Patients are not buying a healthy smile from you. They are buying a relationship with you. Your energy level in each patient interaction is precisely what will propel the marketing and the practice.
The introduction to the classic psychology book How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie says, “There is no such thing as a neutral exchange. [With every interaction], you leave someone either a little better or a little worse.”
Here are 5 steps to ensure that every patient interaction leaves them a little better:
- Start with number one. Everyone in the practice, both patients and team members alike, match your energy every day. Are you bringing positivity to every interaction? Or do you often get mired in the challenges involved in owning a dental practice, and let it show? Are you a natural at winning friends, or are you more of an introvert? Do being hopeful and compassionate come naturally to you, or do you have to put effort into it? If you answered yes to the former parts of each question, you’re in great shape to move forward with the steps. If you are leaning more toward the latter parts, it may be good to invest in some leadership growth. In addition to Carnegie’s book, mentioned above, here are a couple of other good resources:
- Practice with the team. Connect with each member of the team every day, in meaningful ways. One easy way to do this is to affirm their contributions to the practice. Carnegie writes, “We are all united by one single desire: to be valued by another.” This is not to say that your employees deserve praise 100% of the time. And sure, it’s appropriate to provide constructive feedback every now and again. But overall, assuming you have hired well, your team is working hard. Acknowledge the little things and give unexpected accolades. Here are just a few that I overheard in a dental practice recently:
- “I want you to know that I notice that you arrive every morning a half hour before everyone else, and that I appreciate it and the team does, too.”
- “You are always smiling. Do you know what a positive impact that has on our patients? I’m so grateful for you.”
- “You handled that just the way I would have. Keep up the great work.”
- Ask “why” rather than “what.” In making small talk, we often ask, “What do you do for a living?” Or we otherwise ask about people’s work. Instead, ask patients why they do what they do. You will notice that they will soften and open up, talking about dreams, desire and even destiny. They may even share with you dashed goals, which is a great opportunity to empathize and connect.
- Explore what’s behind the statement. Human beings don’t like to be vulnerable. We mask our emotions from others in all kinds of clever ways. Listen closely to the inflections and words that a patient uses. There may be more behind what they are saying. For example:
- “Uh-huh… It’s… comfortable,” said in a small voice may mean, “I’m hurting, but I’m nervous to say so.”
- “I didn’t think it would be that expensive!” may simply mean, “I’d like payment options to make me feel more comfortable.”
- “I have to think about it,” may mean, “I have questions and concerns that I’m uncomfortable voicing.”
One of my favorite responses in these situations is simply a curious, “Tell me more.” This allows you time to intuitively process what they are saying and it gives them the opportunity to open up and tell the truth about how they are feeling.
- Take interest in other’s interests. Carnegie offers a few questions to start:
- Where did you grow up?
- What high school did you go to?
- What are your kids’ names?
He urges readers to commit to asking thoughtful questions of every person they encounter. Instead of spending the day in thought about dentistry and how best to run the business side of the practice, connect with those who mean the most to the practice’s success: the team and the patients. “Interact with them,” Carnegie writes, “and discover what problems you might help solve or what pursuits you might help promote.”
When you leave each patient a little better, they become brand ambassadors for the practice, singing your praises across town with very little effort or prompting from you. This translates not only into more production dollars in the form of new patients, but also a more loyal team and a more fulfilling career.