Are Dental Consultants Clueless or Beneficial?

October 14, 2019

When it comes to consultants, getting your employees on board is crucial.

Dear Readers: I receive a lot of emails talking about what “really happens” in a dental practice. These emails make me stop and think about how challenging your job is. One stood out. I have permission to share this story from a dental hygienist in Omaha, Nebraska. My message to the writer is this…you are not alone.

Dear Lisa: It wasn’t communicated to my team that we were getting a consultant until she showed up. I work in an eight-person practice. My first thought was that there were going to be layoffs. That is frightening with all my bills and responsibilities as a single parent. Luckily, layoffs weren’t the goal. Instead, it was to upsell. That is not why I went to dental hygiene school. But, what can you do?

This consultant started coming into the office every Wednesday and Thursday. One day, I was checking a patient out who just paid $1900.00 out of pocket for two crowns. Payment had been made upfront as per policy. The consultant was observing and wanted me to schedule the third crown that was needed. I intentionally decided not to follow her suggestion, because this patient just paid an out-of-pocket small fortune! My intention was to wait at least until the patient came back for the next appointment! The consultant kept prodding me to schedule him, and finally said, “We should also schedule your third crown while you are here.” The patient looked at me and said, “I can’t afford it and am waiting till next year.” That consultant didn’t know my patient but had an agenda she was determined to follow. I felt terrible and embarrassed after this altercation.

I walked into the office afterward and said,” When I am checking out a patient, please do not interfere. It undermines me and doesn’t look professional. If you want to help me improve on something, do it after the patient leaves. Not in front of them.”

I was hopeful that the consultant would come in with ideas about how to put systems in place, help us to organize our time, give us positive feedback and, well, consult!! Instead, the consultant redefined job roles and added more to our workload. There was no guidance to show us how to manage our new workload. We all hate our jobs now and dread Wednesdays and Thursdays since the energy in our office has changed so drastically. I’m so sad!! I used to love my job!! Now, I’m looking for a new one!

This is not an unusual experience. Pressure to increase sales is real. Consultants are brought in to help a practice run more efficiently. I am not debating the importance that consultants can bring to a business. What I am pointing out is that the most important part of consulting is listening. You do not have the lay of the land when you consult. Observation only gets you so far. If you are a consultant or a Dentist wanting to hire one, you need to appreciate the value in listening to those who are in the trenches. Those employees know how the practice runs. They also have a lot of ideas and suggestions on how to improve the practice.

My question is, are you listening to your employees? The good practices do. But in most, the idea of spending money to have “experts” come in and streamline processes and increase revenue is so tempting. How often have you worked somewhere where one consultant recommends one thing, and then subsequent consultants recommend the exact opposite? That happens quite a lot. When a consultant would bring us that new “form”, we would look at it and laugh to ourselves. We knew that most of these “forms” would be thrown out in 6 months when the next consultant came through.

Therefore, listening to employees and getting employees on board is so critical. Your employees can solve problems. They can cut down on expenses. They can also upsell. But you need to make your employees feel like they are part of the team. The way to do this is to listen, brainstorm, provide constructive feedback, and make the work environment a pleasant place to come to.

For my reader in Omaha, I am sorry that you are experiencing this kind of situation. Kudos for addressing the issue with the consultant in a professional manner. I’m sorry your practice is going to lose good people. Turnover impacts the patients as well as the bottom line. Please know that there are exceptional consultants out there. Just hope that they know how to listen.

If you have had good and bad experiences with consultants, email me your story at diana2@discussdirectives.com.