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Here’s why investing in your employees is the best investment you can make.
Reese’s guest on the Dentist Money™ Show is Laura Hatch. Founder of Front Office Rocks, Laura has plenty of advice on how your staff can quickly improve the way they serve your clients.
When the phone rings, or when patients come to your office, is your staff doing enough to keep your clients coming back? Better client service will help your practice grow faster and Laura offers a few ideas on how your staff can become more focused.
Reese Harper: Hi everybody. It’s Reese Harper here. I recently had a chance to sit down with the founder of Front Office Rocks, Laura Hatch. Laura has a lot of experience working in a dental office, helping found a dental practice and being the type of person that is curious and always trying to add to her online training curriculum.
Reese Harper: For those of you who don’t know, Front Office Rocks has grown to become one of the largest and leading solutions for front office training. Laura is also a really enthusiastic speaker, has a really busy travel schedule, and it was fun to be able to get her in our office in Salt Lake and be able to sit down for multiple hours to go through what I think is a really, really powerful and insightful interview.
Reese Harper: We also talked about different ways a dentist can get the most out of the investment they’re making every day, and the small things that really drive success.
Speaker: Consult an advisor or conduct your own due diligence when making financial decisions. General principles discussed during this program do not constitute personal advice. This program is furnished by Dentist Advisors, a registered investment advisor. This is Dentist Money. Now, here’s your host, Reese Harper.
Reese Harper: Welcome to the Dentist Money show where we help dentists make smart financial decisions. I’m your host, Reese Harper and I’m very excited to have brought in a special guest from the island of Coronado in San Diego. Laura Hatch.
Reese Harper: How you doing Laura?
Laura Hatch: I have never been introduced that way before so I’m excited.
Reese Harper: Yeah, that’s been a recent move for you. That’s pretty cool, right?
Laura Hatch: Yeah, yeah.
Reese Harper: You do have my guest bedroom ready for me at any time?
Laura Hatch: Everybody listening, if you’re coming to Coronado, reach out. If you don’t know what Coronado is, you need to come to San Diego.
Reese Harper: You need to come check it out.
Laura Hatch: It’s the best place in the country in my opinion.
Reese Harper: She’s not bias by …
Laura Hatch: No. I’m paying to live there. I live in California.
Reese Harper: She has a financial incentive to actually love that place too now. She owns a home there. It’s beautiful. It’s a great place to live. I’m excited to have you and a fun day spot, but before you were in a cool spot too. You’ve always been in San Diego.
Reese Harper: Tell me a little bit, for those of you who don’t, me and you have already done a show episode before. It’s been about a year. You’re someone who I trust, obviously a lot around front office issues. For those of you who don’t know, Laura is the founder of Front Office Rocks, as you’ve heard in my intro. Last time we gave your intro, but this time I want to talk a little bit about where the business is today maybe a teeny bit about background, how you got into it, but more about where you’re at today compared to where you were. What the type of things are that have changed in the last year and what’s top of mind when it comes to your customers and what they’re asking.
Laura Hatch: Sure. Just a little short snippet of why Front Office Rocks evolved. My background is in training and HR and education. I was married to a dentist so I got pulled into dentistry. The dental spouse.
Reese Harper: You did it again. You did a great job.
Laura Hatch: I’ve opened to scratch practices and over the years I determined one of the things that was really missing is the intention, focus, and training on the front office. We have a lot for assistants, hygienists and dentists, but there wasn’t a lot for the front office. I talked to dentists all the time. Can’t I get an office manager like you? Can’t you come work in my office?
Laura Hatch: I’m not a consultant and in my heart of hearts it’s not what I do. I train. I started my own website and that’s where Front Office Rocks evolved was to be a resource for dentists to say, “My philosophy is you can hire somebody with great experience, great knowledge, great skills. They don’t have to know dental codes and procedures to work in the front. We can train them.” That’s why I started Front Office Rocks.
Laura Hatch: It was initially focused on new hire training and front office. Now it’s on really team training. We have a lot of clients who I always talk about continual training. The biggest cost of your business is your payroll. Investing in your team is the best investment you can make. Continual training is important. Having online resources is an easy way to train your team. Now we have more offices. We’re working with them. I have customer service reps having them do regular training with their teams.
Laura Hatch: Since then, I’ve started bringing in other professionals and interviewing them, kind of like you do on the podcast. To help in other areas, medical training and medical billing and how to have hard discussions. Things that other people are really good at. Bringing them on the site, so it’s really meant to be a resource for the doctor for front office.
Laura Hatch: About two months ago, we launched Back Office Rocks too because I had a lot of people asking me, what about the rest of the team? We launched Back Office, which is all under the Front Office umbrella. One price for everything. But now we have dental assistant, hygienist, doctor, and team training on there. There are training videos and resources and documents and webinars for everybody on the team that’s online 24-7, you can do in your office whenever you need it.
Reese Harper: This is one of the challenges that I’ve seen and I want to see what your experience has been. Dentists typically, sometimes I’ve heard this from front office staff as well, is that I sign up for something, but I’m not learning or I’m not totally getting anything out of it. That’s the nature of online training. At some point there’s not a lot you can do about that. It’s still helpful, even if it’s, it comes a much lower cost than physical consulting and onsite training.
