Our natural response to a crisis is usually fear and panic. However, most people do not realize that such situations often provide opportunities that can be harnessed to grow. This seems to be the case with the current Corona Virus situation.
Although the current crisis is indeed more than just a storm in a teacup, it does offer an opportunity – a chance to reflect, learn and grow. That is especially true for service industries, including dentistry.
The core purpose of this blog is to help each other tackle hurdles, and achieve dental success.
Considering how the current situation is developing, it is likely that you may have to shut down your practice for an unknown period of time. It is obvious that this will directly impact your staff, patients and your cash flow.
I will share 4 steps that you as a dental practice owner can deploy immediately with the goal of minimizing the business impact of the current crisis. Also, these steps will help you keep your team productive and will help you hit the ground running once the crisis is in the past.
Please understand that any advice within this blog post is general and that you must consider your state laws before implementing any advice mentioned herein.
STEP 1: Maintain the “Right” Mindset
Don’t panic! Most people say it, but end up buckling under pressure when the time comes. Your most important job as the business owner is to stay level-headed. A little will go a long way in easing the nerves of your team and your patients alike.
You must constantly let your team and patients know that you understand the extent and severity of the situation and that you are doing everything within your means to mitigate the risks. Let them know that you’re willing to go the extra mile to ensure patient safety.
Your staff is naturally going to worry about what happens if there’s no work for potentially some number of months? How will it affect them financially? You must make the effort to reassure them. Instill positivity – sincerely acknowledge their concerns and let them know that you will stand by them through thick and thin.
To start, make sure your staff is fairly compensated during the downtime, otherwise, they will leave. The best way to tackle the pay issue is to approach it on a case-by-case basis with each employee. There are a couple of ways you can go about it:
- Look into using a contractual pay agreement
- Ask your employees to utilize their vacation days that you can replace int he future
Secondly, see if you can renegotiate terms with your suppliers. Ask for extended payment options. Doing so could substantially reduce the pressure on your cash flow.
Here are some helpful Human Resources guidance regarding employee pay from Bent Ericksen, https://bentericksen.com/coronavirus-faqs/.
Watch below as Alex Nottingham JD MBA, Founder and CEO of All-Star talks about how best to approach a crisis such as we are experiencing. You can watch Alex’s discussion on YouTube or find the podcast version at the bottom of the page or in your favorite podcast service.
STEP 2: Address your Patients
The key to not losing your patients during the crisis is proper and honest communication. Keep them updated and reassure them that they will not be without your help during any quarantine.
Make sure you engage your patients with every possible touchpoint. Your website and social media profiles should have relevant information. Make sure it is regularly updated as the situation develops. Reach your patients via their inboxes too with newsletter updates.
Call each upcoming appointment individually and let them know that they will be taken care of. This will help minimize cancellations. Go the extra mile and make yourself available for emergencies even during a quarantine (please make sure to check with local guidance for healthcare services during a quarantine), because if you don’t, someone else is going to swoop in and take away your clients.
STEP 3: Opportunity from Crisis
The next question is what happens during a potential quarantine? Do you just sit around and wait for things to resolve? Or do you strive to make something meaningful out of it?
During the downtime, you will have an abundance of a very important resource – time. Lots and lots of time. Hopefully you will have a way to continue paying your employees, so it makes perfect sense that you try and justify it by keeping your team active and giving them regular assignments.
In fact, you will be doing your team a favor by keeping them busy. One, their skills will improve, and secondly, the constant interaction with you and their teammates will help them stay positive and will keep their morale high.
So how do you do it?
You train them – virtually. There are plenty of practice management tools out there that allow conducting online training classes. All Star Dental Academy, for instance, offers an extensive program of virtual training options and a huge library of dental resources.
From learning how to convert patient calls to improving everyday productivity, your team can sharpen every aspect of their job, and from the comfort of their living room while in their pajamas! Your team could also complement this with Virtual Coaching Sessions. All Star also offers a robust virtual platform that gives our coaches the ability to conduct thorough training sessions completely online, making it very easy for your team to absorb knowledge.
Another way is to have regular virtual huddles. Collaborative tools such as Zoom, Slack, or even Skype will come in handy here. You could review office policies, have meetings about issues that have been a lower priority, or have your team process paperwork or insurance.
Another important assignment for your team should be to call each patient and keep them updated. Inquire about their condition and as the quarantine period comes to an end start confirming their appointments so your schedule is already filled up when you open up again.
STEP 4: What to Do After Coming Back?
It’s important to understand we’re currently at the cusp of an economic downturn. It is quite likely that there will be a recession when you come back to work. And that people are going to tighten their financial belts.
Your patients are likely to look for cheaper options and will be tempted to choose corporate practices over yours. Some of them may even skip dental work altogether. There are several effective ways to handle the predicament.
Flexible payment terms. Let your patients know that you understand the economy is difficult and that you want to make sure that they have access to the best dental facilities no matter how hard the times. Sit down with your accountant and hash out a plan that serves your patient while also keeping your cash-flow in check.
Offer warranties. It will ease the nerves of your patients and help them understand that their money is well spent.
Offer your services via extended hours and weekends. This will add convenience for your patients and will also help your practice make up for the billable hours lost during a quarantine.
So there you have it; a robust, easy-to-implement plan to help you make the most of this crisis. The key is to understand that maintaining a reasonable perspective goes a long way in navigating uncertainty and that any situation CAN be molded into an opportunity.
Chime in with your thoughts and comments. We’d love to hear what measures you have taken and how you plan to take your practice forward in the next couple of weeks.
For any questions and to learn more about how All-Star can help you navigate this crisis contact us here: https://www.allstardentalacademy.com/contact/.
Click below to listen to the podcast where Alex talks about how best to approach a crisis such as we are experiencing.