Nobody Should Ever Leave Your Practice

Here are some rules, both old and new, about practice and team behavior:

Nobody should ever leave your office without paying in full. (Why bill them? So you can guarantee that 10% of it won’t be collected?)

I think they meant "exciting", which would make this photo even less relevant.

I think they meant “exciting”, which would make this photo even less relevant.

Nobody should leave without having “checked in” on Facebook. (If you don’t know why or don’t know what I’m talking about, read this blog post, especially point #5.)

Nobody should leave without updating their cell phone number and email address and preferences. (This is so you can maximize Patient Activator or other digital communication software.)

Nobody should leave without their next appointment scheduled. (They all have smartphones with calendars.)

Nobody should leave with being asked to review the practice, or post a photo, video, or comment on Facebook/Google+. (Even though they should do the Google reviews from home, not through the office wi-fi–read this blog post to know why, and for more in-depth Google strategizing).

Nobody should leave your practice because their insurance changed without being told that they are always welcome to come back if they miss the care you’ve provided, and that they can always call you with questions when someone else recommends treatment. (This lets them know you care about them, not money, and that they don’t have to be embarrassed about leaving you because they were trying to save money.  Often, they will miss your care and go out-of-network to come back.)

Nobody should leave without a goody bag of some kind, ideally one with items appropriate for their treatment. (Like toothpaste, a toothbrush, travel floss, fluoride treatment, ibuprofen, and home-care instructions.)

Nobody should ever leave without a fond farewell and an expressed sentiment about their return. (“Great to see you! We look forward to seeing your pretty smiling face in six months!” This serves as a double-check on appointing them before they go.)

Most of you do some of these, most of the time.  Imagine if you did it with everyone, all the time. You’d collect 100% of your fees, grow your practice with new patients, save time at the front desk, and all your patients would feel valued and appreciated. Would that be so terrible? 😉

Have a few of your own? Post them in the comments!


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Time to Mobile-ize Your Website

WebDirector Mobile MenchuryanIf you’re not aware, we have just passed a point where there are more Internet searches done on smartphones than on computers. Quite simply, a phone is not really a phone anymore–it’s a web device.  And with more and more people getting 4G service on their phones, they are finding that their phones can search the Internet as fast or faster than the broadband they may have at home.

This has several implications, the first being that businesses are tailoring their websites for mobile phone layout.  Generally, your website provider has built a website that at least knows that it is being shown on a mobile device, and does some reformatting.  But now your mobile site is being compared with businesses who have totally revised their format and have a dedicated version of their website specifically for mobile devices.  In other words, you’re suffering by comparison if you’re not up to date.

Often your web designer will tell you that your website is “optimized” for mobile devices, and that may be true, but it may also mean that all they really did was shrink it.  This forces people to have to slide it in all different directions and stretch it to read the text.  This is no longer acceptable. Your website needs a dedicated mobile version, which completely rethinks what is presented and how people use the site.

So what should it be? First, it should have a very simple face page.  They should see your logo, a nice image, a button to touch to call your practice, a button for directions and a button to request an appointment.  And not much else.

Second, it should only scroll up and down, never needing to be moved from side to side.

Third, it should be easily readable without stretching.

Fourth, limit the content, and put easy buttons that open new pages that explain your various services.  The more involved aspects of your website should be deeper, or left out for viewers to find on a computer at another time. It’s easy to get to overkill on mobile content.

A new and very big change is that Google announced that they are going to be factoring in the speed at which your mobile website loads as part of your overall SEO.  So you could have a great website, with good content that changes often, and if your website is not in a dedicated format and chugs along trying to load for 30-45 seconds, you will lose a lot in your ranking.

Take a look now at how your website looks on a mobile phone, and watch how long it takes to load in a 3G environment.  If it doesn’t meet the above criteria, you need a new webmaster, or you need your webmaster to build you the appropriate mobile site.  This is not something you should wait on, as your website is the cornerstone of all your marketing at this point in time.

WebDirector builds websites that automatically include a dedicated mobile site like the one above, and other companies do as well. For more thoughts on what your website needs to be now to make Google and consumers happy, click to my previous blog on the subject here.


