20 min readThe Jameson Files 114: Rebuild Your Systems and Practice After COVID

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

New Content and Tools Post-COVID

Hi there. I’m Carrie Webber with Jameson and we are so excited to finally be back at recording content for the Jameson files podcast. It’s been some time since we have shifted our focus back to our podcast, and we’re ready to start building new content and tools for those of you that are choosing to follow our podcast and listen along.

So welcome back to the Jameson files as we’re recording this today, this is August, 2020. So we are still well in the midst of the coronavirus season and what we’ve all been struggling with in the dental profession, in terms of staying steady, staying stable and working back toward practice growth and development, while also protecting our teams and our patients through the coronavirus era. What I want you all to begin considering is to think about where you are today versus where you were three months ago.

Re-channel Energy, Assess Practice Fatigue

You’ve probably made great strides. You probably have had some very busy months bringing patients back into the practice and getting your schedule back on track. And some areas may be revealing themselves for the future that could be bringing you anxiety or stress. Or you may be even feeling tired.

So what we’re going to be talking about today is how to shift the sense of practice fatigue that you may be feeling into proactive focus. We want to re-channel our energy as best as we can to re-energize, refocus, and continue to rebuild our practices as effectively as possible. So, my question for you today is where is your practice, or where are you as a practice leader, feeling fatigued.

There may be some areas in your practice that you just don’t have the energy to deal with right now.

  • Your team is wearing thin.
  • There’s an obstacle that you keep bumping up against.
  • You’re seeing something in the future that’s causing you stress.
  • Maybe it’s in your schedule or something else that you just don’t feel like you have the energy to attack right now.

Assess Your Team’s Needs

So the question is, where are you feeling fatigued and where can we, as practice leaders, re-shift and refocus to get back on track and continue to build and grow together. So some areas of focus that we’re starting to uncover with our clients, I thought could be helpful for all of you, for us, to discuss together in this episode.

The first area of focus that I want us to tap is the area of communication to educate and to motivate. Some things that we hear frequently are struggles you’ve gone through. Maybe some of your patients are highly motivated that really wanted to get their appointments back on track.

But you may be finding yourself faced with resistant patients now, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps because it’s been so long; perhaps because they have anxiety. Whatever the case may be.

Ask Questions

We’re finding ourselves bumping up against that obstacle from time to time. Whoever coordinates scheduling in your practice can get worn and fatigued when they’re faced with that kind of conversation day after day.

So my questions for you:

  • Is your team spread too thin on imperative areas of communicated focus, and are they struggling in the skills to do it successfully?
  • Is your schedule starting to cause anxiety and stress either because it’s too full or it’s starting to appear to empty?
  • Where do you need to refocus as a team, as a practice, so you can go through your dental days better than you are right now?

One thing we’re seeing with our clients across the country is that you have a lot of new responsibilities. Maybe things that were always a part of your practice but now take more time.

They’re a little bit more laborious in nature than perhaps they were historically. So we need to make sure we have identified in our practice, the champions that are going to lead the way in specific areas of practice processes and systems. That will help them go as smoothly and as successfully as possible.

Review Schedules for COVID-related Time Blocks

One specific area is your schedule. Your scheduling coordinator, who is first at bat (and always at bat) to help make sure your schedule is as healthy as it can be. This person needs to be blocking appropriate time in the schedule for your appointments.

And more than likely, as you came back from Coronavirus being closed down, you were giving yourself a significant amount of time to offset all of the additional processes you needed to put into place. Now may be a good time to review those blocked times, to make sure you’re being as effective and as efficient as possible while also still honoring those steps.

Continue taking some time and motion studies if you’ve ever done one of those. (If you’re a Jameson client, you’ve probably worked through some of these with your advisor to make sure that you are scheduling appropriately for the appointments at hand.) This will be helpful in making sure you’re on track in your schedule.

Segment Your Patient Base

Tier One

Remember, as you were coming back and reopening, we wanted you to prioritize who you were reaching out to because you were so overwhelmed with how many to reschedule, right? Those tier-one patients were the ones that had the most urgent need to come in and have their dentistry completed.

