What will they REALLY remember?

It’s more about the impression that you leave them with than any clinical impression you may take.


The average patient knows nothing about dental technology, even if it is explained to them. No doubt they are probably pleased to know that digital radiography, for example, has really improved the safety factor when x-rays are required, which may cause them to think about it for a moment or two and then not give it a second thought.

Much of this is not all that vital to the average patient, and sad to say, they really don’t care; as we see almost daily when we work to educate our patients. The constant seems to be how they feel while they are in your practice, after treatment, whether you and the team show them care and attention, and of course perhaps what others say about their smile. And this is basically it!

They have no idea about symmetry, shades, esthetics, recession and contours; but what they do know is how they feel and how their smile looks to them. So if it is pleasing to their eyes and they have no pain, all is well in their world. Oh, except for perhaps the patient that felt the shade should be a bit whiter, kind of like a “Chicklet”, but ultimately agreed with you and your team in the end, seeing the natural looking result when you held up the mirror. My educated guess might be that it was one or more well-spoken, devoted team members that very cautiously and kindly pointed this out. It’s those special team members that tend to create a wonderful rapport with our patients, don’t they?

Patients can easily see that you are there to help them when they require it, and that you support them if they need some additional assistance. Take the patient that needed an emergency root canal or the time that their son got hit in the mouth during a basketball tournament. These are things they know. They are totally lost though when it comes to asepsis, OSHA Compliance, HIPPA Compliance, the newest advances in Dental Technology, and what it means when their doctor has DMD MDS MAGD FADI FAACD FACE at the end of his/her name, although it does appear impressive to some patients.
Here are some of the things that they DO know for sure: If they are respected and treated well, the practice environment is neat and orderly, the magazines are current and in good taste, they are taken on time for their appointments, the fees are fair and their questions are answered to their satisfaction, and of course if an emergency arises that they are accommodated quickly.
But the very most important thing that all patients look for is the type of environment created by the positive energy and mutual respect that they observe and experience when they visit your practice. They would expect that the kindness would go directly to them, their families and all the other patients that walk through your door.

But what about the interaction between the individual team member(s) and the doctor(s)? What they are evaluating is critical to their ongoing patient loyalty and why they are so happy to spend time with you in your practice. For them, seeing that the team works harmoniously together and are clearly sharing responsibilities openly and willingly is a memorable message and one that puts them at ease, adding to the “trust” factor. This will carry over in many ways and are forever imbedded in their memory. This message is a valuable one and will be spread to their family and friends when asked “who do you recommend for dental care”?


New Year’s (Re)Solution – A Common Dilemma


Helping to save what could be a terrible mistake made by both dental employees and employers. Stop it before it happens to you!

This time of year is always exciting; between the joy of Christmas and the coming New Year there is a lot going on for many.  There is another common occurrence that we often encounter this time of year more than any other. It’s the time when employees are hoping to see a wage increase, and either they or the employer or both of them do not necessarily go about addressing it in a healthy, professional manner.

Take the loyal, reliable, long-term employee that was anxiously anticipating a raise this year.  She loves her job and has been with her doctor for many years. She had already started planning for the raise she expected, making a personal “wish list” and deciding what her first new purchase might be.  When the holiday came and went with no sign of her anticipated increase, she was quite disappointed.  With the extended Christmas break and time to reflect, she began to believe that perhaps the years invested were not appreciated, and that this could be a sign that now would be a good time to reevaluate her position within the practice.

Probably the wisest and most appropriate thing for her do to would have been to sit down with her employer and discuss this in a proper manner where she could provide measurable contributions that she has personally made to the growth and success of the practice.  And perhaps over the course of the past year the doctor might have reviewed all that his team had contributed to the bottom line and who on the team helped to keep the production and collection high. Unfortunately, neither of these occurred.

With time to take action, the employee began to feverishly comb the want ads, scheduling as many interviews as she could fit into her open week’s time.  This was NOT because she really wanted to leave. She was very happy there and loved her co-workers, her patients, her job, and her doctor!  She had no intention of leaving, but was simply “crushed” and “hurt” from feeling unappreciated.

And so the series of interviews began, sometimes two in a day. She knew she had to gather her ammunition quickly since she would be back to work on January 2nd with no time to lose.  Her sole purpose was to see what another practice might offer so that she could prove her true worth to her doctor.

But is this really a healthy approach to the problem?  There are numerous people that lose time and effort: the employee, the present employer and even the hopeful new employer.


Researching Team Retention

Here is an article that I authored that was published in the Arizona State Dental Association monthly magazine, Inscriptions, in November, 2011. It addresses some of the predominant reasons why some practices experience extended team longevity where others suffer from constant turnover.

Uncovering the Mystery of Dental Team Retention

Operating a successful dental practice requires patience, knowledge, structure, and foresight.  Ask any dentist anywhere in the country (or for that matter the world) to name the single greatest challenge in overseeing their business effectiveness and the almost universal response is, “the team.”

