Here are the resources and transcript from episode 104 of our podcast Oral Surgery Admin’s Time Out Podcast: Practice Management Success Tips, which you can listen to below or find wherever you listen to podcasts. If you enjoy it, please subscribe, leave a 5-star review, and share it with your oral surgery colleagues.
On this episode, we hear from two OMS office marketing staff with very different roles. Livia Auten holds a more traditional marketing position in her practice, while Bob Pendry uses his experience and certifications to get chair-side with doctors. Listen as they discuss how their roles differ, share tips on mileage and visit tracking, and share their most successful marketing ventures and campaigns.
Jill Dunnam: [00:00:00] Hi everyone, and welcome today to SOMSA’s podcast, Oral Surgery Admins Time Out: Practice Management Success Tips. We’re glad you’ve joined us today, and we want to go over on this podcast marketing to our referring offices.
I’m Jill Dunnam, part of the Society for OMS Administrators, board of directors. And we have a couple of amazing guests on our show today. And we have Livia Auten from Georgia and South Carolina, where she works for a multi-location practice called the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and she is their Patient Relations Specialist and has been with them for 15 years. Welcome, Livia.
[00:00:57] Livia Auten: Hi, thanks for having me.
[00:01:00] Jill Dunnam: And we also have Bob Pendry here today from Fort Worth Oral Surgery, and he is the Director of Professional Relations and he has been there for seven years. Welcome Bob.
[00:01:12] Bob Pendry: Thank You.
[00:01:13] Jill Dunnam: And we also have with us today David Nye, who is a fellow board member, and David is the practice administrator for Livia Auten’s practice. And I am the practice administrator for Fort Worth Oral Surgery where Bob works.
And one thing that is noticeably different that I think we’re going to see between the two roles for Livia and Bob is quite a difference in the two roles that they carry at their practices, so I’d like to hear more about the job descriptions and the things that each of them do, one might be more traditional and one maybe a little less traditional. So hoping to talk about that a little bit more.
So why don’t we start with Livia and we would love to hear from you a little bit about your background that brought you into the role that you’re filling now at your practice. Can you tell us about yourself?
[00:02:01] Livia Auten: Yeah. Well, you mentioned this, that I have been there for 15 years, and prior to that, I actually lived in Atlanta and was in a marketing department for a design group up there, um, of architects. And I basically just sat in a cubicle and wrote proposals to get new jobs. And it was an awesome job straight out of college, but I loved the creative piece of that, and when this job came available, it let me be creative and come up with new, fun ideas to connect our office to the referrals, but it allowed me to be face-to-face with other people.
And I think that’s not something you get to do all the time when you’re in a marketing department, but this job lets you do both. And I have loved that. I love the people part of this, making connections. So yeah, that’s kind of what I was doing before this job.
[00:03:05] Jill Dunnam: Okay, great. And this is definitely a people-oriented business, so that’s awesome. Bob, if you want to tell us a little bit about your background before coming on to your practice, that’d be great.
[00:03:15] Bob Pendry: Sure. I’ve been at this a long time, you guys, I’ve been a salesman my almost my entire adult life and, anywhere from IBM to Baxter, to Scott Paper Company, to a multitude of US corporations.
But I got into the dental business in 1992, helping to start Straumann’s dental implant business in the United States. I was with him for 10 years, and then I moved to Oklahoma, started a new implant company called Thommen Medical. I was the CEO of that for four years and then left and came back to Dallas and joined Nobel Biocare as their Director of Business for all of the ClearChoice accounts. So I have experience when it comes to the all-on-4 process that’s been priceless here in my day-to-day walk with Fort Worth Oral Surgery.
[00:04:02] So from ’92 until now I’ve been primarily associated with dental implants or dental technologies associated with dental implants, so that’s been my specialty. And about six years ago, I was able to obtain a Registered Dental Assistants license through the state of Texas that allows me to touch patients in the appropriate, legal ways associated with the dental implant process, and it’s mainly the mechanical aspect of taking healing caps out, placing abutments, tightening the abutment screw, taking all-on-4 prosthesis in and out for our referring dentists that have some uncomfortable feel for that, that they allow me to do, or allow me to help or allow me to consult chair-side with them to help them through cases.