Tier Two

Tier two may be what you’re starting to see at this point. These are patients that had dentistry diagnosed, but had not yet been scheduled or had not completed their scheduled treatment plan. This is a perfect opportunity for you to run those reports and see what patients had dentistry that they’ve accepted, but have not completed.

And how can we help motivate them? Through effective communication skills and a heightened vocabulary that builds a value for those appointments to get them into the practice and get that dentistry complete.

Tier Three

Your tier three patients are the ones that may be more in a maintenance-mode historically. But remember these patients. Even if they have a healthy mouth and teeth and smile at this point, they still need to see the value of being actively involved in hygiene.

So we want to make sure we’re starting to build that value, getting them back into the schedule as well. If you’re looking forward into your schedule, you’re likely seeing that the big pause in the spring is now going to be impacting your schedule in the fall.

Filling the Hygiene Schedule

So what we want to make sure we’re doing is proactively looking forward. Scheduling coordinators should look for opportunities to fill that schedule as soon as possible.

We want to make sure that those hygiene schedules are full, which is where the next person, the next champion on your team, is going to be key. Do you have a hygiene-retention coordinator in place that is ultimately helping lead the practice forward, and keeping the hygiene schedules full and productive, and keeping your patients active in hygiene?

If you don’t have a champion assigned at this point to take care of hygiene, retention now would be a great time to examine who could possibly be a great person on your team to help lead that process forward more effectively. This is going to take time on the telephone. This is going to be taking time pulling reports either from your practice management software or from your patient communication software. Some can do this for you, but also from your dashboard tools that you may have.

Jameson clients, you may be using the dashboard system that we utilize through Practice by Numbers. And if you’re not one of our clients, you may have something like Dental Intel.

There’s several dashboards that can help you pull very effective reports to help you be as impactful as possible on identifying the best people to reach out to first and trying to get them into their hygiene schedule.

Teamwork and Communication

It’s important that we think about and work together as a team on the way we communicate in patient reappointing. If this is an area where you’re struggling with your scheduling coordinators, your hygienists, as you’re trying to reschedule patients, or get your schedule back on track, try the following.

One area you may find to be an obstacle is really building that value for that patient to re-engage the practice. And this is where your verbal skills and your ability to effectively communicate and work through their concerns is going to be key. This is why you more than likely, you’re going to need a little bit more time working on these systems in your practice, and also having the tools available to help you do that as well.

If you aren’t utilizing your patient communication software as effectively as possible, I highly encourage that you take some demos, get some instruction, make sure you’re utilizing those tools to help you through to confirmations But more often than not at this time, you’re more than likely going to need to get on the telephone and have some conversations with your patients to get them reengaged and rebuild the value of those appointments with them.

You’ve more than likely seen a great deal of the highest, most urgent needs. So now we need to make sure these patients are educated on the risks of not proceeding with the diagnosed treatment that they have waiting to be completed. That’s that tier-two group that I talked about, those patients that have diagnosed treatment, but at this point it’s incomplete. So we want to make sure that we’re working on our verbal skills.

Role Play

The best way to do this is to work as a team and role play together. Have a conversation at your next team meeting about the obstacles, the objections, the pushback that you may be receiving, scheduling coordinators and business administrators.

When you’re calling to reschedule, confirm, or reappoint patients, we want to be working together on worst / best case scenarios and the verbal skills that are going to help us move those patients forward into the schedule. We also want to make sure that we’re heightening our vocabulary so that we’re building the value of those appointments. So they not only schedule the appointment, but they also keep the appointment.

I encourage you to go to our growth platform, the Jameson grow platform, and look in our webinars. We have some specifically in the patient communication realm to help you learn more about those verbal skills and perhaps give you some nuggets of information that could be helpful as you, as a teamwork better together on refining your verbal skills.

Overall, this is going to help you keep that appointment book, not only keeping those patients on the schedule, but helping them keep those appointments.

Rewarding the Team

Another question I want you to start considering as an area that you may be experiencing fatigue in as a practice is in the area of the processes and systems that you have put into place. You may see that some of those areas that have needed extra care over the last several months need our attention still today. And it can become tiresome. It’s a lot of extra steps. It’s extra work, it’s extra intention, it’s extra effort, and we want to make sure we’re continuing to reward work well done.