Reese Harper: Even an underutilized resource is sometimes still more valuable than an underutilized onsite consult that still doesn’t get implemented, right?
Laura Hatch: Exactly.
Reese Harper: I’m giving that preface because I’m not trying to discount the value here, but what have you guys done to try to help with that or how do you address that? Do you think it’s as big of a problem as it feels like to some people? Do people actually use it more than they would realize?
Laura Hatch: That’s really funny because I think if I could figure out how to implement new technology in the dental office, I’d be like a multi-billionaire because every company I work with goes, “We have this great product but the dentist doesn’t know how to implement it,” right? I think if they go buy the shiny new tool, I remember we bought something. They bring it back and everyone’s like, “Oh,” and then nobody knows how to implement it. It sits on a shelf.
Laura Hatch: It’s the same as my website. If you don’t use it, it can’t help you. I purposely priced the website at $149 a month because what I didn’t want is I didn’t want to fill out exchange with my clients. It’s $149 a month. If I answer one question for you, I would give you one document or one resource, it’s paid for its value. We are working hand-in-hand with our doctor. In the last year, I’ve added five customer service reps who now have a certain number of clients that are under them. They are working with them directly to help them implement.
Laura Hatch: The one thing we don’t have enough in in the dental office is time. I get that.
Reese Harper: Yeah, totally.
Laura Hatch: You walk in, you get going. It’s 5:30 before you know it and you haven’t had time to implement. Dentists, a lot of our dentists will sign up and say, “Oh, I’m just going to have the team do this.” Their not going to do this. If you put one more thing on my desk and say, “Here, do this,” in the middle of the day, it’s not going to happen. You need an implementation plan.
Laura Hatch: My team works with the doctors to help them with that. Our videos are 10 minutes long. Some are an hour. Most of them are 10 or 15 minutes long. We just say give them an hour a week. Whether you do it in a team training or if they break off individually or the department, but one hour a week, because we get in bad habits. A lot of times we don’t train well in the beginning. There’s all of these things that the doctors go to these great seminars and they want to come back and implement, but then they don’t train the team. The team wasn’t at that great seminar. Didn’t learn what you learned, so give them the resources, the systems, the way to learn how to do things in your practice to help it grow.
Reese Harper: One thing that I would add to this too is I think it makes sense to create some, if you’re going to invest in the resource, if you’re going to invest in bringing a consultant in or you’re going to invest in front office training videos like Laura’s site, compensate your team to take advantage of that. You’re already investing in the cost anyway. Part of me really likes the idea to have a continuing education bonuses, achievement bonuses as it relates to CE and development.
Reese Harper: Doesn’t have to be significant, but I found that your team will really know what you value based on what you assign compensation to. I wouldn’t break it down granularly to every hour you watch you get this thing. Tell them it’s part of their, of course they’re getting paid for the hour that they’re watching it-
Laura Hatch: You say of course. I have to tell you how many dentists go, “Do I have to pay them?” I’m like, you have to pay them.
Reese Harper: Yeah, it’s like their … You should pay them for that hour. I’m suggesting to create a meaningful achievement bonus for them to complete an entire set of courses.
Laura Hatch: There’s actually a dentist who came up to me in Michigan and he goes, “I don’t know if I did this right. I apologize if I didn’t do it right.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I told each one of the girls up front, if they finished the whole section, which is a lot of videos, they get a $25 Starbucks card.” He goes, “They finished it in two weeks.” I’m like, “There’s actually nothing wrong with that. That’s perfect.”
Reese Harper: Yeah, that is perfect.
Laura Hatch: I have offices that do it as a study club, they do it as a book club, they do it in a huddle in the morning. But you have to lead by example. If you want your team to do it, you have to be involved. You have to schedule for it. You have to make it happen.
Reese Harper: One suggestion that’s coming to mind, I would love to see you pay someone, make it be a gift card, make it be a cash bonus. I would think it’s fine as much as $500. To me, I’m thinking in that kind of a range. It needs to be meaningful. I don’t know if it has to be more. If $25 Starbucks card gets someone motivated to do it, then that’s fine. Different people are going to be motivated by different things.
Laura Hatch: A lot of it is how you bring it to the team. If you were to come to me and you came back from a meeting or you found Front Office Rocks or whatever and you put it on my lap and say, “Do this,” I’m like really? I already have 46 things I have to deal with. But if you bring it back and you get excited about it and you say, “We’re going to implement this together and we’re going to have some fun around it and we’re going to play a game. You guys get to pick the videos or if you finish …” It should be fun because if they look at it as work, one more thing, nobody’s going to want to do it.
Reese Harper: Totally. I was going to suggest to add a component of let them teach the team. Assign them a piece of content or assign them a group of content or a video and have them train on that.
Laura Hatch: Yep.
Reese Harper: It doesn’t have to be a long training, but just part of your huddle or part of your weekly meeting or part of, even if you’re not involved as the doctor, you’re having them train team on it. People will take their learning much more seriously if they have to get up in front of a group and tell people what they learned.
