Two things your staff say that will damage your practice

StaffYou should never forget that your staff are there to help you, says Paul Green.

One of the best things about my work is that I get to visit lots of dental practices all around the UK. And as I’m sat waiting to meet the practice owner, I get an insight into what it must be like to be a client of the practice.

Almost every practice has things they could improve to make it a better experience. You name it, I’ve seen it; dirty floors, broken chairs, peeling wallpaper, crumbling car parks strewn with weeds, reception areas that are too cold, too hot, too quiet or too noisy. And bad staff.

What I can’t understand is how bad staff are allowed to continue to damage practices day in, day out. For every tatty practice I’ve seen in need of a lick of paint, I’ve seen 10 where the staff are the most damaging thing there.

With the owner being in the treatment room most of the day, some staff exploit the lack of direct supervision to form some terrible habits. Over time, they’ve completely forgotten what they are there to do (win and retain clients, and ethically maximise client spend).

I’ve heard receptionists slagging off clients in a busy waiting room or totally ignore golden opportunities to inform clients about treatments connected to what their clinical needs and wants are.

When I’m working with my clients, I take a strong line on staff. If they’re not helping you grow your business, they’re helping to destroy it. And bad staff must be fixed or fired.

In this country we’re too scared to sack someone. Yes, the law is biased towards the employee, but fear of ‘no win no fee’ legal action is no reason to allow someone to destroy your most valuable asset.

A good HR adviser will help you implement a robust performance management process that makes staff shape up or ship out.

So how do you know whether or not you have a problem? There are two things that bad staff tend to say that should sound alarm bells.

Dreaded phrase one: ‘But we’ve always done it that way’

The dental sector has changed dramatically over the past five years. What clients want today is different – they have more choice than ever before, and often higher expectations.

Staff can get stuck in a rut, doing things the way they are used to and not wanting the hassle of doing them differently. Some people see that different = change = more work. They don’t realise the risk of standing still and the damaging impact that can have, especially when the competition is intensifying.

Dreaded phrase two: ‘But the clients won’t like that’

This might be uttered by staff when you ask them to do something new such as getting email addresses from every single client. For the majority of the practices we work with, most of their clients don’t mind changes being introduced. So when you hear this phrase from staff, what they are really saying is that they can’t be bothered to do whatever you have asked them to do. It’s a big warning sign about their level of commitment to your business.

Not all staff are bad, of course, but it only takes one bad person to poison what could otherwise be a highly effective and profitable team. That starts with hiring the right people (more of that in a future article) but it’s when you start hearing the above two phrases that you start to run into long-term problems.

Get your free copy of Paul Green’s dental marketing book The root of the problem posted to you by visiting

Comments (3)

Regarding “But we’ve always done it that way”, many years ago people didn’t realise they had to brush their teeth even. That changed with the advent of modern healthcare and the benefits of good dentistry. With the news full of articles about the dangers of not employing good standards of hygiene in some cases leading to the exponential use of antibiotics that are becoming resistant because of this, perhaps now would be a good time to implement new levels of sterility to built environments and get staff heavily involved in that program. Taking pride in their own surgery/workplace could do wonders for staff morale and build reassurance into the practice for the benefit of existing patients and the new ones who would quickly learn of this and follow.

Surely when they say “We always do it that way” you should ask “Why?” You may learn something about how they think.

Secondly them saying the patients won’t like it is not a bad thing. It means they may have genuine concerns.

To label staff who have no structure or are given no help to improve as dead wood or liabilities is somewhat presumptuous. Perhaps one should start by looking in a mirror.

I have heard staffs say those two phrases almost exactly. What that indicates is more of an attitude of not wanting to change or not having an open mind. Sure, there may be some insights from the staff but I would phrase it “this has been our protocol or policy”. It appears that the staffs maybe projecting their feeling about a change as if they were the patient onto the patient of the practice. It is unconscious but one should remember that not all people think the same.

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