Communicate Excellence to Deliver Communication Skills Advice at MOPC 2020

chest of pearls

We are planning our return to MOPC 2020. This year’s third annual meeting will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the Mall of America.

Amy will be speaking to staff members this year. She will provide pearls that can be immediately implemented upon your return to the office on Monday.

Communicate Excellence will also have a booth. Stop by to hear the difference coaching can make to the performance of your front desk team members. And don’t forget to explore what giveaways we have this year.

About Amy

Amy has developed breakthrough systems and processes to empower teams. The talents she used at Bank of America, where she was awarded over 55 US Patents, is now available to the orthodontic world. Amy now empowers and equips front desk team members on their phone and communication skills. She listens to over 10,000 calls per year as she coaches hundreds of team members each year to new levels of confidence and higher efficiency. Amy is also the author of the book, Communicate Excellence, available on Amazon.

Register today! We hope to see you on September 10-12, 2020!

Habit upon Habit

Calendar with colored blocks

Recently I came across a social media post with a great image having the months of the year written in a block font and broken into how many days in each month (see photo above). Immediately I knew I wanted to pull that into my personal resources to help master my habits. I am fully aware each day is an opportunity to build a habit upon habit.

As I began to fill in the days I began to call it my “patchwork of progress”. It hits so well upon the science of habit loops.

Habit Loops

James Clear, in Atomic Habits, and Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, speak of habit loops. They describe a 3-part cycle of a habit loop. The cycle is started with a trigger or cue, which then causes a response or habit, resulting in a reward. The item I appreciate James Clear speaking more of is how craving is a part of the loop. The craving for the reward is what puts us in action and solidifies the loop into a habit. I like to think of craving as a catalyst fanning the flame of action.

Habit Loop - Cue, Response, Reward

My Habit Loop

Allow me to tell you how I took the coloring page into my own habit loop.

The cue for me are seeing the calendar sheet. It reminds me of my “why” of the desired habit and the end state I desire, but it also triggers a craving for me. I LOVE “done” and want to continue the streak of coloring in each day. So getting to color in a shape or checking off a block motivates me. But I know in order to be able to get the reward I must take action (response/habit). And then once I do, I get the reward of coloring in the daily block.

This cycle works well for me because I love to color but rarely take the time to do so. This means my reward is very desirable for me. And since I have this reward so closely coupled with a cue/craving it is very effective.

But How Many?

This year I picked three core habits I wanted to work on. I picked one for my heart, one for my mind, and one for my spirit.

I also give myself “partial credit”…just like I encourage my students to do. Allow me to explain.

One of my three is to step on my scale. I have a long hard history and battle with my scale. The numbers it displays sometimes seem to taunt me or yell at me causing me to want to avoid it and give up on my ultimate goal of good health.

I am working on changing its meaning as I work on my health. So every day I set my intention and awareness of a health-focused day by stepping on. Yes, I want a downward trend and am working on that, but more importantly, I step on…notate it…and color in a block. But on days I travel, I have no scale to stand on so I mentally set my intention. If I do that, upon my return I don’t fully color in the block for that day but I hashmark it. Grace…grace…grace.


Awareness is the first step to change.

I teach this to my students from their very first coaching session by providing a sheet of blocks to chart their wins. And I encourage them to give themselves credit in multiple ways. If they fully execute the habit we are working on, they are to “x” the block, like a “strike” in bowling. If they don’t execute on the habit but immediately think of it afterward…you know that “D’oh” moment…then I instruct them to give themselves a “/” in the block, like a “spare” in bowling. Awareness is the first step to change.

Little by Little

Bit by bit I see my habits changing and I like it. Little by little I see incredible changes as I work with teams!

So what two to three things will you and your team choose to work on? Dont’ even stress about two or three…pick ONE. Master that one habit/process and move to another.

Remember…habit upon habit…process upon process.