Reese Harper: I’ve really struggled with this because my team’s buried and we never have enough time in a day to get everything done. At some point though, you have to prioritize continued education in an ongoing format.
Laura Hatch: That’s where a lot of the offices are using the site or they’re doing their 10 minute video, so they’re doing on in the huddle once a week. That’s the topic of the week. Let’s say it’s handoffs or it’s non-verbal communication or it’s phone answering or whatever. They’re all watching it, then they’re having a discussion around it and that’s the focus of the week. It becomes a fun little project and this stuff that we’re learning is not rocket science. It’s not like they have to go learn some major thing. It’s a good reminder or maybe something nobody’s ever taught them that you really should be doing this because your patients value it.
Reese Harper: They’re picking this up, yeah. One of the things that I know that you’ve got the ability to do and I thought we’d try this today is you talk a lot about how doctors sometimes focus on case acceptance when they’re sitting in the chair and at that point there is some really important things you can do when you’re at that stage. Case acceptance is a lot broader than what happens in the chair. Let’s walk a little bit through that idea. Where does it begin and where does it end and what are some of the major things that happen in this process? Do you know?
Laura Hatch: Sure. I have to start this by saying patients don’t know if you’re a good dentist or not. I think every dentist should have case acceptance training because I know they don’t teach that in dental school. It’s important how you present the treatment, by far. There’s a lot of part of that case acceptance that started way before you even sat down to talk to the patient. Patients don’t know if you’re a good dentist or not. They know how they feel when they’re in your office. They know the experience they’ve had. They’re judging.
Laura Hatch: It’s like me going into a Walmart or a Target versus a Nordstrom’s. I’m going to decide before I even pick something up how much money I’m willing to spend on something based on how I feel in there and the customer service or a restaurant or whatever. I say case acceptance starts before they even pick up the phone. Your reputation, let’s say I’m a new patient, and I’m looking around for a new dentist. If I ask some friends. If my friends say, “Oh, you should go to this dentist because Look at my new smile,” or “I whitened my teeth,” or “I used to be in a lot of pain and now I’m not. My dentist is amazing.” That starts a relationship with a patient on the right foot versus somebody who goes, “Go to my dentist. They give good discounts.” Or “Go to my dentist because they accept every insurance.”
Laura Hatch: Now that patient’s coming to you because you give good discounts, or you take their insurance, so that’s before they’ve even known anything about your office. Then they go to your website. How does your website look? I’m not saying what it has to have on it, but does it look like it came when the Internet was invented or is it friendly? If they’re getting a mailer, do you have 42 different specials? Do you look like a discount office? Is it friendly?
Laura Hatch: Then when they call your office, how do they handle the first phone call? You don’t get a second chance to make a new first impression. One of my biggest pet peeves is that not training your team on how to handle the phones well and not prioritizing the phones. My thing is, the most important piece of technology in the dental office is your telephone. It’s respect the phones. Hashtag, respect the phone. A lot of dental offices, you don’t even answer the phone during the day. What does that say to the patient? That you’re too busy for them? They’re not important to you?
Laura Hatch: Again, so now they’re walking in. They’re already saying, “They didn’t answer the phone when I first called. Somebody told me this is a good discount dentist.” You go to try and present a five, 10 thousand dollar case, they’re not coming in expecting that. Before you even talk to them because they’re already getting this idea that you’re more of a Walmart office or they’re not going to get a big case presented to them.
Laura Hatch: How they’re greeted when they come into the office. Technology. I’m not saying you have be paperless or chartless, but they are judging you on are you filling out, at the front desk, sign in, have a seat or are they given an iPad? Was it easy to do their paperwork before they came in? How were they greeted when they came in? Is your front office team standing up and shaking their hand? I would probably spend more money in a place that’s going to greet me when I walk in. I’m more likely to trust the team and the environment and they’re judging.
Laura Hatch: Maybe you’re not the most high tech office and the most fancy office in your area, but if you still have green shag carpeting and an orange couch from the ’70s, I’m less likely to accept a big case. Before you’ve even met them, that’s all part of case acceptance. Then, the reason we’ve added Back Office Rocks to Front Office Rocks is because we might be amazing in the front. That’s what I’m trying to do is train rock stars in the front. Let’s say they love their experience and then the dental assistant comes out and barks at them from a door across the room. Then they set them in the operatory and then they go, “Have a seat. The doctor will be in in a minute.” Again, now, we’re back to not getting the experience. All of this plus so much more plays into case acceptance.
Reese Harper: Now what is probably one of the top reasons I’m reaching out?
Laura Hatch: I would say first and foremost is phones. Telephone. That’s what I built the website on initially. I think, again, the phones are the most important piece of technology. I think one of the things we do a lot is we take the newest employee who doesn’t have the most training and we stick them on the phones and we hope that they do well. That’s the worst place to put your new employee.
Laura Hatch: Phones, phone training, handling-
Reese Harper: Let’s pause on that real quick then. When it comes to phone training, what do you typically, give me a piece of advice or two that you’re trying to deliver in your video content right now.