So how are you practice leaders recognizing and emphasizing the things your team is doing and that they’re doing well. We want to make sure that we’re filling their cups, so to speak and encouraging them to keep on doing the good work.

It can often be felt that, well, if they’re not even recognizing that I’m doing in any of this, do I need to be doing it at all? And the answer is yes, we want them to continue to do the good work and do it well and be motivated to do so.

Now, when I say reward work well done, I’m not saying that you’re throwing cash at them or gifts. If you’re a gift giver, that’s great. But what I’m actually speaking toward is recognition and appreciation. That which is rewarded is repeated. Kathy Jameson says that all the time, that which is rewarded is repeated and what we mean by that in the simplest of ways is that what you are verbally recognizing concrete, positive things that people are doing on your team to help benefit the practice when we recognize them.

That which is rewarded is repeated.

– Kathy Jameson

As we show gratitude for them more than likely, they’re going to continue to do more of that. The things that we recognize are good, and we celebrate together, we’re going to do more of that. And we want to continue to keep your practice and your team motivated to do the extra steps that they’ve been doing and keep the energy up. If they’re feeling fatigued, if you sense fatigue or apathy, if we want to make sure that they stay motivated, we have to take the time to motivate them.

Beware!

And that can’t be done through empty comments here and there, or no comments at all, or focusing, always on the things we need to work on. We need to reward the progress we’re making as well, recognize work well done. We want to emphasize the why behind the what. Maybe you put new systems into place. Maybe you’ve put a new process into your practice. Several of you may be implementing new systems that you’ve always needed.

Nothing reveals the cracks in our businesses like a strenuous time that we’ve all been going through. So you may have noticed areas that you needed to shore up and you’ve perhaps implemented new processes just because they have needed them. After all of this time, we need to be communicating the why behind the what continuously, even after that process has been implemented.

If it’s something new, if it’s an extra step, if it’s something that takes a little extra work, we want to be encouraging them through remembering why we have chosen to implement this process in the first place. Whether it is something that is reflective of our practice values, whether it’s helping us move forward closer toward our practice vision, perhaps it helps us with those core values of why and how we take care of our patients. It helps us fulfill our mission, whatever that may be.

We want to get comfortable and consistent at communicating the why behind the what regularly. This helps to offset any question in the backs of our minds as a teammate of why did we do this in the first place? It’s just more work. I don’t understand. And we can often become fatigued or frustrated in those extra steps when we don’t truly understand or are reminded of why this was brought to the table in the first place.

So I encourage you to clearly communicate as a team and as a leader to your team, the why behind the what, in terms of things that you have implemented in the past year that have worked toward, and for the benefit of the practice of the team, of your business and for your patients. It’s important as leaders that we remember, we must represent the behavior. We wish to see your team members are going to mirror your behavior.

Lead by Example

So if there are things that you have put into place in your practice and expectations that you have set for your team and you, as the leader are not reflecting those expectations in your own performance and behavior, fatigue is going to come quickly. And those processes are going to dissolve and fall away because there’s no real motivation to do something that the leader is not even doing. If I’m showing up late to the meetings, why can’t everyone show up late to the meetings? If I’m coming to the practice, I’m prepared, why can’t everyone else? If I’m skipping over this piece of the protocol and process, why do I have to, why does my team have to do those things? So remember, great leaders are reflective of the expectations that they expect of their team. So make sure that you take a good look at your own performance and your own behaviors.

If you’re sensing apathy fatigue, if you’re sensing low performance or resistance, take a look at how your performing first step up your game in any areas that you know, these are processes that need to be done, and I need to be doing them better because I want my team to be doing this. We need to make sure that we are reflecting the expectation.

What About the Unexpected?

My next question for you is, are you getting blindsided by questions, obstacles, and decisions that you didn’t plan on? What I mean by this is something that we’re hearing from time to time is perhaps you’ve had a team member test positive for COVID. Perhaps you’ve had some obstacles that you’ve run into with patients or resistance that you weren’t expecting, but we didn’t have processes in place and how to communicate that we didn’t have protocols in place for how we were going to deal with that.

