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Why Do Patients Choose You?

We recently did a survey here to determine what’s important to patients these days when it comes to selecting a new dentist.  Because we are such clever marketing people we put it all into a nifty infographic.

I think you’ll be surprised at how some of the patient thinking has changed from five or ten years ago, like their attitude toward insurance and their interest in technology.  It’s good insight for all practices as you plan your marketing and make other practice decisions.

To get the infographic just click on the image below and it will send you to our site.

Alert: We are having an issue with Chrome not downloading this properly. Use another browser if you can. We should have it fixed by 2pm PST.

 

 

 

The Three R’s of Building an Invincible Team

Over the past 35 of my business life, I’ve seen many different approaches to team-building. In our own business we refined the process to a very simple philosophy, which I call the Three R’s, which are Retrain, Repurpose or Replace.

We have over 250 team members at 1-800-DENTIST, and many different skill sets and levels of income, but this approach works throughout the company.  I’ll explain them each in detail.

RETRAIN

The first step for us when hiring someone is to make sure that they are a cultural fit for the company.  Once we determine that, and believe that they can do the job, then they are hired. We then monitor them throughout their career, coaching them, evaluating them and giving them feedback.  Sometimes you get an employee that is a terrific cultural fit, but they are missing some key skills, or they have let some bad habits slip into their workday.  That’s where retraining comes in.

A typical example would be an operator in the call center, who is a great employee, liked by everyone, and has been doing a great job for years.  And then suddenly his productivity falls off.  Since we record all their calls, we can listen to see where that team member might have drifted from his training.  This is when you put them through retraining, refreshing their skills and reminding them of the fundamentals of their job.  And usually within a week that team member is right back to her old level of productivity.

The same thing can happen with a salesperson, or a customer service team member. Over time it’s easy to drift from the essential behaviors, skills and verbiage that work best, and eventually it shows up in productivity. The manager’s responsibility is to observe this and put the person through retraining as quickly as possible.

Also, to really grow employees, you and the individual team members need to be willing to look at their gaps in skills, and offer them the opportunity to close those gaps with education. Retraining then means “more training,” to broaden their skill set and make it possible for them to keep up with the changes in the marketplace as well as develop the skills to advance.

In a dental practice, this could mean regular seminars to maintain peak team performance,  reminding your team members of the importance of fundamental skills and introducing them to new ones.  Or it could mean that the practice has added CEREC, and the assistant needs to learn how to do as much as possible with the new technology, and how to talk about it to the patients.

REPURPOSE

Sometimes you find a team member that is an excellent cultural fit for the business, and is a diligent worker with a positive attitude, but they are just not thriving in the position they were hired for.  No matter how much retraining or coaching you do, they remain a “B” player, so to speak.  What we do then is try to determine if they would fit better somewhere else in the organization.

Why do we do this? Because great people are hard to find. And experience has taught us that most people want to do a great job, but are just better at some activities than others.  We have repurposed employees hundreds of times over 30 years. Let’s say someone on the sales team really believes in the product, but just can’t seem to consistently sell month after month.  We’ll might then try them out in the customer service department, and suddenly they excel at their new job.

We’ve also graduated many people to higher positions.  This is another part of repurposing.  Some team members may be slipping into lower performance because the job is not challenging enough, and they are not working to their full potential. At that point, their manager could realize their capabilities, and promote them, or another manager could “steal” an employee for her department, when he believes the person is a great fit and would excel in the new role.

Now you may be saying, “Fred, this doesn’t work in a dental practice.  You can’t repurpose a hygienist, for example.”  Really?  Maybe she would be a much better treatment coordinator. Or maybe she’s just bored, and if you assigned her the social media responsibility as part of her job she would get jazzed about coming to work every day, and take on an important role.  You can even repurpose the dentist.  Maybe he or she is not great at case presentation, and is never going to be, despite retraining.  Time for that treatment coordinator role again. Do you start to see the possibilities?

REPLACE

It’s expensive to find new employees, and it’s expensive to train those employees until they get up to speed in their position. But sometimes that person has got to go.  Short of some sort of misconduct, this is our last resort.  But we’re not afraid to pull the trigger. If they can’t be retrained and there isn’t a better position in the company for them, or they’ve not succeeded after being repurposed, it’s time for them to work someplace else.

As a side note, the hardest team member to let go is a B player who, no matter how you try, is not getting better and will never become an A player.  Letting go of C players (and F players!) is easy by comparison.  But if you want everyone functioning at an A level, you have to be strong enough to eventually face the fact that this person is never going to give you all that you need.  And also–and this is critical to understand–it is not fair to all the other A players to keep that person around.

And of course, an invincible team is all A players.

For more thoughts on why it’s important to be comfortable letting an employee go, check out my previous blog, “Why Firing Someone is an Act of Kindness.”