Laura Hatch: First and foremost, answering the phones. There are so many offices, I do mystery calls in offices that between 11 and 2, that’s when the most volume of calls come in and most offices aren’t answering. They’re going to voicemail. They have their newbie there. They’re not answering on Fridays. Just answer your phones first off.
Reese Harper: Would you think that the doctors would be surprised that that’s not happening?
Laura Hatch: Yeah. I’ve actually, it frustrates me. I’ve talked to front office team members all the time who they, the doctors I don’t think see a value in the phones as much. I have doctors who will give advice to their team members, and they’ll come to me and say, “What do you think about this?” Where if I’m checking a patient out standing in front of me at the front desk and this patient’s checking out from their appointment, and I’m the only one at the front desk, they get taught to ignore the phone and deal with the patient in front of you because that’s the most important person in the scenario. I disagree 100%. That person on the phone is either a new patient or a potential patient or a patient of yours that’s now going to voicemail.
Reese Harper: I see it all the time, if I’m in a restaurant or I’m in a bike shop or anywhere I go.
Laura Hatch: A hotel?
Reese Harper: Yeah, a lot of times I feel like I’m watching his phone ring and they’re not going to it. I’m like why don’t you go answer that? In my mind, I’m the customer. I’m glad they’re focusing on me and not picking up that phone. I’m not glad but I’m flattered a little bit, but I’m actually expecting them to go answer it.
Laura Hatch: It’s weird, right?
Reese Harper: It’s ringing.
Laura Hatch: I say I want to jump on the phone. Can I just get it for you? But I say wouldn’t … If you were standing there and somebody said to you, “Would you mind if I get this call?” What would you say?
Reese Harper: I’d be like no problem. I totally understand.
Laura Hatch: Now you’re not going to do it four or five times during a checkout so you need to have systems, but the issue is, let’s say you’re the patient standing, checking out and the phone rings and rings and rings and nobody answers it. Then three months later, you call in to schedule an appointment and you call the office and it rings and rings and rings, what’s the memory you’re going to have in your head? That they ignored the phone. Now, because they just saw you do it, they’re going to assume that you’re doing the same thing to them.
Reese Harper: You’re saying you really think for the most part there is a culture of maybe more than the average, sounds like it’s a pretty common thing for office culture to focus on the job at hand and just ignore the phone.
Laura Hatch: Yep. If you call, a lot of recordings still say, because I call on offices all the time, “If you’ve reached our offices during business hours we must be helping another patient so please leave your …” You just old that person on the phone that the person in the office is more important to you. I know there’s offices where we have one person running the front and the back and we’re running around. But there are services now that can answer the phone, not a call answering service, but one that can schedule for you. You can train your team. I can train your team to be able to “Do you mind one second if I handle this call?” The patient’s going to say, “No problem.” I’m going to answer this call, take a message and I’m going to call this patient back. I’m not going to get into a 10 minute conversation, but I want to be able to handle both.
Laura Hatch: Then I need to have somebody that’s good at multi-tasking, which means I need to make sure I’m hiring the right people who can handle both. I had six phone lines in my office. Sometimes four would ring at once. You don’t ignore them. You have to answer them. Right? That’s your lifeline to the outside. You’re paying money to make that phone ring.
Reese Harper: What’s another phone pet peeve or phone issue that you train on and then we’ll go on to the next topic.
Laura Hatch: It’s the lack of training. It literally is. I actually was at a seminar recently and the person speaking did mystery calls into dental offices live. Over the speaker system. Called offices in the area. It’s pathetic how little training we give our front. How much is a crown? Uh, I don’t know. What insurance do you have?
Laura Hatch: We go to insurance right away. We don’t train the team. They’re not confident. They don’t know how to convert new patients. We throw them to the phones which I think is the worst thing. You should be training your teams on how to handle. If you tell a patient no, a potential new patient calls in and asks any question. Do you take my insurance? Do you have weekend hours? Do you have evening hours? Whatever they’re asking. If you say no to that question, what do they want to do? They want to hang up.
Reese Harper: Hang up.
Laura Hatch: Oh, okay, I’ll call you back and now I’m not a big fan of scripts. I don’t think you should have to follow a script, but you should know how to convert that call to you taking control of the call, which means you have to say yes or something positive. So, yes, that’s a great question or yes, we work with most insurances or yes, I’ll answer that question for you. Let me ask you a few questions and then take control of that call. Patients only know two things when they’re calling your office. They know their pocketbook, and their insurance book. They don’t know to ask, “Are you a good dentist?” They’re asking-
Reese Harper: What’s the difference between two prices that I might see?
Laura Hatch: Exactly.
Reese Harper: Everyone assumes that, everyone compares things on price. My business it happens, every day.
Laura Hatch: They say, “Do you take my insurance?” That’s insurance book. “How much is a crown?” “Do you have weekend or Saturdays?” That’s their pocketbook. They don’t want to take time off of work. They’re only asking that because that’s all they know. That’s all they know and if we go right to insurance or money with them, they ran control on that call, we didn’t. We need to train our team members answering the phones that’s all they know. Don’t go “Oh my gosh. Everyone’s about price.” It’s cause that’s all the patients know to ask. That’s okay. But we need to be smarter about it and convert the calls, so we’re taking control, saying “Why are you calling? What did you need? How can we help you?” Get them to schedule versus letting them run control of the call.