If your patients are being, are you finding that they’re upset or they’re not keeping their appointments? How could we be communicating more effectively about their appointments? Are we setting up their expectations for what their appointments are going to be like as effectively and clearly as possible? Do we have processes in place or are we dealing with those moments on the fly? Because we didn’t plan for them.

Are we finding ourselves faced with issues regarding COVID-19 within our practice, that we don’t know how to deal with them or answer the questions about them or handle those issues appropriately? Because we don’t have a plan. I want you to start thinking ahead as a leader on what you need to plan for.

We want to expect the best and set goals for the best, but we also need to be planning and visualizing for what could happen in a time like this. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but we want to try and be as prepared as possible with the advisors and the industry experts.

And those that are doing the good hard work to give us guides on how to do this and do this safely and well, and make sure we have plans in place that we are prepared. And we are clear. We need to have processes and protocols in place. And we want to have those communicated clearly to your team before you need them.

If we’re communicating clearly to our team, what are expectations? What are going to be the processes? How are we going to walk our patients through appointments? How are we going to communicate to them? How are we going to handle these issues? Should they come to pass? What will be expected of the team? If we work on that and get everyone on the same page and get very clear through those processes beforehand, then we have the playbook that we can all reference and no one’s blindsided, upset or surprised with what they have to deal with. Should those issues come to be, we want to set the expectations now, and we want to offset apathy and resistance immediately.

Did I Mention Communication?

Something I’m also hearing a lot is a lot of resistance or apathy, or a little bit of confusion between leaders and their teams. And more than likely, this could be a perfect textbook case of miscommunication or lack of communication. During times of crisis. During times of change, you cannot over communicate. It may feel like you’re over-communicating. You may be sick of hearing yourself, say all of these things or putting all of this on the table for your, for your team, for your patients or whatever the case may be. But we cannot over communicate to our team at this time, especially if you’re trying to initiate any type of change, that change curve is going to be steep for some of your team members.

They may not hear it the first time. They not hear it the third time, but we need to be consistent communicators. We want to have the proper protocols and processes thought out, mapped out and available to our teams.

So we’re setting those expectations. Those are three areas that we see frequently causing practice and leader fatigue. If the leaders are feeling fatigued, if the team is feeling fatigued, if everyone as a whole is starting to feel fatigued and overwhelmed, oftentimes it’s because we don’t have the clear communications in place, both in patient communication and team, we don’t have the champions in place to help us lead processes effectively.

When it comes to scheduling, when it comes to retention, when it comes to setting up expectations and value with the patients about their appointments, we also see a lot of fatigue in terms of not knowing the why behind what we’re doing any longer, and also not feeling recognized for the efforts being put forth that are good, so rewarding that which is repeated. And we also are seeing a lot of fatigue by being constantly blindsided by what’s coming next, or the obstacles we run into as we try to initiate change for the better in our practices.

You Can Rebuild!

So I encourage you as we wrap up this session to look into your practice systems, protocols, the behaviors of your team, even your own behaviors. As you wake up on a Monday morning, preparing yourself to go into the practice. What are the areas that you are feeling fatigued and how can you turn that practice fatigue into proactive focus, more than likely. Those are the areas that are causing you to be drained.

And if we can shore up the cracks, as I had mentioned, and work together as a team to be better, each win that you have beyond that moment is going to help build up and rebuild the energy and the focus of your team in a positive direction. I encourage you to go to grow.jmsn.com to find some of the resources we may have available to help you through this time in your practice.

And this season that you’re in. I also encourage you. If you’re looking for us to help you either identify the areas that are causing fatigue in your practice and the opportunities that may be available, or to brainstorm ways that we as advisors can support you and your team and reenergize you for the future.

As you rebuild the systems of your practice, it’d be my pleasure to schedule a discovery call with you to discuss your practice where you are today, where you ultimately want to go and how we can help you establish the steps to move forward. Thanks for joining me at the Jameson files. You can reach out to us at jmsn.com. And I’ll see you next time.

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