The Nightmare Patient and Other Bad Customers

Editorial
by Jim Du Molin

I was sitting with six people outside of a recent dental event. There were some high-powered consultants in the small group, and we were talking about dental management issues. A colleague’s Blackberry beeped with an email was from one of his recent client doctors. More than just an ordinary complaint, the email sounded like the tantrum of a two year old. I had a moment of deja vu as he read it aloud; I was instantly reminded of a similar experience I had a few years earlier.

As it turns out, I correctly guessed the author of the email: the same doctor I had dealt with. Another person in the group had a similar experience with the person as well. So, out of seven of us, three had negative experiencse with the same client doctor. What are the odds? It should come to no surprise that this individual was given a complete refund and told he would never get service again.

So what happened? How did this client get so bad? In my experience with him, he countered back to me “The client is always right!!” I disagreed. “The right client is always right. The wrong client is always wrong. You are the wrong client.”

I recall a story told years ago of a customer who complained about everything to Southwest airlines. After every flight, she would fire off another letter about all the things that she felt were wrong. Due to all the previous letters, they bumped her latest one to the CEO, Herb Kelleher. After reading her letter, he responded with the following:

Dear Ms. __________,

We will miss you.

Love,
Herb

That’s it. Mr. Kelleher understood that by backing down to this unruly and unpleasant passenger, he would not be standing up for and supporting his employees. That is a valuable lesson. My staff will tell you that I have fired clients and refused the business of people who were rude to them.

The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store, in London in 1909. It is typically used by businesses to:

 

  • Convince customers that they will get good service, and
  • Convince employees to give customers good service.

 

 

Fortunately, more and more businesses and dental practices are abandoning this maxim. Why? Ironically, it leads to bad customer service. The main issue with it is it means that abusive people (like the person I mentioned initially) get better treatment than nice people. That’s just wrong. It makes much more sense to be nice to the nice patients to keep them coming back and fire the bad patients.

Put team members first and they will be happy at work. Teams who are happy at work give better patient service because:

 

  • They care more about other people, including patients.
  • They have more energy.
  • They are happy, meaning they are more fun to talk to and interact with.
  • They are more motivated.

 

 

On the other hand, when the practice and doctor consistently side with patients instead of with team members, it sends a clear message that:

 

  • Team members are not valued.
  • Treating employees fairly is not important.
  • Your team members have no right to expect respect from patients.
  • Team members have to put up with everything from patients.

 

 

When this attitude prevails, dental teams stop caring about service. So put your people first, and watch them put the patients first.

Remember, happy team members always produce more and offer better patient service.

Jim Du Molin

Dental Associations Do Battle in New York State

The New York Times is reporting on the grand battle for political control of that state’s dental associations.

New York State

On the one side, we have the NY State Dental Association. It’s run by lobbyist Roy Lasky.

On the other side is the NY County Dental Society. Based in Manhattan, it’s a local group. And they’ve just hired their own lobbyist.

That’s because the Manhattan group is fighting for its very survival. A bill now in Albany could let the state group eliminate the local group entirely.

The Manhattan-based group has raised concerns about Mr. Lasky of the statewide society. In 2006, he earned nearly $300k as the group’s executive director and another $140k as its Albany lobbyist. The local group also worries Lasky could face potential conflicts of interest.

So why is this such a big deal? Not surprisingly, the answer is financial. The Manhattan-based local society puts on an annual trade show, the Greater New York Dental Meeting, which brings in millions in revenue and is among the country’s largest dental meetings.


Read more

How Dentists Feel About Dental Peer Reviews (video)

How Dentists Feel About Dental Peer Reviews (video)When there is a conflict between dentist and patient, peer-review boards often mediate the dispute.

This means that dentists frequently end up on the losing side of the peer review equation.

Said one dentist, “Review boards are not impartial and fair, just interested in giving money back to patients.”

One endodontist professed, “It’s far better that getting involved in the judicial system!”

These are just two of the comments dentists offered The Wealthy Dentist when surveyed about the dental peer-review process.

Click on Play to hear more from dentists on how they answered the survey question: Have you been disappointed by dental peer-review?

What are your thoughts on dental peer-reviews?

Warning: How Negative Dental Marketing Works

How Negative Dental Marketing WorksTalk about the wrong kind of dental marketing!

Imagine coming into your dental practice one morning to discover that a Hepititius warning about your office had been distributed to your dental patients by your local health services office?