Reese Harper: That’s great and I think there’s a ton of resources that I know are on your site to help people be able to do that. What’s a second topic that’s top of mind? I’m reaching out to sign up for your service. What’s the likely, another thing that I’m probably doing that for?
Laura Hatch: This is a newer one. Probably in the last year or so with the introduction, a lot of my clients have Dental Intel. Dental Intel is opening the eyes, if you don’t know they’re a metric software that runs on the practice management software. They’re opening eyes to the fact that most offices are shrinking because they’re losing so many patients out of the back door. Everyone’s focused on new patients. We need more new patients, we need more new patients which is important, but if you’re getting 50 new patients but you’re losing 60, 65 every month because they’re inactivating. They haven’t been in in 18 months, you’re shrinking.
Laura Hatch: What I found with working with Dental Intel is the majority of offices that sign up are finding that they’re losing more patients than they’re getting. So then they go, “Ah, what do you we do?” How do we fix this? I think there’s two reasons that we lost patients. It’s our systems and it’s our customer service. That’s the two areas that we’re really focusing on with our clients is we can teach you the systems and the customer service need. Patients they don’t like to come to the dentist. I know that’s a shock to everybody, but they don’t like drills and needles in their mouth.
Reese Harper: Surprise.
Laura Hatch: They don’t like to spend money. They’re going to find every reason to not schedule their next appointment. We have to have the strong systems in place, and we have to train our team on customer service because they are judging us on experience. If they come in, and they don’t get a great experience and then your team’s not really good at the verbal skills of how to get them to schedule their next appointment or handle their finances, then they’re not going to schedule, right?
Laura Hatch: We’re really starting to find more and more offices are going, “Oh, we have a back door problem.” That’s completely what the rest of my videos, the Front Office, the receptionist is focused on phones, and the rest is focused on keeping the … You spent money to get those new patients in, now they’re so valuable to keep them. Keep them in the practice.
Reese Harper: Yeah, it’s critical. I guess what do you find the biggest gap is that’s causing people to not keep patients on the back end?
Laura Hatch: It’s really training. I keep coming down to it. Right? An example of this, I believe the hardest, patients are going out of the back door because they don’t have their next appointment scheduled. I believe the hardest appointment to get a patient to schedule for is their six month re-care. At six months from now, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in six months. In their mind, it’s just a cleaning. I’ll call you. If your team isn’t really trained on the importance, the why behind why we have to get them scheduled, and they don’t have the verbal skills around how to get them scheduled, you’ll find that patients, maybe you had 20 patients today that came in to re-care and only five scheduled their next appointment. It’s because your team wasn’t trained on the important of making sure we get those patients scheduled and how to do it. That’s what we train.
Laura Hatch: We give examples, and the importance behind it and why it’s important. If you think about how your team’s been trained, more than likely you’ve said, “Make sure they always leave with their next appointment.” You go in the back and here’s your person, and I’m not knocking our team members, but I’ve got a 22 year old who’s in front, talking to a 60 year old man. I go, “Okay, you need to schedule your next appointment.” “I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in six months from now. I’ll call you.” They leave.
Laura Hatch: You come out and you go, “Why didn’t they schedule?” “They didn’t really want to schedule today. They’re going to call us.” Then the next thing you know, 80% of your patients didn’t schedule today. When we’re teaching, training anybody on our team anything, we should teach the why. Right? As a new receptionist or a hygiene scheduler or whatever, I may not know why. You come up. The hygienist told you why you should come in six months. You come to me and if I haven’t been trained on why, I just know I’m supposed to schedule you and you go, “Oh, I might be traveling. I’ll call you.” I’m going to go, “Okay,” because I don’t understand the bigger why.
Laura Hatch: Ultimately, the why is to help our patients keep their teeth for life. Ultimately, it’s to help our patients live a longer and better life. If I know that my job is to get that patient to schedule so I can help them keep their teeth for life and keep them healthy, that’s a way bigger purpose for me than it’s just because that’s my job. My job is scheduling. That’s the first part.
Laura Hatch: The second is I think the entire team needs to be trained in all these aspects because for hygiene for example, it shouldn’t just come from the hygienist. It should be from the dentist. It should be from the scheduler, it should be from the receptionist, it should be from whoever talks to the patients along the way about the importance of hygiene. If you hear it enough and then everybody understands the why behind it, you have a higher chance that we’re going to get you to schedule as a patient because you’ve heard it and it’s the systems and the communication and the customer service of what we put in front of you. You’re going to do it, right?
Reese Harper: I think as long as you’ve got multiple people reinforcing that same message, you’re more likely to get buy in and then if I come in 18 months later and I haven’t had visits in that interim period-
Laura Hatch: We’re going to reiterate it then.
Reese Harper: I need you to reiterate that to me, right? So that I know you’re actually paying attention and that you care and that it actually … It matters. If I don’t feel like it matters, then I’ll just go another 18 months. I don’t know. I’m still the dumb, I’m talking about me specifically, uneducated dental patient that says, “If there’s no pain then …” I’m actually a little better than that personally at this point.
