Okay, you have a dental practice, you have all the best equipment, a great computer system, a beautiful building, and all the protocols in place. Now what? You need a dynamic dental team to get you to the next level. Have you ever worked with a team member who had a negative attitude? Negative attitudes affect all areas of your practice, especially when it comes to collections and financial arrangements. One reason a negative environment can exist is due to a lack of systems. If there aren’t clear-cut job descriptions and duties, your dental team will lose focus and not be as prepared when faced with tough situations. When policies and procedures are not consistently followed, frustrations set in. There are several types of attitudes that will affect your systems negatively:
- The naysayer: ”That will never work here.” “We can’t do that.” ”Our patients will never go for that.” “Our patients have never paid at the time of service.”
- The complainer: ”Our patients never pay what they’re supposed to.” ”Doctor XYZ is always doing treatment without financial arrangements.” ”You always file these EOBs in the wrong place.”
- The martyr: ”That’s okay, I’ll send statements, I always end up doing it anyway.” ”I’ll put the supplies away, otherwise it will never get done.” “I don’t mind taking out the trash, I’m the only one who does it anyway.”
The most effective way to turn around a negative attitude is:
- Walk your talk. Presenting a positive environment in the office starts with the owner. The old saying “positive attitudes are contagious” is so true. When the doctor presents a positive environment and attitude it infects the entire team.
- Address negativity immediately. Gossiping is never healthy and should be addressed first in the employee manual, and next with the individual personally. Issues should be addressed early so there are not opportunities for them to “fester”.
- Reward good behavior, publicly and privately (depending on the team member’s personality style).
There are an equal number of attitudes that will affect a practice positively:
- The team player: ”To ease your day, I will confirm appointments for you.” ”Which patients need special conversations about FA’s today?” ”I’d be happy to escort the patient up to you personally.” Let’s see, I say “Lois is going to get a receipt for you, right?”
- Random acts of kindness:
1) Post-it notes with a positive message to the individual who acted unselfishly
2) A sincere smile
3) When you are finished with your task, help someone else out without being asked
- Positive reinforcement: Nothing is more rewarding than catching a team member doing something great. Make a positive statement to the team member when they were selfless or acted on behalf of someone else. This reinforces more positive behavior. The number one reason a staff member leaves is due to feeling unappreciated or feeling overworked. Remember team members, it’s a two-way street. Your boss needs positive reinforcement too.
To create the best team, strive for personalities who would work well together. One way to achieve this is to do a DiSC profile with each team member. This isn’t a test you can get wrong. In fact, the DiSC profile can be a wonderful tool to assess your patient’s personalities as well. This is an especially helpful tool to identify which person fits the financial coordinator best or to pre-identify possible challenges some patients may have with financial arrangements. When you identify someone’s personality trait, you have the opportunity to prepare in advance. For example, a patient who wants written guidelines for financial arrangements would have a “C” cautious, correct, perfectionist detail oriented listening style.
The four areas of the DiSC profile are:
D: Dominant, Direct
C: Cautious, Correct, Conscientious
The “D” personality has a tendency to have a very strong personality. They are results oriented and cut to the chase. Every office needs a “D” person because they get things done. However, this may not be the person to handle small details. Sometimes this personality can be perceived as abrasive, which wouldn’t work well with sensitive issues, such as financial arrangements.
The “i” personality is usually a very positive, enthusiastic glass is half-full personality. This is a great person to have at the front desk, especially when scheduling treatments. This personality is usually great with patients who need a little convincing to do their needed dental treatment. Attention to detail is usually a struggle for this individual and they tend to be slightly disorganized. It would be important to have written guidelines for tracking outstanding insurance claims, making collection calls, etc.
“S” personalities have great attention to detail and will be extremely thorough. They are very likable and tend to not want to rock the boat. Confrontation is difficult for this individual. This personality style would be very effective as a dental assistant because of the high empathy for the patient. Handling conflict is usually a challenge with this personality so role-playing how to handle a conflict would be helpful. For instance, the patient may say, “I’m not sure I can afford this crown. Can I make payments?” Role-playing would give an advanced opportunity to plan so there are no awkward moments.
“C” personalities are the most change resistant. They are perfectionists and highly analytical. These individuals are toughest on themselves and therefore are quite resistant to change. Researching claims, sending statements and all task-related jobs are easy for this type of individual because they plan ahead. However, when faced with change, like asking for payment at the time of service when you used to bill everyone, would be a challenge without a written plan.
Note: Any one of these personality styles can handle financial collection and responsibilities if they can recognize their typical personality style and make adjustments to accommodate. Also, your bottom line improves immediately when all parties participate. The first step is to establish written systems. The second step is to have great communications – recognize where you fall in the DiSC profile and learn to adapt. The DiSC profile is not meant to “pigeon hole” you into a specific personality. All of us have some aspect of each DiSC in them, but there is ultimately one that is more prevalent.
Using the DiSC profile can help a dental practice get on the right track with the best direction. This personality profile can help you understand each other and create an atmosphere for improved communication with patients. Statistics have proven your bottom line improves greatly when all systems are working and there is good communication. I always have dental teams take this profile test when I consult in their practice, along with filling out a confidential questionnaire. This helps me identify whether or not a team member is in the correct position for their personality, such as financial administrator or scheduling coordinator.
When relating to your patients I suggest devising a quick assessment plan, using the DiSC profile, to help you identify the patient’s personality. These are the patient’s hot buttons, what makes them decide to do, or not to do a treatment and how they intend to pay their bill. The motivators are pain, fear, money and time. If you were able to assess these “hot buttons” in advance you would be able to help your patient accept the appropriate treatment in his/her best interest or method of payment they will choose to use. For example, the patient expresses concern about the cost of treatment by saying, “That sounds like an awful lot of money, can I make monthly payments? Can you pre-estimate that?” Their hot button is money and they need more information. They would most likely be a “C” in the DiSC profile.
Many offices use the DiSC profile to determine how and where a team member fits best in the office. Additionally, a written job description will take the guesswork out of who is responsible for what job in the office. This job description should be included as part of the employee manual. In addition to that, a clear list of job duties for each position should be placed in writing. This eliminates much of the confusion that happens in a dental practice as it relates to responsibilities of various team members. A team can only take ownership when there are clearly written guidelines.
To sum it up, understanding the different types of personalities and how they relate to each other allows you to communicate more effectively. Treat others as you would want to be treated. How you incorporate these various principles can give your practice unlimited potential and improve your bottom line. The DiSC profile can be obtained by calling Banta Consulting, Inc. at 816-847-2055.
About the Author
Lois Banta is CEO, President and Founder of Banta Consulting, Inc., a company that specializes in all aspects of dental practice management. She also owns and is CEO of The Speaking Consulting Network (www.speakingconsultingnetwork.com). Lois has over 40 years of dental experience and consults and speaks nationwide. To contact Lois for a personal consultation or to invite Lois to speak to your organization; Office: 816/847-2055, Address: 33010 NE Pink Hill Rd, Grain Valley, MO 64029, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her website: www.bantaconsulting.com.