Contact Communicate Excellence for a systemized habit-upon-habit approach to the success of your team.

New Year Intentions. New Possibilities…But Are They Probable?

Turn new year intentions into a possibility.

There is something special about a new year with its new beginnings, new intentions, new possibilities, new calendars, and new planners. All seems fresh and the possibilities are endless.

But if it is possible, does it necessarily mean is it probable?

Our family enjoys going to CiCi’s Pizza. “Welcome to CiCi’s!”

On one particular instance, prominently displayed at the front door was a sign offering a $250 prize for anyone who could meet “The Challenge”. The rules included eating a 28-inch pizza and drinking a large soda, without ice, in 60 minutes. No standing, no throwing up.

Now is this possible? Yes—according to the sign, one person had succeeded.

Is this probable? No—so far only one had succeeded while over 40 people had accepted the challenge.

Possible vs Probable

So what is the difference between possible and probable?

The dictionary says that possible means, “capable of happening, existing, or being true without contradicting proven facts, laws, or circumstances—capable of occurring or being done”. Common words—”it could happen”.

The dictionary says that probable means, “likely to happen or to be true”. Common words—more than likely, “it will happen”

New Year Intentions

This is the time of the year when we make resolutions or add things to our “bucket list”. Each of these things falls into the category of possible or probable. Some things that determine where they fall include your expectations and effort.

When we walked into CiCi’s, we saw the challenge and determined that it was something we could possibly do, (we like pizza and how hard could it be?) — but probably would not do because we did not expect to win and were not willing to make the effort to win, and so far, only one had succeeded.

Your List – Your Choice

Think about the resolutions you have made for yourself and your team. Then categorize them into Possible and Probable. Finally, see how many you can transition from Possible (it could happen) to Probable (it will happen) by providing the correct expectation, effort, or resources.

Remember, it’s your list—it’s your choice. You can turn “possibility” into “probability” with the plan and effort it takes to meet your expectations.

And what would that look like? Success!

Set Yourself Up for Probable Success

Start the new year and new decade off right by empowering yourself and your team with the first book of its kind! Communicate Excellence: A Guide to Authentic, Positive, Consistent Front Desk Communication is a resource that should be in every practice.

Learn how to improve EVERY communication and call!

From making a great first impression to proper communication for scheduling and handling difficult patients, [Amy Demas] shows how to dramatically improve conversion rates, build your practice, and create raving fans in the process. Implementing her time-tested methods will help build teamwork and reap big profits for your practice!

John McGill

Learn from the communication expert, Amy Demas, as she shares her insights after evaluating over 10,000 calls EACH year. Then consider…

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

Coach John Wooden

Find Communicate Excellence: A Guide to Authentic, Positive, Consistent Front Desk Communication wherever books are sold. For $19.99 it is a resource you cannot afford to pass up.

Dare We Talk of Money?

Talk of Money and Piggy bank with dollars

The question of how we talk of money on the phone has been around for years. How do you approach it?

Do we take an absolute stance to never talk about cost on the phones? Should we claim ignorance? What about quoting a range? And how about speaking of payment arrangements?

Setting the Scene

When a potential customer calls asking for a quote or cost range for treatment we immediately feel perspiration beading up on our foreheads. The verbal tap dance begins and many feign ignorance of what anything could cost.

More likely than not the majority of callers have a general idea of cost. They have Googled it, asked around, or have already had a quote provided.

So then…what’s the big deal with the question and this talk of money? What is the question behind the question? That is what we should be asking ourselves and addressing.

Invariably this is a way to ask if you are affordable. Don’t miss this! By not addressing the actual question you risk the provided opportunity to demystify how you can work with them making your services possible in light of their monthly budget. You have not removed a critical barrier to entry for them.

Let’s discuss the various strategies that get used when the talk of money and cost invades the initial call.

Free Ranging

While “free ranging” is a good idea when shopping for eggs and meats, it is not a wise option to the cost question on the first phone call.