And so, as a part of the marketing of our practice here to the referring offices, this is probably one of the most important things that I get to do physically with these offices to keep them bonded to us and having a unique helper that nobody else that we know of anywhere, in this general area especially, has anyone like that. So I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, but just the confidence that our referrals have, that they can call on someone who will come chair-side with them to help them with the case, versus the patient having to come back here to our doctors to provide that service for free. I’m doing that and helping them do that out in their referring offices so that’s one of the most important things I get to do. And so that experience in my implant years, along with this RDA and helping people chair-side is what brought me to the point where we are right now.
[00:05:44] Jill Dunnam: Great. That leads to something I want to ask, and so we’ll start with you, Bob, and then we’ll jump back over to Livia, is you know, how does that really affect your day to day and your workflow? What do you do with most of your time there? Are you out at the office?
[00:05:57] Bob Pendry: Well, it prior to the last two months and to COVID, you know, I was on a kind of a regular route of visiting with offices and going by and making sure that all the top referring offices were seen and hugged on and kissed on and I take Peanut M&M’s everywhere I go, y’all. I’m the Peanut M&M’s man, so that’s kind of my entre and that helps get the door open, by the way too, and keep the door open. There’s nothing like a little chocolate.
[00:06:21] So it’s just been super exciting. We’ve changed implant systems from our two primary systems we we’re using, so I’ve been introducing the representative around the community. I’ve been learning more about this implant system and helping people chair-side with their first-time cases with it. So that’s been incredibly busy the last 60 days, and then all of a sudden, everybody else seemed to remember that I was here to help, so they were all calling for other cases that they needed help on. So my time has been directed by our referrals lately, where it was just, you know, directed by who I thought I needed to see next, you know, on my route. So, um, I don’t really have a route anymore. So I’m so busy almost every day with chair-side cases that it’s really been fantastic for me.
[00:07:11] Jill Dunnam: You feel like that gives you time with the practice, hands-on, where you’re interacting and promoting Fort Worth Oral Surgery, then?
[00:07:17] Bob Pendry: Right. Livia, like you said, you know, sometimes it’s hard to see the doctor every time. I get to see the doctor every time with these type of cases, so I’m there with him or her chair-side and participating in whatever appropriate way the doctor wants me to help them. And that really bonds us tremendously to that practice and their team. They know, the whole team knows I’m there to help. And I’m always welcomed in like a long-lost son. So that’s been a big binding factor for us.
[00:07:47] Livia Auten: Especially when you have Peanut M&Ms!
[00:07:50] Bob Pendry: I actually keep an array of M&Ms of the car. So I have different tastes at different offices that I have to meet sometimes, but they’re top-notch referrals for us, so they can get whatever they want, you know.
[00:08:03] Jill Dunnam: So Livia, just switching over to, you know, some of your day-to-day: with your title, being “Patient Relations Specialist,” do you have more patient interaction or talk about how that maybe differs for you and what you do at your practice?
[00:08:16] Livia Auten: Well, the majority of what I do, and maybe my title is a little elusive, there. I am the person that connects the patient and the doctor and the referral. But I do spend the majority of my time with our referring offices. I have a route like Bob said too. And I mainly, within, I kind of break it down into a block of two months, and my job also, I am not working full time at our practice, so not every day am I out on the road. So I’m getting three days a week to visit all these offices. And so in about two months, I try to see about 215 or so offices, but our top 50, I’ll drop in on probably every third week.
And usually mine are more social calls, isn’t a great way of saying it, but Bob sounds like he is a little bit more hands-on with the doctor. I’m mainly bringing referral pads, bringing goodies, everything that I could possibly put our logo on making sure everything’s going well, do they have, you know, questions for us? Are there things that, you know, you want me to ask the doctors when I get back to our office? But yeah, it’s breaking up that route over the course of a few weeks and making sure that everybody gets seen.
