3 ways staff conflict is costing you patients



Staff conflict isn’t something most dentists want to think about.

In fact, even if they know there’s tension between team members, most dentists ignore it and hope it will just magically go away. The way they see it, their team members are grown adults who should be able to work out their problems on their own, whatever they may be. So they go about their days like nothing is wrong, as their team members focus on gossiping and bickering instead of doing their part to help the practice grow.

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The fact is, ignoring staff conflict will only make it worse. Negative feelings will continue to fester until they finally blow up-causing significant damage to your practice in the process. And I’m talking about thousands of dollars in lost revenue. As the practice CEO you have to step in and help your employees find a solution to their problems, before they boil out of control.

The longer you put off addressing staff conflict, the more it will hurt your practice. Not only will your production numbers decline, you’ll soon realize you’re losing patients-even loyal patients who have been with your practice for years. Trust me, once they notice something isn’t right, they’ll start looking for a new practice to call their dental home. All the work you put in to earn these patients will have gone to waste, and with all the negativity swirling through your practice it won’t be easy to find new patients to replace them.

Still not convinced you need to start taking staff conflict seriously? Here are three ways staff conflict is costing you patients and ultimately hurting your bottom line.

1. Your customer service suffers. Every interaction your team has with patients is an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service, whether that means offering a friendly greeting as soon as they walk through the door or making sure they’re comfortable while they wait to see the doctor.

When team members are wrapped up in petty arguments or are unhappy with their work environment, it shows in the way they interact with patients. They’re too distracted by the office drama to give patients the attention and service that they not only deserve, but that they also expect. And when that happens, I can guarantee you patients will start looking for a new dental home.

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2. It makes patients feel uncomfortable. If you’ve noticed the tension among your staff members, your patients have too-and they don’t like it. Your patients don’t want to hear your hygienist complaining about the Scheduling Coordinator not doing her job properly, or how the dental assistant never sets the room up the way it should be. Patients want to go to a friendly, upbeat practice that puts their needs first.

Most patients are nervous enough about going to the dentist, and they certainly don’t need to walk into a negative environment. This just makes their appointment more stressful, and leaves them wondering how the dental team gets along at the practice down the street.

3. The quality of care you provide suffers. Your team should be focused on delivering the best care possible, and that includes providing patients with top-notch education about their condition and stressing the benefits of going forward with any treatment you recommend.

But when team members are wrapped up in conflict, it affects the quality of care they provide. Chances are, they’re not focused on connecting with patients or delivering the best care possible. Instead they’re just going through the motions as they think about how unhappy they are, or how much they need to find a new job. They don’t care to talk up the services you provide or try to help patients remove any perceived barriers to treatment. This not only means your patients don’t get the treatment they need, your production numbers suffer.

When you notice staff conflict in your practice, you simply can’t ignore it. Instead, work with everyone involved to find a solution, and use it as a way to create positive change in your practice. If you don’t, I can guarantee your patient retention rate will take a dive, eating into your production numbers and your bottom line.

I know dealing with staff conflict isn’t easy for most dentists, and if there’s a problem in your practice you likely don’t know where start. If you need some guidance, consider contacting me and taking my Conflict Competency training. This assessment instrument deals with conflict behaviors in the workplace and can help you and your team members improve the way you respond to conflict.

And the effort you put in to improve conflict resolution will be well worth it. When you work together to resolve problems before they boil over, you’ll have a happier, more productive team that is focused on providing top-notch patient care and helping your practice reach its full potential. 

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