In this week’s blog post, MGE’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Sabri Blumberg, answers practice management questions from dentists around the country. 

Q: I have an employee who’s late on a regular basis. She changes for a little while after I speak with her about it, and then just reverts to being late again. What should I do?

Sabri Blumberg Dental Consultant - Ask Sabri: Staff Lateness & Patient Cancellation Problems - The MGE BlogGood question and unfortunately I’ve heard this one a lot!

To begin, this is something that should be addressed quickly and handled in such a way that it’s truly handled and never comes up again.

As far as how you handle it, keep in mind that the employee’s productivity should factor into the equation. Is this a highly productive and valuable employee? Is it a new employee who’s still in training? Is it an employee who’s been there a long time but you’ve had productivity issues with them on a routine basis?

That all being said, you of course wouldn’t allow any employee to continue to be tardy or directly violate office policy—no matter how productive they are or how long they’ve been with the office. I would issue some type of written warning or documentation (check with your employment attorney based on the state or province in which you practice) for their personnel file.

From there, how you address this issue would be different depending on their work performance.

If the employee is ultra-productive and integral to office growth (regardless of how long they’ve worked there), it’s absolutely worth investing time to sort out what is causing them to be late. The result of this should be that the employee takes responsibility for their tardiness, figures out what they are doing that is making them late, and comes up with a solution for arriving on time every day. They should be the one to come up with the solution, not you, because the point is that they take responsibility for themselves and their job. That’s how real changes in behavior happen.

Ask Sabri: Staff Lateness & Patient Cancellation Problems - The MGE BlogIf, however, this is not a highly productive and valuable team member, your actions might be more severe. If it’s a new employee, still in training, and you’re already having these issues you might just let them go. A behavior pattern like this doesn’t bode well for their future productivity and work ethic.

Whichever scenario you feel your situation fits into, you must handle the situation is a way that it’s handled once and for all (i.e. you’re not handling it again next week or month). Hope this helps!

Q: We’ve been having cancellations. Should we start double booking appointments?

My short answer: No.

My medium sized answer. No…again.

The longer answer: No again, but I’ll explain.

The reason why you shouldn’t do this, is that you’re solving a problem with a solution that will just create more problems. And believe me, you will have problems from double booking: patients wait too long, you won’t have time to properly discuss needed treatment (resulting in lower case acceptance), you’ll be rushing around between operatories (when both patients show up), and you’ll have generally reduced levels of customer service. 

Deciding to start double-booking would be a kneejerk reaction that doesn’t actually fix the real source of the problem—i.e. why you are having so many cancellations.

There are many different reasons for a high number of cancellations. The common ones are:

·  Ask Sabri: Staff Lateness & Patient Cancellation Problems - The MGE Blog   No confirmation policy or system.

·     Confirmation policy exists but isn’t being followed.

·     Nobody is in charge of the schedule (not matter how great your scheduling system or appointment reminder software is, you still need a live person to take responsibility for the schedule and make sure patients get scheduled properly and arrive for their appointments).

·     No financial arrangements ahead of time (if patients are required to put at least a down payment on their treatment in order to get on the schedule, you be amazed at how often they show up).

As a business owner, you should always make an effort to find out what is really creating the problem you’re trying to solve. This requires some investigating. The time you put into your investigation is well worth the effort, because it handles the problem without ever needing to ever revisit it later.

And if you really want to solve the problem, I suggest you attend our free seminar The Real Solution to Cancellations & No-Shows when we come to a town near you, or give us a call and speak with a consultant for free at (800) 640-1140.

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