People like doing business with those they can relate to on a personal level. You’ll see this exemplified in hiring preferences, vendor relationships and professional connections. This is equally true in the relationship between a patient and his/her dentist. Patients are faced with the decision to choose one dental practice for their family out of dozens of competitors in their area. While many marketing tactics play a role in this decision, making a personal connection that goes beyond the ordinary doctor/patient relationship can definitely pull some weight.
This impact is most clearly seen when a patient has visited a practice one or two times. Maybe they’ve come in for an initial exam or a small-scale cosmetic treatment, but they haven’t yet become one of the regular, loyal patients that make up the lifeblood of your practice. At this point, the ball is in your court to make that happen. These first few appointments will form a lasting impression in your patients’ minds about who you are as a dentist, a practice and their healthcare provider. It is up to you to take full advantage of this impressionable stage by making personal connections with your patients. As the dentist in charge, you may already be doing many of these things brilliantly, and we urge you to share this with the rest of your staff so they do the same.
Here are a few ways to make those meaningful relationships flourish.
- First off, call patients by their name. A person’s name is the most beautiful, magical word they know and it holds the power to break down the conventional barriers labeling you as a dentist and them as your patient. You want your patient to view you as a friend – someone they can trust and around whom they feel at ease. People love it when you call them by name as it shows that you are personally invested in their wellbeing. In all interactions, make a point of greeting your patient by their first name, whether that’s over the phone, during treatment or, of course, when they first walk into your office.
- Ask your patients about their families, hobbies and other personal matters. People love to talk about themselves and many will jump at the chance to rave about how their daughter is excelling in school or how they recently took a family vacation to Costa Rica. Don’t stop there. Show genuine interest in your patients’ lives. When they return for treatment, follow up with them about what they discussed with you previously. Has their son won another basketball game? How did their daughter’s final exams go? This will solidify a sense of community and compassion.
- When communicating with a patient, focus on them as an individual. Each patient has a different comfort level, set of dental goals and history with dentists that will influence how they perceive dentistry as a whole. If a patient has told you that they feel anxious about injections or the sound of the drill, take care to remember these things the next time they visit your practice. Ask them frequently if they are comfortable while you are administering treatment. During routine visits, take a moment to ask if they have any concerns about their teeth in terms of comfort or appearance. In doing so you will present yourself both as a professional interested in providing customized care, but also a friend interested in helping them feel total comfort and confidence. After finishing a procedure, call them a few days later to ask how they are feeling. This final touch will keep your practice top-of-mind and seal the deal if they were thinking about returning for care in the future.
Make these personal connections from the start, and your patients’ decisions to stick with you, return for treatment and refer others will be a done deal. Plus, you’ll gain a patient who will be loyal to your practice for years to come.