Innocent Ignorance or Intentional Impediment

As dental consultants Lynette and I have seen with almost everything, and there is always at least one choke point in our clients’ practice systems that has broken down. In previous blogs I have discussed problems related to the dentist getting behind schedule, or a lack of understanding by the team of the overall goals of the practice. One area that seems to have started popping up is with an office manager that either through ignorance or intent, disrupts the flow of the office.

Some office managers assume power that is not theirs and overpower the staff and the doctor. There are many causes for this, but the primary one is the idea that just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does power. If practice owners leave anything unregulated, then ambitious office managers will take that power, because it is their responsibility to maintain order. Unfortunately, this hegemony on the part of office managers can knock the entire practice out of balance, especially if poorly trained office managers have autocratic tendencies and domineering personalities. I qualify this group of poorly trained office managers because professional groups like AADOM can professionalize dental office manager through training and continuing education. A trained office manager can go from an impediment to the practice’s growth to being the main mover of efficiency, productivity and harmony.

In the call center where we answer well over a million calls a year for our dental clients, occasionally we run into the dilemma of office managers who see us as a threat, and do all they can do to undermine our service. We are an outside service, chosen by the practice owner. A minority of autocratic office managers take our selection as an affront to their authority, especially if they were not consulted on the original decision to sign up for our services.

How that insult to their pride manifests itself is a lack of cooperation in the onboarding process, a reticence to call us if problems occur and an overall negative attitude in their communications with us. At this point they cannot claim ignorance about what they are doing: they have crossed over into the area of intentionally impeding us from helping the office. Some have tried to sabotage our agents and our service. On a couple of occasions, they have lied to the dentist about us and have convinced them to drop the service. If doctors call us we can almost always disprove every false charge made against us. We keep meticulous records of every call we answer and can justify every disposition we send.

Sometimes doctors will confess to feeling a little intimidated by their office managers. We understand, and will help them. Our call center leadership has had conference calls with the dentist and the office manager to get everyone on the same page. When office managers are convinced that we can help them, without threatening their power, they usually wind up being our biggest fans. We can help them remove their negative intent to disrupt progress.

For trained office managers who understand the increasing demands on the staff to not only handle every call, but also to provide the excellent customer service that creates patient loyalty, they are grateful to share their burden with our agents. Suddenly they notice their staff is less harried and more new patients are filling up their scheduling calendar.

Lynette and I are huge proponents of training to improve office productivity and harmony. Contrary to what some office managers think, they do not know everything. AADOM can help them become more secure in their working relationships, so that every attempt to modernize and change is not seen as a threat to their job. Change is unavoidable in order to be competitive in the dental market, resistance to change is totally avoidable. Whether it is innocent ignorance or intentional impeding of progress, good training and clear communications can turn the most ferocious office manager into a happy, confident leader that can lead the front office into a better life.

John Ross