When I hear a free-ranging reply it is always with cost ranges way to broad as to CYA. It tends to sound like: “Well…it can be anywhere from $2000 to $8000 for braces.”

Oh my! In an effort to cover any option possible the free-ranging team member has done a great job of scaring away those who don’t have a lot of funds set aside. Conversely, the deal maker will be upset with a final quote anywhere above the low-ball $2000.

Don’t put yourself in this spot.


Oh, the affliction of amnesia…how sad it is…especially when it is not genuine. Unfortunately, this is the way our front desk teams are taught to act out. But this does not evoke trust.

The tap dance of acting as if you do not know the typical costs for treatment come across as just that…acting. The caller knows you know and to pretend otherwise does not foster trust inn the relationship.

One form of this is palatable. It is when you do not dodge the question but rather inform the caller: “There are various factors that impact the cost of treatment and during your free consultation the doctor reviews your case we will provide you all the information about any recommended treatment. Let’s go ahead and get you scheduled for your complimentary exam.”


Ah, this is what we want. We want someone to see beyond the verbal question and validate the unspoken question…the issue of affordability.

In this instance, we still mention there are various factors impacting the total investment of treatment, but also add, “what I can tell you is that we are very successful in working with so many families to get down payments as low as $xxx and monthlies as low as $xxx. Would that work for you?”

Then guide the caller to make the appointment.

You have now removed a barrier to entry. And you have also provided social proof of helping other families.


Do not let the talk of money cause anxiety. Also, remember we do not want to be quoting fee ranges or pretending we have no idea what our offices charges. Neither approach addresses the real concern of the caller, which is affordability.

Answer the unspoken affordability question. Discuss what dollar amounts will be used by the team. Then you can let the inquisitive caller know you have been very successful working with many families to get down payments as low as $xxx and monthlies as low as $xxx. The other details will be covered in the complimentary exam so go ahead an get them scheduled to come on in.

5 Categories of Questions

5 Categories of Questions and question marks

There are several categories of questions from which we can draw. In our businesses and our lives, we must realize there is more than one way to ask a question. We need to know which type is most effective. Today we will elaborate on five categories of questions.

The five categories of questions are:

  • Permission
  • Clarifying
  • Discovery
  • Leading
  • Wishing

“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”

W Edwards Deming


We use permission questions at the beginning of our customer interactions. A common one is: “How may I help you?”

Other times we use permission questions are when we need to place a caller on hold (“May I place you on a brief hold?”) or begin a series of questions (“May I ask you a few questions?”).

Notice the use of, “May I”. Politeness is a key component of these type of questions.


Clarifying questions are used predominantly as we exchange information. They help ensure understanding and accuracy.

A common use is when repeating back hear information and adding on, “Did I get that correct?”

Or, if we want to validate our listener captured the essence of our message we may ask, “Do you have any questions about what we discussed?”

Understanding and validation are the goals of these questions.


While we use discovery questions throughout interactions with our team and customers, they are used heavily on inquiry calls. The challenge is obtaining a proper ratio of close-ended versus open-ended questions.

Close-ended questions saturate most inquiry calls. This staccato and ping-pong effect of question-answer, question-reply is why many calls sound as if we are going down a list or tabbing through computer screens. (Oh, please tell me you aren’t taking these crucial calls on the computer!)

But by adding strategically placed open-ended questions throughout the inquiry call you create space to uncover valuable information. It also fosters the relationship by demonstrating a greater curiosity about them. Finally, it sure feels better offering information than having it extracted.

Think about it…would you rather answer the typical, “Name? DOB? Address? Phone number? Who referred you?”…or experience a greater free-flow and exchange of information with the following inserted throughout a call, “What prompted you to give us a call today?” and “Is there anything else we can do to make your first visit more comfortable?”


A well-crafted leading question helps guide the respondent to the intended reply and desired answer. This is a form of influence…or persuasion.