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Patients Are Kind of Like Pets

My dog begs. It’s no surprise–I trained her to do it.  It was easy. I barely had to spend any time doing it.  She also sleeps on the couch.  That was even easier to train her to do. I just allowed her to do it, and I was done!

This isn't my dog--it's a kangaroo.  Get real!

This isn’t my dog–it’s a kangaroo. Get real!

Very often, we complain about how patients behave, when in reality we taught them, or at least allowed them, to behave that way.  They cancel appointments at the last minute, they pay us when and if they feel like it, they make us contact them three times to confirm an appointment, they complain that their insurance doesn’t pay for everything, they get two years behind in their cleanings, they wear temporaries for six months.  You know what I’m talking about.

It takes more time and effort to train your dog to respect your dinner, and your carpet, and your couch.  But it’s usually worth it.  Same thing with patients.  My personal opinion is that there should be no such thing as accounts payable in a dental practice. Get paid for what you do when you do it. (I know, sounds craaaaaazy!)  For decades, we have trained patients that we will bill them later.  Many of them will even pay that bill. But I know many practices that are now getting the fee handled at chairside before starting the procedure. It can be done, and you end up getting 100% of your money.  You may not be ready for this, but in any case patients should never leave the office with a balance.

This same principle of retraining applies to missed appointments or last-minute cancellations. Hey, we all lead busy lives, and sometimes something comes up, and we all deserve a pass now and then.  But you know who your abusers are, and they are putting holes in your schedule that you can’t fill.  Now, I don’t believe in charging for missed appointments. That just loses the money and the patient.  But with your patients who take a casual view of your schedule, after the second time it happens I would tell them that you can no longer hold appointments for them unless they pre-pay.  You’re happy to call them if you have a last minute opening (from some other “casual” patient), but tell them that without enough notice, they are preventing you from taking care of other patients who need treatment and can show up, and show up on time.

I know that it’s hard to train existing patients who already have the wrong behavior.  So why not at least start with your new patients? Train them the right way from the first visit. Within a year or two you will have had a significant impact on the activity in your office, and most likely in your productivity as well.  You’ve only got so many hours a week to treat patients, and every gap in the schedule is a treatment you can’t do and revenue you won’t generate.

So decide how you want your ideal patient to behave, and reinforce that good behavior by giving them great care.  Don’t make me send you a new puppy.


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Reviews vs.Testimonials: The Credibility Gap

I’ve written considerably about online reviews, how more and more people are looking for them, and making their spending decisions based on what they are reading.  Like it or not, they are going to affect how people choose a dentist. Whether they go to Yelp, or Google, or see them on your website or on Facebook or, even more likely, some combination of those, they ascribe a lot of credibility to what random people are saying about you.

A more relaxed approach to negative Yelp reviews.

A more relaxed approach to negative Yelp reviews.

This is why I say that including written patient testimonials on your website doesn’t add much. The consumer suspects they may be fiction, but also believes that it’s easy to find at least one or two people to write something nice about you.  You are much better off having a steady stream of patient reviews posting on your website. They can be from surveys that you do using digital communication software like PatientActivator, or you can request them by email, or ask patients to write them while in your office.  (For my white paper on how to build a review strategy for your office, click here.)

The importance of reviews is one more reason to make sure you have a dynamic website, where you can change the content yourself.  Ideally,  some content should even change and update automatically, with a function that displays all your reviews as they are generated. This page could also include a window of your Yelp reviews so that the viewer doesn’t have to leave your website to find them.  Including an ever-changing flow of reviews in your website gives you credibility with consumers, but it also enhances your SEO, because Google is expecting your content to change constantly on your website, or it will ignore you.

So are testimonials worthless?  Not at all, if you do them the right way.  And what is that way? Video, my friends.  Video testimonials from patients have enormous credibility.  In people’s minds it’s much harder to get someone to stand there and recommend you “on camera”.  Don’t you feel the same way?  I know I do.

