5 Steps to Boosting Referrals to Your Practice

Dozens of dentists, hygienists, and dental practice employees got an expansive overview of best practices that translate to a bustling dental business on Monday at his continuing education session, titled “The Top 10 Secrets to Make Your Practice Thrive” at the Greater New York Dental Meeting.

To Kirk Behrendt, BS, the steps to create a thriving dental practice are no secret. Dozens of dentists, hygienists, and dental practice employees got an expansive overview of best practices that translate to a bustling dental business on Monday at his continuing education session, titled “The Top 10 Secrets to Make Your Practice Thrive” at the Greater New York Dental Meeting.

Behrendt, as the founder and CEO of ACTdental, has made a career out of teaching dentists how to be more successful at what they do best. Value was at the heart of his message in this session: How dentists value their work, themselves, their patients, and their patients’ experiences.

“When you undervalue what you do, people undervalue who you are,” Behrendt said, underscoring another theme that ran throughout his presentation: Dentistry is “the best job.”

Highlighting the flexibility and control dentists have over their career paths, recent reports that laud the profession’s longevity and stability, and the lifestyle that dentistry can support, Behrendt hammered home just how fulfilling and rewarding the profession can be, especially if your desire is to do it better.

“In order for your practice to thrive, there’s one thing you have to do: you have to get better,” he said. Over the course of the 3-hour session, Behrendt delivered actionable steps on how to do just that.

The title of the session was actually a bit of a misnomer. There were far more than 10 secrets that Behrendt delivered in this energetic session that covered topics such as patient-doctor communication, defining and building upon success, and under promising/over delivering. One segment that delved into 5 steps that scientifically increase referrals particularly piqued the audience’s attention. Behrendt described those steps as follows:

1. Be on time. “The new on time is early,” Behrendt said. A 15-minute delay might not seem like a big deal to you, but to your patient who has carefully juggled and orchestrated their day, it could mean the difference between checking off crucial elements of their to-do list, or letting them slide. Behrendt said that it has been shown that timeliness is a major influencer of patient referrals. He used the example of a potential job candidate. If he or she showed up 15 minutes late for the interview, would they be getting the job in your practice?

2. Say please and thank you. “I can’t even believe I have to put this on a slide,” Behrendt said, but was able to quickly rattle off reasons why it needs to be reinforced within practices. He illustrated his point using the popular chicken chain, Chick-fil-A, where employees have undergone extensive training and respond to every customer request with, “My pleasure.” Chick-fil-A, he pointed out, is now outpacing McDonalds in terms of profit. The difference-maker? Go to a Chick-fil-A and you’ll see well-trained employees—mostly teens—who are polite and happy to be there. Pull up to a McDonald’s drive-thru, and you’re likely to get a curt “’Sup?” from the employee at the window. Politeness goes a long way.

3. Do what you say you’re going to do. Behrendt referred to this as “organizational integrity.” Effective communication is at the heart of it. Intent often gets lost in translation and that can prove costly for procedures that need to be redone. Patients, he said, need to be told up front, directly, and succinctly what to expect. Then it’s up to you as the practitioner to deliver.

4. Finish what you start. Perfect, Behrendt said, often becomes the enemy of the good. He highlighted the example of an NJ dentist he works with who still does not have a website because he is too busy agonizing over the fonts, colors, and themes. “Get it done” became the mantra for this particular step. And if the website example doesn’t hit home hard enough for you, he provided this one: He can find $1-2 million in unfinished business in most restorative dental practices.

5. Make the call. “Your business either screams, ‘I care,’ or ‘I don’t care,’” Behrendt said. Making it known that you care about your patients is as simple as picking up the phone and following up on their most recent visit. He provided one example of a dentist who once told him that he doesn’t call patients because he’s afraid “they might pick up.” Thankfully, for those among us, there are mobile apps that ring right to voicemail.