Laura Hatch: You should be right? Your dentist is listening. Like, “Come on Reese.”
Laura Hatch: But honestly, again, let’s say a patient falls off the wagon. They cancel their appointment and now it’s 13, 14, 15, 16 months. Reactivation is the lowest thing on the list of things to do in the front office. We are so busy in the front office. We have to verify benefits, confirm appointments, do case presentations. All of that, but trying to get you back in. Now it’s been 15 months and you haven’t come in. Me calling you is the lowest thing on our list. Maybe we have an email that goes out or whatever, but we get busy.
Laura Hatch: The issue about that, the big problem with that is if I don’t call you on a regular basis, I suggest at least once a month plus an email to follow up, or text or something. You go, “Well it must not be that important.”
Reese Harper: Yeah, exactly.
Laura Hatch: Now it’s been 15 months, 16 months, 17 months. Again, what’s the why behind my phone call? The why behind my phone call isn’t, is not, to fill the chair. It’s not for production. It’s because my job is to help you keep your teeth for life. Now production, collections, all of the numbers we track is the way we represent how well we’re doing at our jobs. But I need to understand why it’s important that I’m chasing you down for this appointment to get you in.
Laura Hatch: I hear all the time about millennials, millennials. If you give a millennial the why, if they really understand what we’re doing here, they’re going to be your best workers.
Reese Harper: They’ll embrace it.
Laura Hatch: If you just tell them pick up the phone and call 25 people today because that’s your job, forget it.
Reese Harper: Yeah they want that purpose. If we go back to them main reasons why people are reaching out, we’ve hit two big ones. What’s a third one that might be another topic that’s low hanging fruit pain that people probably have experienced?
Laura Hatch: I think it’s really, honestly the connection between the front and the back. It’s the my front office team and my back office team, they’re not communicating. They’re not working well together. The dentist is not talking to the team about what the dentist goals are and then the team not knowing what the dentist wants. A lot of times, I talk about this, that we need to have the same goal. We need to have the same intention. If we’re not working towards the same goal, then we’re all working towards something else.
Laura Hatch: There’s a lot of offices that are busy. You walk into your dental office, they’re busy. Everyone’s busy. At the end of the day, you’re like what did we produce or collect? It’s like, “That’s it?” Because everybody’s in their own area doing their things, whatever their tasks are which is part of our jobs. If we’re not working towards the same goal, we’re working either towards something else or against each other. We have a lot of issues in dental offices where it’s the assistants don’t get along with the hygienists, the front and the back, whatever it is. If we’re not working as a team, which ultimately our goal should be working towards our patients, for our patients. That’s what our jobs are is to help our patients.
Reese Harper: How do I pragmatically get them on the same page?
Laura Hatch: Yeah, the first thing is communication. Communication, education, training. When I say communication, dentists don’t communicate enough. If you think you’re communicating enough, you’re probably not. I have team members that come to me and say, “I don’t know how my dentist thinks I’m doing.” When’s the last time you tried to talk to your dentist? Right? There’s not enough communication in the office.
Laura Hatch: Second is education meaning education around where are we going with our practice? What’s our goal? What do we want to do? How are we going to get there? A lot of people don’t know. A lot of dentists don’t know. There’s great podcasts and stuff out there, but are you educating your team?
Laura Hatch: Then last is training. You might go to education. You might go to a great seminar or listen to those podcasts, but then are you giving the training to your team or to yourself? Think of it as a dentist. You might get the education that you want to implement Cad/Cam in your practice. Then you need to go get the training. You go and spend this time, and money, and effort to do it and then you come back to your team and you go, “Here you go. We have same day dentistry. Let’s go.”
Laura Hatch: You haven’t communicated it to them and you didn’t educate them and you didn’t train them. It’s probably going to fail. Or you’re not going to implement it well.
Reese Harper: If you could create an ideal set of roles for front, if you could do it from scratch because you’ve done two scratch starts yourself, how would you divvy that up? Would that depend on the person’s strengths? Would you really be that flexible? Or you say no, I’m going to try to have one person that does these three activities or these two activities. How would you break that down?
Laura Hatch: Okay and that’s how my website is actually broken up and the book. My book that I wrote is broken up. Most dental offices start with one person in the front. I was the one person when we started both times. As the one person, I’m doing it all. I’m wearing different hats. At some point I’m doing one thing. At another point I’m doing another thing. If you start with one person, or you have five people, we’re going to have the same duties. Let’s first define what those duties are.
Laura Hatch: The way I’ve broken it down is you have receptionist. That’s the greeter, the phone, the first impression for the patients. You have the treatment coordinator, the scheduler, the financial coordinator and then the office manager or somebody running the show. I have those broken up so if I’m calling on insurances, calling on claims. I’m the financial coordinator. If I’m sitting with a patient and trying to get them to accept the treatment and talking about their out of pocket, I’m the treatment coordinator. If I’m trying to fill the schedule or keep people in the schedule, I’m the scheduler. The reason I say that that’s important is because we have to … I shouldn’t be answering the phone like a financial coordinator. I should be answering the phone like a receptionist. Two different types of personalities. Right?
