||by Benjamin Lund, Editor
Jay Geier was only 18 when he started his first company. He and his mentor, Dr. Alan Goodwin developed a board game designed to help kids learn how to make good life decisions called Drugs
and Alcohol: Play it Straight. At the time drug prevention was emerging as a major national issue, and Geier and Goodwin thought these games would be in every toy store in America. The game was never stocked on a single toy store shelf – however, the duo ended up “selling a million dollars worth of games” to school systems around the country via direct mail, according to Geier. This experience, though it helped many children, taught Geier the power of marketing. He pursued a marketing career and became the marketing director of a private hospital where he learned about generating new patients. After a move to Atlanta, Georgia, Geier ended up as the marketing director for a large practice, which saw between 400 and 600 new patients every month. Geier was paid by how many new patients the practice generated.
Naturally, he was extremely motivated to learn how to generate more new patients. Through his determination and education in learning how a practice can increase the number of new patients it sees, the Scheduling Institute was born. Dentaltown
Magazine recently interviewed Geier to learn more about the Scheduling Institute and what it can do to help every practice bring in higher amounts of new patients each month.
Jay, can you tell me more about why and how you started the Scheduling Institute?
Geier: My experience as marketing director at the practice in Atlanta is really where the Scheduling Institute began. Because I was solely responsible for new patient generation, I worked tirelessly and employed every imaginable tactic – from Yellow Pages ads to signs, and newsletters to direct mail – for getting new patients. They generated hundreds of calls every month, but the hard-earned calls weren’t translating into new patients. My mission then became to figure out why. I studied every part of our patient intake process and discovered two huge problems keeping us from record-setting numbers. In less than 90 days I fixed both problems and spent the next three and a half years growing the practice. We averaged between 400 and 650 new patients every month. Eventually I decided to use what I had discovered to help other doctors grow their practices. That’s how I founded the Scheduling Institute.
If you met a dentist on the street who had no idea what the Scheduling Institute was, how would you explain it?
Geier: The Scheduling Institute can add 10 to 50 percent more new patients to your practice with little or no changes in your marketing or advertising by simply leveraging one of your existing assets. This asset also happens to be your biggest expense – your staff. It might seem so simple that it may be hard to believe one thing can have such a positive impact on your practice. But once you understand the process it’s really very enlightening and exciting. The greatest discovery is when you see the results.
What exactly does the Scheduling Institute do to generate new patients?
Geier: We don’t “generate” new patients, we actually “recover” patients that you’re currently losing, but don’t know about. Ninety-eight percent of new patients call before coming into your office. This means your front desk staff is their first impression and the “gatekeeper” to your schedule. If your staff is trained properly they could be revenue producers in your practice and help you increase new patients. But if not, they could be costing you more than just their salary or hourly rate.
What does this mean to practice owners? Our research has found that most dentists are losing 10 to 50 percent of potential new patients. If you’re averaging 20 new patients a month, you’re losing two to 10. If your average new patient is worth $1,500, this could be costing you $3,000 to $15,000 a month – that’s $36,000 to $180,000 a year. Think about how much this number increases if your new patient value is greater than $1,500.
How do you go about training staff?
Geier: First we begin by establishing three growth measures.
Next we work on changing the staff ’s mindset and getting them to focus
on new patients. I guarantee that if you went right now and asked your front
desk staff what is their number-one priority, they wouldn’t say to schedule
new patients. Then we use incentives to motivate them. After these three things
have been covered we begin training to teach the staff concepts and strategies
for effectively handling new patient calls. We put several accountability tools
in place to ensure that the staff stays focused on new patients and steadily
progresses towards certification.
- Average Number of New Patients (usually a six or 12-month average)
- Baseline – a number above the average
- Goal – a number above the Baseline. This number should be attainable, but more of a stretch goal that will achieve a greater level of practice growth.
Training involves a test and a score. Can you explain the
test and scoring system you created and how it relates
Geier: Since we’re teaching staff how to handle new patient calls more effectively, the most accurate way to determine if they are mastering the skills is to put them to the test with a mystery call. We call the practice posing as a new patient, ask the usual new patient questions and present common buying signals. We wait to hear how the staff handles the questions and whether or not they respond to the buying signals.
We evaluate five major components within each call and “score” each component using our unique “5 Star Rating System.” Some components weigh more than others based on their impact on actually scheduling an appointment. The score of each component is added up and translated into an overall Rating. Zero being the worst, 5 being the best.
I understand that in the end, every practice you work with should be certified by the Scheduling Institute. How does a practice achieve certification?