I know that employee management is even more challenging in a dental practice, where there is a fairly small number of team members.  This is why I recommend two key resources: Dental Post.net and HRforHealth.

HRforHealth is a program that, at its most basic level, does all the things that keep you fully compliant with regard to employee laws in your state.  But beyond that, it systematizes the review process for your employees, so that if you need to retrain or repurpose them, you’ve already made it clear what your expectations are of them in the position and the practice. And if you do need to terminate someone you can do it without being at risk of litigation, because you’ve laid the legal foundation properly.  With HRforHealth, you can easily take advantage of all the human resources tools that large business use, at a very low cost.

DentalPost.net is a job search site specifically for the dental industry.  It doesn’t cost anything for a potential employee to list him or herself there, and for a reasonable fee the dentist or office manager can search for the best fit for the practice.  I recommend it because practices can be very clear about the type of practice they operate, from culture to philosophy to clinical approach, and this makes for a much better hire. The site also does personality testing, so that you can see what type of individual you’re bringing into your team mix, and where they are most likely to thrive and contribute to your invincible team.

I hope you find the Three R strategy useful as a guiding principle in building your stellar team. We’ve found one of the biggest benefits is it makes your business a great place to work, which means it is a whole lot easier to attract the best people. That’s a big bonus!

[Full disclosure: I’m on the advisory board of both these companies, which I only do when I believe a company is exceptional and I can contribute to their serving the industry better.]

6 Steps to Making Good, HIPAA Compliant Patient Videos

I’m continually being asked the best way to do patient testimonial videos, so I’m going to lay it out for you.

People ask in part because I am always saying that patient videos are the most powerful marketing tools available, and perhaps the most versatile.  You can post them on your website, on your YouTube channel, on Facebook, and in your Google and Yelp profiles.  And people love watching videos. Facebook and Snapchat both have over 8 billion video views a day.  Yes, I said billion!

Requesting and making videos should be someone’s specific responsibility in the office, and in some ways everyone’s. Every team member should be willing to request this from a patient they believe will do a good testimonial. But every office should have one point person–the Facebook Geek, I call them–that is in charge of regularly doing these, like one a week, and then posting them in all the appropriate places.

Here are the steps:

STEP ONE: ASK FOR A TESTIMONIAL

Identify a patient who might be a good candidate, either because they just had a great result, or they’ve already praised the practice in some way.  If they just said, “You are all so nice here. I’m so happy I found you.”  That’s your cue to say, “We’d love it if you would do a short video saying that for us to use on social media. You know how important that is nowadays.” Don’t say crazy stuff like, “Please help us promote our practice,” or, “We really need your help getting new patients.”  Don’t sound desperate.

If the person is reluctant, just say, “If you don’t like it we won’t use it. But all you have to do is take 30 seconds and tell us what it’s like to be a patient of ours.”  If they’re still hesitant, then back off.

STEP TWO: RECORD ON A SMARTPHONE

This is what makes the testimonial real and credible: You didn’t make a big production out of it.  You made it like a video that they do themselves all the time.  Using a smartphone camera is also less intimidating to the patient.  One more important thing: shoot it in horizontal mode [I’m amending this from my original post] because in most media it will look much better.  The one challenge is that 70% of Facebook viewers are watching on mobile phones, and people don’t like to turn them.  This is why Facebook’s new Canvas ad format is a good example of the direction this is all going. The solution is to shoot through Instagram in horizontal mode, and then you can modify the shape if you want to.

You’re looking for four things from the patient:

  • sincerity–you want them to be believable;
  • enthusiasm–low energy is not persuasive or watchable;
  • brevity–it should be at the MOST, 60 seconds long.  Closer to 30 is better;
  • the practice/dentist’s name–this “labels” the video internally.

WARNING: Don’t let them talk about their treatment in the video! This qualifies as “patient health information,” and this is where the HIPAA challenge arises.  It would require you to create a release from the patient describing the specific treatment and who the audience would be that would see it.  Too much trouble.  The fact that they agreed to make the video would seem to me to qualify as a release, but the government doesn’t see it that way.

However, the patient can make a video on their own phone and post it to their Facebook wall. Patients can say whatever they want in their own posts on social media, because they can’t violate their own HIPAA.  If they do it that way, then you can share that video on your practice page.

STEP THREE: SHOW THE VIDEO TO THE PATIENT FOR APPROVAL

If you did more than one take, ask them which one they like. But make sure they approve you using it.

STEP FOUR: GET A SIGNED RELEASE

If you don’t already have one with the patient, get one, to use their image and video in all media, including social media, in perpetuity.  If they won’t sign one, then don’t use the video.  If you have an account with HR for Health, they can provide one, otherwise use LegalZoom.