This is exactly what happened to dentist Derek Nordstrom of Edmonton Canada, who knew nothing of the Hepititius complaint.

Apparently, a recorded voice message from Alberta Health Services was calling Dr. Norstrom’s patients to advise them that one of his staff members had hepatitis C, and recommended the patients be tested.

Upon being notified by one of his patients, Dr. Nordstrom cancelled all of his dental appointments and spent the day making phone calls to the Alberta Dental Association and various other health agencies in an attempt to get to the bottom of the complaint.

The only problem was that none of Dr. Norstrom’s staff were sick.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the only problem…

As if the health complaint wasn’t enough, Nordstrom’s receptionist then discovered websites attacking the dentist and his brother Patrick — also a dentist. According to The Edmonton Journal, one site — nordstromdentist.com — included photos of Dr. Nordstrom alongside anonymous claims of negligent procedures, false billing and even dead ants on his dental chair. The site also included a comment about an Alberta Health Services call about hepatitis C at Nordstrom’s clinic.

Talk about a dental marketing nightmare!

Nordstrom’s lawyer sent notice to the domain registry of the websites attacking the doctor and the sites were immediately suspended.

The bigger question looms as to how someone hacked the 4,000 active patient phone records of Dr. Nordstrom to relay the Hepatitis warning and who is out to get this doctor … and why.

An investigation into the phone messages and malicious websites is moving forward.

Nordstrom told the Edinton Journal that he isn’t sure who’s behind the calls, but finds it troubling someone would raise the question of serious illness to try to discredit him.

“It’s just a sick joke,” Nordstrom said of the hoax. “They’re just trying to hurt me.”

So far Dr. Nordstrom seems to be handling the situation well. I would strongly recommend a very aggressive PR campaign rebutting each accusation separately. While over the years I’ve seen everything from ex-spouse’s fire booming offices to disgruntled employee’s falsely reporting sexual harassment, this particular attack has all the earmarks of an inside job with the help of a professional and enraged computer hacker.

Read more: Hepatitis Claim Against Wainwright Dentist a Hoax, RCMP Say

Dental Practice Management: Is a Financial Arrangement Coordinator Necessary?

Dental Practice Management: Is a Financial Arrangement Coordinator NecessaryThe dental office financial arrangement coordinator is an important part of dental practice management.

The financial coordinator assists dental patients with making payment arrangements and coordinating dental insurance benefits so that dental treatments are compatible with the patient’s budget, thus you, the dentist, get paid in a timely manner.

When asked about having a financial arrangement coordinator for his dental office, one California dentist complained, “I wish everyone would just pay at the time of service!”

In our most recent survey, The Wealthy Dentist asked dentists if they employ a team member as a financial arrangements coordinator, and dentists were pretty split on their responses. 55% responded that they do not employ a team member as a financial arrangement coordinator, and 45% responded that they do employ a team member to carry out this important dental practice function.

Dentists’ feelings on the subject are mixed; some feel this type of position is better suited for larger dental practices, while others insist it’s absolutely necessary to have someone handle financial arrangements.

Here are just a few of the comments from the responding dentists:

“I have 1 designated team member to make financial arrangements, but occasionally another member has to step in due to the primary being out of the office for various reasons.” (Nevada dentist)

“We estimate dental insurance benefits, and receive the patient’s portion on the date services are provided. Other than that, the only other financial arrangement offered is through Care Credit. Our receptionist comfortably handles this as part of her duties.” (Illinois dentist)

“This is probably a great idea for larger multi-dentist offices, but I find it is not likely to be cost effective in a smaller practice.” (General dentist)

“We have only one person and no one else discusses money. That way it stays simple and patients can’t say someone told them something different. For the most part we have a set of rules to follow, but there is always that special situation where we break the norm.” (General dentist)

“Complete necessity to have someone ultimately responsible and the ‘go to’ person for all financial arrangements, especially patient interaction.” (Michigan dentist)

“An absolute necessity to have one person handling this!” (California dentist)

“This position is vital to keeping cash-flow running smoothly.” (General dentist)

“I make all the necessary financial arrangements directly with my patients, but I am an old-fashioned dentist in a small town, and I want to know what is going on (financially) with my patients.” (Kansas dentist)

How do you handle this dental practice management position in your dental practice? Is one person designated as your financial arrangements coordinator?

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