The field of dentistry is unlike any other field of medicine in that it is completely built on relationships. The business assistant is usually the first person that a patient comes into contact with, either by phone or in person. How are you cultivating the relationships that you have with your patients? With the recent changes to insurance coverage, as well as the increasing competition from more dental practices, how can you ensure keeping your current patient base and continuing to add patients? Let’s look at some simple ways to build relationships with patients.
Be Nice - I know it sounds pretty elementary but just think about this for a minute. How many people do you run across in a day that are crabby and in a sour mood? You don't want to interact with them nor be around them, and certainly you don't want to do business with them. If you're having a bad day and can't seem to turn it around, then don't interact with your patients. If you are in a larger practice, have someone else greet patients and answer the phone. In a smaller office, see if there is someone that can give you a short break in order to be able to collect yourself. One bad day can turn a patient in the other direction or cause a potential patient to run to another practice. People don't like to do business with grumpy and irritable people.
Follow up – I can’t overstate the importance of following up with your patients. Most people are busy and don't have enough hours in the day to follow up with their dental offices. How much money in uncompleted treatment plans is currently just sitting in your patient’s charts? We know there will be times when patients need to reschedule an appointment or leave without an appointment. The simple act of following up will not only make you stand out from other practices, it will let your patients know that you do care about them as well. Chart auditing should be done on a regular and continuing basis. Successful follow up actions can simply include a phone call, an e-mail or even a handwritten note. Choose follow up actions that will fit within your practice and do them regularly. Make sure that you are sincere when contacting patients – let them know that their health is paramount to you.
Trust – This is so important because most people will not do business with individuals or companies they do not trust. Start your relationships off with being honest, giving what you promised, and always keeping your word. Build relationships to the highest level of trust. Always work with integrity.
Eye Contact - If you are going to be interacting with people in public, make eye contact with them when speaking. Don't talk to the clouds or the floor but directly to the patient. You will be surprised at how you can set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd by simply smiling and making eye contact.
Be Yourself - People do not like to work with others who are phony. The most important part of your identity is just being yourself. When doing business and developing relationships, be in the habit of being authentic. It pays off and will work to your benefit; you’re not spending the time and energy involved in being something your not. Your patients and potential patients are very intelligent and have a keen sense of perception. They will definitely sense if you’re being disingenuous. Don't brand yourself or your practice as being pretentious or insincere. It will take time to reverse this and it is the wrong foundation to building strong, honest and healthy relationships.
There are numerous ways to build relationships and many of them will tie together. Remember to be nice, pleasant, be yourself, and always work with integrity. Keep in mind that building relationships is a two-way street that begins with you and treat your patients the way you want to be treated.
(To be used for Business Beat Winter 2013, PennWell Dec 2013 & Burkhart Dental Jan 2014)