Planning for the future without PRSI

December’s Budget brought with it the body blow of losing PRSI dentistry, and for most of us this will result in a significant drop in income. Hopefully in the two months or so since this happened, the initial shock has worn off and we can begin to plan for a future without it. The need, both as a group and as individuals, to manage this major change is paramount.

In my last Outlook I focused on Disney and I feel its approach can help us in our individual practices. This month, I will focus on the first five of 10 strategies and how I feel these can help us to improve our practices:
1. Remember, everyone is important
2. Break the mould
3. Make your people your brand
4. Create magic through training
5. Eliminate hassles.

Remember, everyone is important
Disney uses the acronym RAVE – respect, appreciate and value everyone. This first strategy is about truly appreciating every staff member and customer. It involves getting to know your staff and letting them know you; truly bonding as a team for the betterment of the practice. Take time to give employees and customers the information they need. Make every staff member feel trusted and valued so that they can, in turn, pass on this sense of respect to customers. Make the customer king, as Feargal Quinn says, and they’ll come back again. Now, more than ever, we need that.

Break the mould
There’s no better time than during periods of change to step back and look at your practice. Ask yourself:
• Does it run fluidly in your absence?
• Are there clear lines of accountability, responsibility and authority?
• Are decisions made easily and efficiently?
• Does information flow smoothly?
• Do answers get to the right people quickly? 
Disney quotes its response to 9/11, when revenues dropped and uncertainty reigned. Each of us needs to respond carefully to our change in circumstances. We’ve been through the PRSI dispute in years past and survived; this time all practices are in the same position. We also need to support and help each other through our Association.

Make your people your brand
Just as the Disney experience shows the Disney brand, the ‘cast members’ make the Disney experience special to all of us lucky to have been to their world.

In terms of dental practice, this is a great time to improve customer service, as staff know there is some danger of job losses, pay cuts or pay freezes. Nothing concentrates the mind better than fear. It’s essential to communicate that we’re in the customer service business and, as such, each person entering our practice or calling on the phone is essential and pays the bills. It is time to see customers as individuals, rather than categorising them as PRSI, medical card or private patients. It’s essential your staff are the best they can be and that they treat the customer in an extra special way.

Create magic through training
Following on from the above point, we must train our staff in customer service. We do this, firstly, by looking at how we perceive our customers. On too many occasions I’ve listened to dentists complaining of a medical card patient having a new car; this is then picked up by the staff and they develop a similar attitude. Today we need every patient. Jay Geier says in his lecture that a great patient is one who is alive in your chair or one who turns up.

Disney said that like the seven dwarfs, there are seven service guidelines:
1. Be Happy – smile
2. Be Sneezy – greet and be contagious
3. Don’t be Bashful – create customer contacts
4. Be like Doc – immediate service and recovery
5. Don’t be like Grumpy
6. Be like Sleepy – create dreams and magical guest experiences
7. Don’t be Dopey – thank everyone for attending.

Eliminate hassles
Make sure everything flows easily, and this should be easier without the multitude of forms!
Constantly seek ways to make it easier for patients to accept and pay for treatment. Like Disney, we need, as the leader, to listen to staff and customers to identify problems. Members of staff should never come to us with a problem without suggesting a solution.

Finally, do we have to invest in new technology to improve our systems? The recent need to bring patients in to claim one final eligible course of treatment shows how computerisation can help; some practices even managed to text patients of the need to attend. Of that, no doubt, Disney would approve.

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