Here’s what I do: whenever someone comes up to me and tells me all the reasons they liked my book, I whip out my phone and say, “Would you mind saying that again with me recording it?”  And you know what–they always say yes.  And the fact that I shot it with my smartphone, all in a single take (as we say in the movie business), makes it even more authentic.  Here’s an example of one I did recently:

In 30 seconds Dr. Callaghan was more persuasive than I could be in two hours.

That’s not to say that you can’t use a better camera, and even edit several testimonials together.  My friend Dr. Craig Spodak did that with some of his implant cases, and the emotion in these videos is quite powerful. Check this one out:

More statistical food for thought: People are 4 times more likely to watch a video on a website than read long text.  And including video in your website makes people 3 to 4 times more likely to take action.  We all know that the average person learns and comprehends much more through a visual medium than a literal one. So why believe a barrage of text is going to do the same job?

And videos are multi-purpose: they can go on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, your website, and you can even email them to people.  That some serious utility, and worth the time and trouble.  So start to make a habit of it.

For my blog on how to expand your video skills easily, click here. And if you don’t have a website where you can add video easily, it’s time to build a new one.  Check out WebDirector.


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What to Post on Facebook?


Example of random caption-worthy photo

This seems to be the big question.  I meet more dentists/office managers who say, “We just can’t think of something to post on a daily or even a weekly basis.”  So I’m going to give you a load of ideas that should get you flowing in a social way.

First, remember the purpose of your Facebook page is to give people a sense of what it’s like to visit your office. It’s not for clinical information, so any of that should be very subtly folded in to your posts. And whenever possible include imagery, often featuring the dentist and the team members. Now, in no particular order, here are my suggestions:

  1. Photos of happy patients.  You don’t have to go into their case at all, just show the results. Or name them patient of the day. Whatever. You could also show a before-and-after series if you have their permission.
  2. Video reviews from patients. You can do this with a smart phone, a tablet or a video camera. (The first two make it easy to post, and the patient can do it themselves.)
  3. Contests.  It doesn’t hurt to have occasional giveaways.  They don’t have to be big items, but perhaps something that is specific to your town or neighborhood, or tickets to a musical or sport event.
  4. Sponsorships. Sponsoring local teams doesn’t get you that much in publicity, but it helps.  But you can radically amplify the value of these sponsorships by posting on Facebook about them.
  5. Milestones for employees.  New hires, births, marriages, work anniversaries, educational or training achievements–these all make great posts.
  6. Dental events in the news. The great thing about celebrities is you can use their pictures.  Make comments on famous smiles, post anything someone has done that relates to teeth.
  7. Holiday wishes. There is some kind of holiday every month.  And each month has at least one cause dedicated to it, such as Black History month, and there are many special days also, like “Take Your Daughter to Work” day.  Capture or commemorate those.
  8. Your blog posts.  Here’s your chance to sneak in something clinical.  All you do is explain what is in your blog with a link to it.
  9. Cartoons and funny photos.  If you come across something funny, even not related to dentistry, put it up on Facebook. Also, get in the habit of grabbing a picture with your phone when you see something unique or interesting. People tend to “share” these types of things, which gets your name out there even more.  You can even have “Write a Caption” contests with some of the shots you’ve taken.
  10. Reviews from surveys. This has huge value, as people are looking for online reviews about you.  If you use a digital communication tool such as PatientActivator, it surveys your patients, and when they write a review as part of their response you can post it to your Facebook page with one click.

In short, post whatever you find interesting.  The idea is to show the personal side of you, your team, your practice. Have fun with it.  Involve the whole team, and you’ll be amazed at how it becomes part of the way your operate. And how often your patients will comment.

If you want to see it done right, check out Romani Orthodontics’ Facebook Page, shown below, or Dr. Tiffany Lee’s.  They are personal, fun, unique and just plain inspiring.

Romani updated


Always be mindful not to violate HIPAA. Do I need to tell you to get a release from every patient before you post something?  It should have language that allows you to use their photographic and video images in all media, including social media, in perpetuity.  If they won’t sign a release, don’t post any images of them. They, of course, can post anything they want themselves, if they’re using their phone or tablet in the office, let’s say.  And they can’t violate HIPAA.

Lastly, if you really want to get the full SEO value of your posts, you should mirror your Facebook posts on Google+. I know, more work!

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