Laura Hatch: Sometimes in the front, we have to do it all. Now, as we grow, we have two people in the front. Who’s good at what? Or what role do you like? What I normally do, as I grew my practice, is if I had one person, I’d say, “Okay, what do you love about your job?” “I love greeting patients. I love the phones. I love this.” Great. You’re going to do this. What don’t you love? “I hate the financial part.” Great. We’re going to find somebody whose good at that. That’s how I would say we would grow the team. Let’s go find somebody who’s really good with numbers or detail.
Laura Hatch: A lot of offices have two, three, four people. You can’t have two, or three, four people doing everything. Each person should have their own responsibility. If I have five people, I’m going to have a financial coordinator and a scheduler and a receptionist. We’re all cross trained. We all jump and answer the phones. We all help schedule patients. But as the office manager, if I want to know what’s going on with the schedule, I’m going to go to you as my scheduler. I’m not going to go ask … If not, you have five people going “I don’t know. She, I, uh,” right? We need to have somebody accountable and then that way, if I’m the scheduler let’s say and five people are in the schedule, and something’s going wrong with the schedule, somebody canceled, I’m going to come to you and say, “What happened to this appointment?” It’s my responsibility.
Laura Hatch: If I’m the receptionist, and the phones aren’t getting answered, and I need help, I’m going to go, “Hey, I need some help with the phones.” Versus having five people all doing everything.
Reese Harper: To repeat for people who are just listening and got lost. You went through it really quick at the beginning, we have reception. That involves all the phone skills, greetings, and patients interactions. Is that sometimes difficult to cram onto one person’s plate because if I have a really busy office, and the phone’s ringing a lot, but I’m also supposed to be trying to take care of the patients in the receptionist area and people are walking in the door, some ball’s going to drop. Is that one easy to keep on one person’s plate?
Laura Hatch: It depends on the office. Again, if your phones, we already talked about this earlier, if your phones are not getting answered, that’s a problem.
Reese Harper: You got to own phones.
Laura Hatch: Yeah.
Reese Harper: If something has to wait, you’ll greet the patient coming in the door after the phones are answered and you’ve got a second.
Laura Hatch: I’m going to say, “Welcome to the practice. Give me one second.” I’m going to answer the phone, I’m going to take a message or whatever. Then I’m going to greet the patient, but what I’m not going to do is ignore the patient walking in. I ignore the phone because I’m on the phone with an insurance company. I will hang up with an insurance company before-
Reese Harper: You can deal with that later.
Laura Hatch: Receptionist. Then I have scheduler. Somebody who is responsible for the schedule. As the office grows, that might grow into two schedulers. We had a doctor scheduler, and a hygiene scheduler because we had three doctors, three hygienists. That might grow. But somebody who’s ultimately responsible for the schedule.
Laura Hatch: Financial coordinator. That’s the person whose responsible for finances. Your outstanding insurance, your statements to patients. Balances. Many times that’s also somebody who is your treatment coordinator, depending on the size of the practice. But when I’m the financial coordinator, my goal is to get AR down. I want to have the lowest amount of money outstanding.
Laura Hatch: When I’m the treatment coordinator, my goal is case acceptance. I have to talk about money. I have to talk about insurance and all of that, but ultimately, it’s about case acceptance. That’s why I have those divvied out as separate. Financial and treatment.
Laura Hatch: Then office manager. I’m not saying you have to have an office manager. I know there’s some people who … There’s pros and cons to it, but you do need somebody as your practice grows who’s watching the operation of the practice.
Reese Harper: Saying all of these people are fulfilling their role, or you’ve got to own it yourself. But if you’re buried with production then eventually there’s not really one leader, right? Is what you’re saying.
Laura Hatch: Yeah because when you’re a dentist, you should be a dentist.
Reese Harper: An office manager could wear two hats. It seems to me dangerous and I’ve heard this go both ways. I want your candid opinion. I’ve heard people say, “You know what? I don’t believe in office managers. Office manager’s not a thing.” There’s roles and then there’s … In my experience, I think people that say that typically haven’t got an operation that’s very big.
Laura Hatch: Right.
Reese Harper: The bigger the operation gets, there’s a point where it’s like professional management is needed desperately. That’s what the whole, like MBA students, just go on to become professional managers. There’s really jobs for them and a lot of them because at some point organizations get to the point where it’s like there’s this person whose over the people.
Laura Hatch: Your practice may not be growing because of that fact. If you’re trying to fill that role or there’s not somebody watching the business, putting out fires, looking for goals, scheduling goals, doing training, setting meetings. It’s not happening.
Reese Harper: It sounds to me like your personal opinion would lean more towards the, there is such a thing as an office manager.
Laura Hatch: I am a member of the American Association of Dental Office Management, so yes. AADOM is my favorite organization. Yeah.
Laura Hatch: I do think that-
Reese Harper: Who says there shouldn’t be one? What scenarios is it valid for them to have that opinion? I don’t think that these doctors are saying I don’t need systems and I don’t need accountability at the role level. I think they’re just saying this is a lateral organization with people that have these jobs.