Geier: Certification is like the “final exam” in school. It is a very important part of the training process. In order to be certified, a staff member has to fully complete our training program and demonstrate he/she has mastered how to effectively handle new patient calls. A mystery call that gets a rating of 4 or 5 would be “certified.” A staff member cannot even apply for certification until both things are achieved – completion of the training program and a 4- or 5-star mystery call rating.
Learning is an ongoing process and we have to constantly refresh and brush up on skills to continue being effective and good at what we do. Doctors must realize that their staff is only as good as their last rating. So if someone scored a 5 three weeks ago and today they scored a 2, that’s a problem. It’s really about maintaining a 4- or 5-star rating on every call that comes into the office. We continually monitor this for the doctor.
What does certification mean to the doctor and the practice?
Geier: From the beginning, as staff moves through the training program a doctor will start to see a steady increase in new patients congruent with the staff ’s increased ability to handle new patient calls. Once a staff has achieved certification a doctor will see a significant increase in new patients and his/her bottom line. New patients are the life-blood of a practice so when they go up, everything gets better.
Certification is the point when our clients take huge growth spurts in their practice. When you have a fully engaged staff and a significant flow of new patients, the fun really begins. We then work with our clients to address capacity issues that arise from the abundance of new patients. We guide them through expanding their facilities or bringing in associate doctors – whatever it takes to achieve the level of growth they want.
I’ve heard you deliver training in a few different ways. Please tell me about each option and what do your clients consider to be the best value?
Geier: As far as the ways we deliver training, we offer two options. There is what we call On Site Training and then there’s our Self Study course. Both courses use the same curriculum and accountability tools. The difference is the speed of implementation and how quickly you see results.
On Site Training is our most popular method of instituting the training. With On Site Training one of our Certified Training Specialists will come to your office for a full day of training. Our trainer does everything for you. She sets your Baseline, your Goal and your Incentive plan. Within one day your staff will be handling new patient calls differently and more effectively converting calls into scheduled appointments. In most cases, doctors begin seeing results almost immediately after On Site Training.
We did a study recently of about 60 On Site Training clients and what we discovered was pretty incredible. Within the first two months after the training day, 22 percent had more than a 41 percent increase in new patients. (Editor’s
Note: To find out more about On Site Training and to see some
specific client results after training, go to www.SchedulingInstitute.com)
I recommend On Site Training to clients with five or more people answering their phones or who have two or three offices. It’s easier to get everything done in a day with someone there to implement it for you.
The Self Study course is a good option for a doctor with a small office or a doctor who has a staff that is highly motivated and will take ownership of training and get it implemented without a lot of hand-holding. It works just as well as On Site Training; however, you want to have someone who you can delegate it to because you, the doctor should not be managing the entire program on your own. The program is designed for the doctor to delegate and the staff to implement. Of course both options have accountability tools in place and our membership services department provides ongoing training support that your staff has access to anytime.
What can you guarantee when a practice uses your services?
Geier: If a client implements the program and does the things we ask in order to get the staff certified, we guarantee significant new patient increases. It’s as easy as that. It always works if you do it. It doesn’t work if you don’t take action or you don’t complete the program. We guarantee our services with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you do what we ask you to do.
What’s the 5 Star Challenge?
Geier: The 5 Star Challenge is an opportunity for prospective clients to learn exactly how their staff is performing based on our 5 Star criteria. It’s a discovery and education process. For many doctors it’s the first time they’ve ever looked into their patient intake process and really scrutinized how their new patients are being handled. We will conduct a mystery call and evaluate it using our unique 5 Star Rating system. You’ll receive the call and a custom evaluation and feedback based on your call and the rating.
What other resources can the Scheduling Institute offer its clients aside from telephone training?
Geier: Our phone training is just one of many practice growth resources we offer our clients. However, a doctor must be engaged with the Scheduling Institute before they can move onto other things. We require this because the Scheduling Institute addresses an area of your practice that must be covered or none of the other growth strategies will work as well, or may not work at all. Once a client is engaged, some of the other resources we offer are member events, coaching groups, private consulting and additional on site trainings focused on retention, referrals and marketing.
Where can doctors and their staffs learn more about the Scheduling Institute?
Geier: Every dentist should take the 5 Star Challenge and find out how their staff is performing. Doctors will learn how many new patients they are losing and how much opportunity they stand to gain. There’s no cost or obligation to take the challenge.
What if you score a 0, 1, 2 or 3? Great news! Within 60 days, your new patients could increase 10-50 percent. If you score a 4 or 5, that’s great news too. You don’t need our help, you are free to market and grow your practice. To take the 5 Star Challenge visit www.schedulinginstitute.com and click “Take the 5 Star Challenge” at the top. We will send you an informative CD that will take you through our educational process. If you want to work with us and get the training program implemented in your practice, call my office at 866-470-7203.