Show me a full dental practice schedule, complete with loaded short call lists and I’ll show you a team who works that schedule EVERY SINGLE DAY of the work week.

They don’t miss working it on Wednesdays, or Fridays or even 1/2 day Thursdays. They may not see patients those times, but they are still actively working the schedule – filling open appointment times, working to pad the short call lists and actively engaging with patients. Are you winging it, or do you have solid systems in place to keep your schedule full?

Some blame empty schedules on the economy – that might play a small part but we see schedules all across the United States every day that are BOOMING. If you can honestly say you address all these challenges with positive forward motion and action and STILL have an empty schedule – well, then lets talk! For the most part, it’s really not the economy.

Without further ado, here are 10 TIPS to control your schedule, time and keep your schedule full!!

1) Answer the phone. A minimum of 40 hours a week. A missed call is a missed opportunity even if it’s an appointment adjustment call – It’s still an opportunity to keep that appointment and production on the schedule somewhere! (We have eliminated the word cancellation from our verbiage – we don’t want patients thinking that is an option so we say appointment adjustment) New patients calling will be greeted with a live warm person, ready to welcome them into your practice. You say your patients know you’re out on Wednesdays. So what? Doesn’t mean opportunity still isn’t calling in the form of a new patient, or an appointment adjustment. And we CREATE the opportunity by making OUTBOUND calls on these days. That is being proactive. Just this past Friday, we handled over 104 phone calls for one of our practices that is out of the office on Fridays. That is 104 calls their admin team doesn’t have to worry about on Monday. AND we filled two open hygiene slots on Monday and confirmed Monday and Tuesday 100%. (And we even scheduled a crown!!) If you are out of the office even one day a week, that is an average of 32 “normal working business” hours a month your phones are unmanned. I bet you come back after your days off to an answering machine full of messages, a mess of a schedule and the first four hours of your return day are nothing short of a scrambled mess. STOP THE MADNESS!

2) Consistently “work” the schedule. Patient connections should be made daily to keep the scheduled “padded”. So many times the hard work of call blitzes gets put on the back burner if the schedule is full for this week – NO!! Keep it going. Pad it! Get your short call list to at least 30 patients deep! You want a smooth schedule? Don’t allow for interruption of the process! Daily goals should be set for past due recare and undone treatment calls.

3) Have a solid confirmation system. Even if you have an electronic confirmation system (Demand Force, Smile Reminder, Sesame etc) your system needs to be monitored and those patients who can’t seem to click “YES” need to be personally contacted. Make sure your electronic reminders are going out in appropriate amount of time to allow enough time to fill an open appointment time should someone need an appointment adjustment. With our confirmation system, we start TWO full business days prior. For example, on Wednesdays, we are firming up Thursdays and Fridays, and starting on Mondays confirmations. If a patient doesn’t confirm electronically, we are personally contacting them with a request for them to RETURN OUR CALL to confirm their appointment. How on earth can you expect a full schedule if you send out your reminders, or call the patient the day before?? What if they need an appointment adjustment? Prepare  yourself with systems to always be ready for the worst – you’ll have so much more control over your schedule.

4) Always be on the lookout for opportunity! 

Know where your daily opportunity is – Book review completed on a consistent basis allows you to know not only who is coming in, but who has a bad habit of no-showing (confirm these peeps one week ahead!), who in the family is due, who has undone treatment recommended, what insurance $$ they have available, what is available through insurance (adult FL, FMX/PANO, occlusal guards etc). How can you tap into the opportunity if you aren’t aware it’s there??

5) Morning Huddles. CONSISTENT morning huddles to not only share the information found through book review, but also to review any challenges from the day before and relish in success as well! Know who is due for prophy that you might be able to slide right into an opening – or who is due for treatment that you can slide over to dr side. Be prepared with the knowledge needed (financials) to make this happen and maximize the opportunity that is in the palm of your hand. If you discuss that you have $48,000 of undone treatment recommendations that is walking in the door today for patients who have appointments, and at the end of the day you only scheduled $2,000 of that……. Well, there’s a challenge right there. WHAT GETS MEASURED, GETS DONE!

6) Follow-up. That’s where the fortune is.     In all seriousness, this is where so many practices miss. Every patient should leave with their next appointment scheduled. If they don’t, follow-up within 4-5 business days. If YOU don’t, you most likely won’t see them again until their next recare. Have a solid system in place for this.

7) STOP THE NEW PATIENT NO SHOWS! Minimize, or even completely stop your no-shows by checking out Next Step Dental Resources New Patient Reservation System. It’s tried. It’s true. It works. Check it out.

8) ASK.At the end of every single new patient phone call, be sure to ask if there are any other family members the caller would like to schedule an appointment for.

9) Be thankful. Shaking a new patients hand upon arrival to their first appointment with a genuine “Thank you for choosing our practice” goes a long way. Thank new patients at the end of their first visit for choosing your practice – the goal should be from the first phone call to have them excited and smiling to enter your doors, and smiling even bigger on their way out. Make that new patient experience something they never thought existed!! A handwritten thank you to each new patient is a complete must.

10) Clearly outline your expectations.Not only to the patients as far as financial and appointment expectations, but to your team members as well. Goals not written are just dreams. Define clearly what your expectations are, give them the tools to exceed in their role and give them the reigns. If you tell patients you expect 48  hours  notice for an appointment adjustment, and they stiff you on 3 appointments yet you haven’t addressed it, well, they don’t value the original expectation because you didn’t acknowledge. Same for team members. You expect them to keep your schedule full, and had 10 hygiene holes today. While there is never going to be a full proof way to stop this from happening, discuss what steps they took to fill it – Discuss their systems and “go to” for filling these holes, and stopping them from happening. Clearly outlined expectations are so much easier to meet than winging it. Trust me on this one.

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