There are times this in not appropriate and why judges call out attorneys for “leading the witness”. But for our offices there are times we need to guide and influence our customers into the options we provide.

Using a leading question is most effective in our offices when needing to schedule customer appointments. After offering two choices, we ask, “Which one works best for you?” The use of “which one” implies a limited resource and option. Compare this to asking, “Do either one work?” as if the provided options emerged from a limitless pool of possibilities.


Wishing is a type of question, but it is heading down the slippery slope toward pleading. That is not where we want to go.

Wishing tends to end with, “Ok?” and a near sing-song lilt.

This pattern can slip into our questions and it then devalues our position. Do you know where this is so commonly heard?

child on playground

You’ve got it…the playground!

Have you heard the wishing parent? “Johnny, we are going to go soon. Ok?” Can’t you see the scrunched face and hunched shoulders and hear the wishful lilt in the voice?

It is so easy to change the wish to a clarification. Try this: “Johnny, we are going to go in 5 minutes. Do you understand?”

We must do the same and even elevate it to a leading question. Instead of asking, “Mrs. Jones, when do you want to come in?” change it to, “Mrs. Jones, the doctor has [Option A or B]. Which one works best for you?”


Be intentional with your questions. Empower your teams by teaching them about these five categories of questions and provide examples. Finally, practice and provide constructive feedback on the effective selection and use of the questions.

“If you want the answer – ask the question.”

Lorii Myers

But let’s add to the quotation…ask the right type of question.

“It’s too…(hard, busy…)”

Picture of cheese as a play on cheese with a complaining whine.

Do you need some cheese with that “whine”? We have likely heard this play on the phrase “wine and cheese” when someone is whining. Our team members are not immune to it…and neither are we.

But let’s face it, phrases that start with, “It’s too…[hard, busy, new, different]” usually equate to one thing…a whine or EXCUSE.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Willingness is a key component of change and growth. Without it, even the most capable person wallows in mediocrity or stagnates their progress.

In order to overcome a challenge or obstacle, we must apply willingness. When I see stories in the news or posts on Facebook of individuals overcoming impossible odds, such as Nick Vujicic, Aldo Amenta, or Anna Sarol, our willingness seems pale by comparison.

“In order to accomplish something, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”

Mike Hernacki

Now I’m not saying this is to do anything illegal but let’s take it to where the rubber meets the road in our offices with two examples of what we can do to foster success.

“It’s too hard to remember.”

Really? I know the change of a habit is not easy but we can prepare in advance.

An example of this is when I hear some individuals needing to exchange one word in their greeting. The culprit is the word “can” instead of “may.” The last part of our introduction should be, “How may I help you?”

And why do we say “may”? “May” is a permission word and “can” is an ability word. You may remember this from your grade school days when you asked your teacher to leave the room to go to the bathroom. You may have said, “Can I go to the bathroom?” to which your teacher sarcastically responded, “I don’t know…CAN you?”

Then you would make the exchange to use the correct word and repeat yourself by saying, “May I go to the bathroom?” Then your teacher would grant you permission.

The same happens on the phone. We have teachers and English majors calling our offices and though they may not say the sarcastic response out loud, I can guarantee they are saying it in their head. So, exchange the word and remove an unnecessary hurdle. Say it correctly and demonstrate you take care of even the little details to get them accurate.

What can you do? Create a reminder…a sticky note to be placed at your phone. That way we set ourselves up for success as we exchange one habit for another. (For more on exchanging habits, refer to Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.)

“We’re too busy to take an inquiry call on paper first.”

Here is another one. When I hear this whine or excuse, it cries the need for a checklist. Checklists are invaluable as a safety net ensuring nothing is missed, and they serve as a communication and trust tool allowing anyone to notice, at a glance, the status of the process.

It is said best in The Checklist Manifesto that checklists:

…provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us – flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness.

