is unkempt, etc. Conversely, having a wonderful place failing at marketing yields little. Incompetence is failure. It can’t be tolerated.

Listen, if I have a waiting room full of people and I show up 30 minutes late or there’s no toilet paper in the restrooms, I am an incompetent failure and I deserve to suffer for it. If I allow my staff to continue to schedule patients incorrectly, not treat patients in a courteous manner, or frequently arrive late to work than I am an incompetent failure.

But that can be changed, by me. Failure by incompetence is ONLY by choice. If wait staff can’t get orders right, they can be given three strikes, then fired and replaced. They can take a memory course, take better notes while consumers order, and continue to focus on this issue or go work at Wal-Mart instead. I’m not that difficult to please and the restaurant will continue to keep me as a customer.

Dentists in general have a hard time addressing staff issues and for the most part letting them go. A superb, eye-opening book to tackle this subject is No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits by Dan Kennedy. It’s all about getting our team’s act together. These shouldn’t be foreign concepts or resented

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