[00:09:52] Jill Dunnam: That’s smart. Yeah. Do you have any goodies that work in particular or any pretty successful things that you’ve enjoyed bringing around?
[00:10:00] Livia Auten: Well, I think Bob hit the nail on the head: if you show up with food, you will get anybody’s attention.
[00:10:06] Bob Pendry: That’s exactly right.
[00:10:07] Livia Auten: Yes, and so David and I both are, that’s our practice manager who’s on this call, we are constantly listening and looking out for new companies that are… Just recently, we passed out these iced cookies with our logo on them and people went crazy for them. And so we’re constantly trying to find, like, the new cool kitschy thing that also tastes good.
[00:10:35] Jill Dunnam: Nice. That sounds cute. Did you guys get a local baker then to make them or somebody you know?
[00:10:40] Livia Auten: Yeah! We use a few different local bakers and… it gets a little tricky because our offices are spaced out, so I have to find bakers and shops that are, you know, generally around the Aiken office or our north Augusta office or the office in Georgia and Evans. But yeah, and then I have those places that are always my hit-ups, you know. It’s, uh, everybody loves this local place and if I bring something from there, you know, the office recognizes it and things like that.
[00:11:15] Jill Dunnam: So with your offices spread out pretty far, so that amounts to a lot of mileage for you?
[00:11:20] Livia Auten: It does. I would love to know and go back over 15 years, how many miles I’ve, I’m on my third vehicle now, so and a lot of podcasts and audiobooks, I should say that too.
[00:11:34] Jill Dunnam: Right, well, now you have another podcast channel you get to listen to, is this one.
[00:11:38] Livia Auten: Exactly, exactly!
[00:11:40] Jill Dunnam: So do you have any tips or tricks on how to track your mileage that’s been successful for you and your practice?
[00:11:48] Livia Auten: Bob, do you? I need to think about that for a second.
[00:11:52] Bob Pendry: I keep a legal pad of all my visits and what I’ve done there, in simple terms, if I’ve helped with a case, if I brought them emergency parts, you know, whatever, there’s a place there that we can track back to if some office calls and says, “Hey, I didn’t get that part for Mrs. McGillicuddy’s case.” And they, I can check my book and tell him exactly what day and what, probably morning or afternoon, I brought that part to them and not to replace blame in any way, shape or form, just to make sure that they know that that part was delivered on time.
So, um, yeah, so I keep a log and I write the miles between each stop in the space there, and I measure it right off my odometer. And then I enter that into a monthly report for Jill, that she can see exactly where I’ve been, the miles I expended going there, and she’ll have a record. So I average anywhere from a thousand to 1300 miles a month, just around Fort Worth and the general area around Fort Worth.
[00:12:48] Livia Auten: How far are your stops away from each other? Do you have to, you know, drive across town or?
[00:12:55] Bob Pendry: Yes, sometimes I do. I try not to do it. You know, that it’s called a classic “star territory” where you’re going, you’re bouncing back and forth across town. I try to make my stops in a circle when I’m actually just making visits and a lot of our offices are the same parking lot with each other. So, you know, I just simply walk out one office and into another. But then people have, as far as Mineral Wells, which is about 50 miles and Cleburne, which is about 35 miles and Granbury, where I live, is almost 40 miles. I try to make sure we coordinate that, not waste time and mileage, you know, unless it’s an emergency, and then I just have to do what’s necessary.
[00:13:32] Livia Auten: That’s similar to what I do as well. I’ve got a little work binder that sits on the seat next to me, and I just make handwritten notes and I’ll go back every couple of weeks and we’ll send emails to the doctor. I’m like I sent one yesterday that so-and-so left this practice and purchased so-and-so’s practice, and here’s the address, and I’ll CC some folks in our office that would need to know the changes. And so, yeah, a lot of handwritten notes.