Atul Gawande

The debate over taking an initial call directly into the computer versus on paper doesn’t seem to go away. A summary of the debate can be obtained here.

But that is not the point here. We want to apply willingness to create the best first call experience while not forgetting to input the details into our system. So what do we need to ensure we do what it takes to make it excellent and without error? A checklist!

Create a checklist and stick to it. Not only will your callers have a better experience, but you can then move some of the tasks on the list to a quieter time of the day, allowing for level loading of work capacity. Checklists are critical to your office’s playbook of success.


Watch out for when a whine or excuse bubbles up in your office. A key indicator of them is hearing phrases start with, “It’s too…”

Finally, apply true willingness to overcome the obstacle. Do what it takes! A couple of examples are reminders and checklists. Do so and you will set the environment for excellence!

Confirmation Call – “I’m confirming [beeeep]”

Bored woman listening to confirmation call

We have all experienced it, right? Thanks to Caller ID, we let the answering machine or our voicemail answer the call. It’s only a confirmation call. It serves to remind us to show up to an appointment or obligation. But the usual result is a quick [DELETE]…beeeeeeep.

The Ritualistic Confirmation Call

We have a love-hate relationship with such calls. On one side we appreciate a reminder of our upcoming appointment in case we did not write it down correctly. On the other hand, once we begin hearing the details, we hit “delete.” The usual confirmation call barely hovers above a level of mediocrity.

So why do we think we are doing something different by simply having a live voice instead of an automated voice do the same thing?

Change the Purpose – Connection Call

We want to be different than the usual confirmation call; let’s set out a plan.

Change the purpose from merely confirming and reminding to connecting and drawing upon the authority of our doctors. We can let the future patient know we are anticipating and preparing for their visit. This goal is easy to accomplish by referencing the status of their new patient forms.

Notice that by using this as an opportunity to thank or remind the caller about the forms we demonstrate we have taken an early initiative in preparing for their visit. It is not saying, “if” they haven’t filled it out to do so. It is actually knowing and personalizing it to them.

Thank or Remind Them

First, review the patient details to see if they have filled out their forms. If so, thank them. Conversely, if the items are not yet submitted, remind them. Either way, employ one of Cialdini’s principles of influence and draw upon the authority of the doctor.

Here are some examples:

(First, for completed forms)

“Good evening, this is Mary from Dr. Smile’s office. As Dr. Smile was reviewing your records he/she said you had completed your new patient forms and asked me to personally thank you for having completed them. Dr. Smile is looking forward to meeting everyone involved so he/she can answer everyone’s questions about his/her recommendations.

Again, this is Mary, and I will be at the front desk to meet you when you come in for your consultation tomorrow at 8 am. Should you have any questions before then, please call or text me at 555.555.5555. Again, that number is 555.555.5555. Have a great day.”

(Secondly, for incomplete forms)

“Good evening, this is Mary from Dr. Smile’s office. As Dr. Smile was reviewing your records, he/she noticed that the new patient forms were still not in our system and asked me to ensure you still had the appropriate link/email to those forms. After this call, I will email you the link. Additionally, the online forms are located on our website at

If you are unable to submit those tonight, Dr. Smile requests you arrive 15 minutes early, so you have time to complete those forms and ensure all the details are prepared in advance of your one-on-one time with the doctor. Dr. Smile is looking forward to meeting everyone involved so he/she can answer everyone’s questions about his/her recommendations.

Again, this is Mary, and I will be at the front desk to meet you when you come in for your consultation tomorrow at 8 am. Should you have any questions before then, please call or text me at 555.555.5555. Again, that number is 555.555.5555. Have a great day.”

Either example demonstrates you have taken the time to prepare and anticipate their visit. We want to sustain the great experience of the first call to validate we are unique. Be different…be excellent!

Try it out and watch how the small details add up to a better prepared new patient visit ready to say “yes” to your recommendations.