Laura Hatch: I guess I could say a smaller office? Right? One that’s maybe not going to grow or wants to be at a certain level or a dentist who’s really involved.
Reese Harper: Involved. Yeah.
Laura Hatch: If there’s a dentist, if somebody had your knowledge and you were a dentist, and you would be running the office.
Reese Harper: It could work and I could … Ultimately, I would still choose to have one because I want my time back and I know I could use it more productively if I was producing. I feel like there’s-
Laura Hatch: I think times are changing. I think what we look at as office managers now is not the same as what they looked at office managers 10, 15, 20 years ago. I do feel like, I mentioned eight on that organization and what I’ve seen with larger corporate dentists and group practices is office managers aren’t the one that handles the patient with the bill and the grouchy patient. We are actually part of growing the practice and having goals and systems and numbers. We have a different role.
Laura Hatch: It’s kind of like a dental spouse, right? I was a dental spouse for 20 years. The old idea of a dental spouse was we came in and we hung pictures and decorated and we left. Now a lot of dental spouses are very involved in the business. I think it’s changing and evolving.
Reese Harper: I’m going to, Laura did not get any prep for any of these questions.
Laura Hatch: Oh, boy.
Reese Harper: She’s going way off the reservation. Give you tons of value here. The one thing, here’s one thing I want to … You don’t do this and I’m going to ask you something that you don’t do and I want you to respond on the spot. Let’s go to the receptionist role. Receptionist role, we have to pick one to two performance indicators that define whether this person is doing a good job. What would some things be that come to mind? I’m just asking you to spitball this.
Reese Harper: As a receptionist role, what are some of the things that define whether I’m doing a good job at that role? I’m greeting. I’m answering phones. How do I measure whether I’m doing good in that role?
Laura Hatch: Well, I would say first of all, phones answered. Number one. If your phones aren’t being answered, and you’re the receptionist, right?
Reese Harper: If you’re a doctor that doesn’t know how to track or doesn’t have a system that helps him track whether the phone’s actually being answered, that’s going to be hard to hold your team accountable to that measure, right?
Laura Hatch: Yeah, you need to have a system in there. There’s so much available. If we were talking 10 years ago, it’d be different, but now there’s no excuse not to have your phones answered.
Reese Harper: I think people probably have the ability to get access to that information. I don’t know if they know how or check it. This is a way for us to brainstorm whether we-
Laura Hatch: Reach out to Front Office Rocks and we can help you get connected, right?
Reese Harper: That’s one. Is there another indicator that you’d say I like this one whether someone’s doing a good job with the phone?
Laura Hatch: If they’re the main new patient converter, if you don’t have a new patient coordinator or something like that, it’s going to be new patient conversion. If you’re getting … Let’s say I have two people answering the phones and 10 potential new patients called in today. You only converted two, but somebody else converted eight. You’re not going to convert every new patient, but I want to see that you’re converting a good percentage of them.
Reese Harper: It’s critical.
Laura Hatch: If your role is new patients, if you’re handling new patient calls, then I’m going to track your new patient conversion.
Reese Harper: Okay. Second role, we now move to-
Laura Hatch: You are putting me on the spot, aren’t you?
Reese Harper: Yeah. Second role, we now move to scheduler.
Laura Hatch: Scheduler. Yep.
Reese Harper: What is one or two indicators that I’m using for that?
Laura Hatch: Like I said earlier, ultimately our goal is helping our patients keep their teeth for life, and the way we measure that is by production. For a scheduler, for me, it’s going to be production. I break up the hygiene scheduler versus doctor scheduler the bigger we get. Doctor scheduler production, 100% production. But it doesn’t mean are you 100% full. You could be productive and not busy the entire time. Doctors, you don’t have to be busy all the time to be productive.
Laura Hatch: It’s production for doctors. For hygiene, it’s both production and schedule full. I don’t want to have a hygienist sitting around for two or three hours with no production in their schedule, right? It’s ultimately, that’s why we split it up because as a scheduler, with my doctors it’s production, with my hygiene I want it full as much as possible. So percentage of the schedule full.
Reese Harper: Well, Laura, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for wrapping that up. There’s some great final thoughts there and giving us a chance to be able to cover advice and content and your wealth of knowledge. I really think that you’ve got a product in the market that gives people a great value, and it comes from a lot of hard work and experience. Congratulations for getting it out there, and we look forward to having you back on the show.
Reese Harper: Again, do you have any other parting thoughts you’d like to leave with the audience before we let them go?
Laura Hatch: I think, I’m not a money person like you, but I think my money tip is your biggest investment. Your best investment’s in your team. That’s your biggest overhead. Invest in your team. Communicate with your team. They want to support you, as a dentist. They do. Give them some numbers. Give them game. Have some fun and train them and teach them and you’re going to see that your team, they want to get out there and win with you.
Reese Harper: Thanks Laura. I really appreciate you taking the time. Look forward to having you back on here soon.
Laura Hatch: Thank you. It was fun.
Reese Harper: Thanks again to Laura for spending time with us and thanks to you for listening.Practice Management