And I just write down the mileage in that notepad as I’m going from point A to point B and then of course sending that in once a week to get reimbursed. I know every practice probably does that differently, but then there’s that log there as well for how much I’ve driven.
[00:14:28] Bob Pendry: Livia, I don’t know about but you, but I wanted to let you know that I think everything we do is a moment to market. And so I asked our team here in the office, if they get a request for something from one of the referring offices, to make sure that I take it and I deliver it and we don’t mail it to them, no matter where they are.
[00:14:43] Livia Auten: That is so true. I’m going to take that line. I’m writing it down.
[00:14:47] Bob Pendry: I want that personal contact. I want to know that we cared enough to bring it quickly and put it in their hands and get that last bit of stress that may be a part of their job, just take it away.
So my job in the implant business, and the dental business, and here has always been to be the stress reliever. And I can take that stress off of that dentist and their team, but worrying about what they need or what’s going to need to be had. Do they have the right instrument?
I’m like walking Xanax. I want to be the calmer. I want to be their liaison person is so if they say, “Hey, Uncle Bob, you know, I need for someone back at your office for realize that I don’t need to have this done on my patients or this said to my patient,” or whatever it was, if there’s a complaint, which we have very few of, it is going to be well taken care of.
No one’s going to get thrown under the bus and we’re going to get the situation resolved immediately and get everybody back to a happy state. So that’s part of what I think is very important about our job.
[00:15:44] Livia Auten: Yeah. What you’re saying reminds me of a doctor who makes house calls. We’re not the doctor, but we’re kind of standing in for them and adding that personal touch.
And I agree with you telling our staff, “Oh no, don’t throw something in the mail! Call me, send me an email, and I can drive over to so-and-so’s office and handle that.” And I can give them food too. So it makes them want to call on us.
[00:16:15] Bob Pendry: It leaves you on a lot of different levels. One of the things I really love doing is having that last bit of patient contact when they’re getting the restorations finished or they’re doing their impressions. I get to ask them, “How was your experience at our office and how can we do better next time?” And they’re all just crazy raving about us, you know? So it’s great for the referring office to hear that patient say once again how much they enjoyed visiting our office. So that’s one of the reasons why I asked them is I want that doctor’s team and that doctor to hear from that patient that they had a great experience.
So it’s like a triple confirmation of, you know, what we’re trying to do here. That’s just totally unique. We’ve got other large oral surgery practices that surround us here and, you know, nobody can even touch us from a customer service standpoint.
And so we get to enjoy a tremendous amount of the community’s business here, and I call it generational business. And I love the fact that generations of people have been coming here for oral surgery needs since the mid, late seventies and early eighties. And that’s, my job is to keep that wheel and that thing turning positively. Um, I take the stress off of my doctors, off of Jill, off the doctors in the community and their teams, and let patients know that we care about them, we want them to come back.
[00:17:35] Jill Dunnam: So you can hear Bob breathes the benefits of his practice. It comes pretty natural for him.
Well, Livia, I had one more question and I’ll let you start and Bob, if you need to go, that’s fine. But I wanted to ask too: have you guys noticed any roadblocks that COVID has presented in your ability to visit offices? Or just any trends you’ve seen that would be interesting to mention here.
[00:17:58] Livia Auten: That’s obviously a really good question. Definitely on everybody’s mind right now, and being in the Southeast where we are, I imagine it’ll probably be different than in Texas, even, but we only saw things slow down, I would say for maybe six weeks, the end of March, all of April and early May. I would say by the middle of May pretty much every dental office that refers to us was back up and running, which you know, was really encouraging because I think it just helped everybody’s morale to know that we were all carefully and responsibly, you know, trying to form this new normal, but from our end, you know, being the marketing person who is literally in and out of all these offices, I knew that they would know that, and I tried to be super respectful. And when I got to a parking lot—and I still have to do this on some of our visits—I will call them from the parking lot and make sure that, um, it’s a good time for me to come in and feel free to check my temperature, I have my mask with me. And I will say this: in all of these months, I’ve only had one office that said they would prefer me not come in. They had had a COVID scare, I think, and so were being a little bit more cautious.