STEP FIVE: ASK THEM TO SHARE IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

If they did it on their phone, obviously they can share it on Instagram or Facebook.

STEP SIX: POST IT ON ALL YOUR DIGITAL LOCATIONS

  • Website (your website should have a separate page for patient testimonials, with a link from the home page.  If not, read this blog.)
  • YouTube channel
  • Yelp profile
  • Google+ page
  • Facebook (start with Instagram and have it post automatically–the Facebook geek knows what I’m talking about)
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

As a huge motivational bonus, show them to your team in morning huddles. Letting everyone know how much they are appreciated by patients is a great way to start the day.

Here are examples of the right and wrong way to do videos:

The above one mentions the treatment, cost, negative aspects of the experience, but is in the right framing–horizontal.

This one doesn’t mention treatment, is positive and energetic, and says the dentist’s name.  But it’s shot vertically, so it’s only good for Facebook mobile.  Almost there.

Make it a habit to do videos. As I said, they are the most credible and versatile marketing tool you have or your practice.  Do one today!

Becoming Remarkable is Now on Audible!

The moment many of you have been waiting for is here: my latest book, released lastBR-Amazon-image September, is now available on Audible!  We have found that Audible is the best medium for an audio book, and you can find it right here: http://amzn.to/1T0YCug.

The price is $19.95, and unfortunately because it is Amazon I can’t discount it for anyone. 🙁

It will NOT be released on CD, as it has become an archaic (and expensive) medium, and Audible accounts are free, and even have a subscription model.

Now that I’ve managed to get this done, I promise to start blogging regularly again!

SEO: Can You Ever Stay Ahead of It?

Every business dreams of coming up on the first page in an organic web search.  And every day I talk to dentists who want to improve the SEO of their website.  All while Google keeps changing how the results look and what satisfies their search algorithms.  They just did it again on August 6th in a fairly big way.

Let’s talk about that change first.  The big differences are:

1. The map results on computers now only show 3 practices. This now mirrors what happens on mobile phones.

2. The full address of the practice is gone.

3. Everything “above the fold”–what is immediately viewable on a computer screen–is now essentially paid for.

SEO search resultsThere are still listings of organic results on the first page, meaning if you scroll down you will see them, and not have to click to see the next page of results, but in this particular search Yelp had the first three “organic” positions.  This is because they know how to maximize SEO, and can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making sure they are doing everything that Google wants. You can’t do that.

Also, notice that on the right the paid ads do get their address to show up.  And they can even offer specials or a have a specific message.  But clearly Google makes it easy to get to the paid advertisers’ websites.  And you can be sure that the bidding for those places is escalating all the time.

This is all happening because Google is in the ad sales business, and they want you to pay to appear.  The results are even more narrowed toward paying advertisers when you search on a mobile device (which is where more than 60% of searches begin, by the way.)

Face it, when you have 80% of dentists who now have a website, they’re not all going to show up on the first page organically. It’s not physically possible, and clearly getting more challenging all the time.

So what should your strategy be?

You still need to find as many ways to create good SEO as possible. But don’t fall for some company guaranteeing that they can get you on the first page. There are too many factors out of anyone’s control. Read my previous blog on this for more insight on that.  It’s more true now that ever.

Here’s what you need:

1. A dynamic website that allows you to change content easily yourself and have constant new content feeding to it automatically.  It should be simple, modern-looking, and easy to navigate.

2. Reviews are powerful content, and if you are surveying your patients using PatientActivator or some other application, then you can have those appear automatically.

3. Embed Yelp reviews in your site.  It will only show three, but it will keep people from leaving your website and going to Yelp to see reviews.

4. Add new patient testimonial videos every week.

5. Write a blog, and link it to your website. It should have your town included in most posts, as well as some key dental phrases. Your blog is for Google to read. Most humans won’t. So being local and with relevant words is what matters most.

6. Make sure all the directories across the web have the exact same information about your practice. ReputationMonitor, which is included with PatientActivator, makes it much easier to do this.

7. Have a form where patients can request an appointment.

8. Make sure your website is responsive, meaning it plays properly on every device–particularly mobile phones–and in every browser.  The first test is to look at your website on your own phone.  Easy to read? Pretty? Better be!

But overall, concentrate on giving a great patient experience, because your website is only one part of your promotion and practice awareness. Social media and review sites will play a larger and larger part of that with every passing month.  It all has to work together, with your website as the hub.  And what patients post out there matters more than ever.

We build websites with our WebDirector product, but there are other reputable companies out there as well.  You can tell who they are because they don’t promise magical results.  We will also help you integrate all the social media aspects that you need to make everything look consistent and connect to each other.

It’s a daunting, moving target, I know. But it’s the way of the world, and ignoring it or thinking it doesn’t relate to your neighborhood is going to prove to be failed strategy.  So stay on it!