How do some practices keep their team members in place while others suffer from constant  turnover?

During my tenure as both an owner of a local and national dental placement agency, I conducted a study on dental team longevity.  The study’s goal was to uncover the “secrets” and commonalities among practices that linked employer/dentist to dental team members and kept them together for exceptionally long periods.

After conducting interviews with thousands of dental job seekers and team members, the primary reasons that loyalty and longevity is alive and well in many dental practices became strikingly evident.

–Not about the money

Employees repeatedly expressed that their loyalty to “their” practice was not wrapped around salary. Surprisingly, very high, over-market wages are often a red flag for many “savvy” dental employees. Dental team applicants ask themselves, “Why is this doctor paying so much more than comparable offices?” Often the answer was that the employer did not conduct proper due diligence as to what is fair compensation, or the employer felt that in order to find good, strong, capable, loyal employees they had to pay more than their peers.  The idea that employers could only find capable, loyal employees was to pay them more could not be further from the truth. In fact, as long as the position’s wages were in line with the market and compatible with the job description and responsibilities, excessive compensation will NOT yield more talent or assure employee loyalty.  In fact, offering initial wage levels that are too high can often inhibit an employee’s motivation, particularly as they settle in to their position. Practices that achieved high employee retention provided increases over time and offered special acknowledgements to employees that attained seniority.

–Interactive integration

An effective, organized interview process, as you might guess, also contributed to employee longevity. Practices that were the most successful at retaining employees took their time during the interview process. They hosted a number of interview meetings, and a few practices arranged lunches with the existing team as part of the protocol (team only, no employers present). Practices that had a hiring system and structure in place achieved a higher level of employee longevity. Practices that tried to “wing it,” did not.

Other commonalities among practices that scored high employee retention included: open communication, providing information for the job candidates to review, and asking the interviewees pertinent questions about themselves, their career interests, and their strengths and challenges.

–Skill assessment

I also found that high employee retention is connected to practices that conducted “working interviews,” or skill assessment days.  NOTE: if you include this with your interview protocol make sure they have structure and that you DO compensate them for their time. The employer is required to pay at least minimum wage for this trial period. This is a Federal Law. It is also recommended that you check with your financial advisor or accountant as to how you should orchestrate this payment to the job candidate.

–Hiring protocol

More than half the practices that achieved high employee retention had a formal letter of hire prepared. This letter clearly lists all the particulars of the position so that both parties [employer and applicant] knew what was expected going forward. It establishes a level of expectation. Successful practices also conducted proper legally sanctioned reference checking (with permission of job candidate). They also took the time to integrate the new employee into the practice: proper introductions to patients and vendors and total support of the current team members.

–Attitude is key

Employees that felt their doctor communicated with them with honesty and sincerity had a much higher rate of longevity.  Many said, “Even if he/she had a bad day, the doctor would never take it out on the dental team.” Open and healthy communication and dialog was a constant in all the offices that were able to retain employees for a long time. Employees of these practices also indicated that they felt the dentist(s) had no “favorites.” Everyone was treated equally.

In regard to the dentist, and his/her mindset: doctors that really enjoyed their profession and maintained positive energy were able to hang on to employees longer.  In fact, hearing how much they were appreciated and valued (often in front of patients) was a factor in employees remaining with a practice.

It should be noted that these signs of appreciation were NOT in the form of monetary rewards but rather sincerely spoken from the heart.  There were regularly scheduled reviews and salary increases based on the value these team members held within the practice, but it was the consistent words of encouragement and positive reinforcement that were universally the most important catalyst for all the team members.

–Patience and more patience

Patience during the hiring process, patience during the integration process, patience when the day is a rough one, patience when the bonding agent fails when working with a difficult patient all contribute to the success of a loyal team.  For the dentist, it is really a matter of tempering the practice’s pace and realizing where and when not to overreact.  NOTE: consider talking things out as a group as a means of supporting each other, especially when things are not going as planned.

Basic steps to help create long-term relationships with your employees:

  • Create an ad that delineates and makes your specific needs unique to only your practice. If you are using CareerBuilders.com or a similar online approach, short descriptive words work well.
  • Develop a clear and concise job description with your team prior to starting the interview process.
  • Compose a comprehensive practice overview and include as much as you can to educate the candidates on your particular practice style.
  • Make sure your skill assessment days have structure, including a blueprint for the job candidate to reference regarding what is expected of them.
  • Whenever possible, assign a team member serve as a “buddy” during work assessment days to work alongside them.
  • Avoid rushing your hiring decisions, and be sure to incorporate your team’s thoughts and opinions when picking the final employee.
  • Have a thorough job offering proposal in place so that there are no surprises for either you or employee down the road.
  • As you would do with your patients, be certain to “recare” your team members on a regular basis by checking in on what they need and the feedback they have to share.

There are some amazing long-term dental business relationships out there and it is possible for you to create that as well!