But mainly just letting them know: hey, I recognize that some people are a little bit more concerned and cautious, and I want to be respectful of you guys. Um, I can leave things in the mailbox if I need to, or if you’d like me to, you know, just stay on the porch and you come out here and grab whatever I’ve brought or if they need to hand off something to me.
[00:19:54] But yeah, I think mostly it’s been great to just see everybody keep plowing forward and be respectful of everybody’s caution levels, but I’ve mostly had open doors. So that’s been really encouraging.
[00:20:10] Bob Pendry: Livia, every single thing you said, down to the consonant, was exactly what I experienced here. Time frame, everything, exactly.
[00:20:20] Livia Auten: That is encouraging.
[00:20:23] Bob Pendry: I can’t add anything to that at all. That’s exactly what we’ve had here. And we’ve experienced tremendous business since the middle of May and coming back and the same exact experience on a door-to-door basis with our referrals. It looks like it’s right down the line the same.
[00:20:39] Jill Dunnam: So another thing I wanted to ask is if there are any really success stories that you want to share that have been fun, that other practices would enjoy hearing about. Anything you want to share, Livia?
[00:20:49] Livia Auten: Yeah. I was thinking back over these 15 years and about halfway through—it was around when we hit our 40th anniversary as a practice—we decided to update our logo. And that can always be a scary thing because you don’t want to change it to the point of being unrecognizable and having to completely rebuild.
[00:21:15] But, you know, how fonts can kind of become outdated and colors can sometimes be outdated. And then of course, for a lot of these practices, we have the word “maxillofacial” in our title, which most people can’t even say, much less spell. We updated our logo and made some minor color changes, and a font change to our title, and it may sound small, but I loved it because it’s simplified and drew attention in a good way.
And our logo is three faces looking in one direction and I don’t even use our title much anymore. I mentioned the cookies earlier that we took around to referrals. We just had the logo of our faces on the cookies, and most everybody knows exactly who we are. So, I don’t know, I think even looking at your logo could be a simple, easy way to market.
[00:22:25] Jill Dunnam: That’s great. Just get more people to see it.
[00:22:28] Livia Auten: Right.
[00:22:28] Jill Dunnam: Okay. David, do you have anything you want to add?
[00:22:30] David Nye: One of the things Livia didn’t mention it, and we didn’t want to mention everything we’ve done and so forth, but Livia has been a key, instrumental person in our monthly education lunches that we do for our referral office. At our facility, we can house 125 or more people at a time. So we do a monthly lunch.
[00:22:48] Jill Dunnam: That’s great!
[00:22:49] Livia Auten: Well, I was going to say, when you say that you can also put, in that since we couldn’t have lunch and learns this year because of COVID, that we’ve been setting up catered luncheons for them at their office, as a way of, you know, bridging the two.
[00:23:06] Jill Dunnam: That’s a great way to adapt for COVID challenges. Very thoughtful.
[00:23:10] David Nye: We just want to provide a touch point for them so they wouldn’t forget about us. You know, our purpose for lunch and learn is not lunches per se, but we do provide a CE credit that’s accredited and have competent and, um, important speakers that are applicable to our referrals. But we definitely didn’t want to miss the opportunity to just to keep them well-fed, as we’ve already talked about food and to, uh, to have an opportunity to, um, tell them we’re still thinking about them and we hope to resume the lunch and learns for our practice in 2021.
[00:23:39] Jill Dunnam: That’s great.
Well, thank you all for the great input Livia and Bob and David. We have really enjoyed everyone being able to participate today with our practice management success tips as part of the SOMSA podcast for Oral Surgery Admins Time Out. Thank you for joining us today.