Trust – that golden word, the promised land for the Dentist/patient relationship. You crave it, it sometimes even keeps you awake at night thinking about how to build and nurture it.
I like to think of the patient value system of trust very much like being a house – and what do we need to build the trust house? You got it yet?! YES – foundations.
The foundations are the starting point for any house and without them, the house will fall down (ask the 3 little piggies if you don’t believe me!) This is exactly the same when you are trying the build trust with your patients. Don’t get me wrong this is a complex issue, which everyone has a slightly different opinion about and it could be discussed until the cows come home (Holsteins hopefully – however I am partial to a Ruby Red). Anyway, I think there are a few key areas to look at/consider/implement when focusing on the trust house and it’s foundations:
1) It’s not just about your clinical skills – WHAT?! Is this man insane?! This non clinical rotter has the absolute audacity to state such a thing!? Well…. yes, I jolly well do actually. Think about it for a moment… a patient comes to the Practice, knowing they need to see a Dentist and that their teeth hurt or are in a poor state. However, they don’t know what the letters after your name mean, who you actually are or what you actually do. Not something people will always admit, but that is how it is the majority of the time.
2) It’s about how they are made to feel that is most important in the first instance. Being given a warm welcome by first name, with a smile – to a nice clean, well lit and aesthetically pleasing front of house area is a must. “Would you like a coffee or a cold drink whilst you wait?” for example, from a friendly, standing and eye contacting Customer Care Champion, to the back drop of relaxing music… Also, give some free Wifi for goodness sake – you can get free WiFi on public busses these days (for context). It’s all about customer service first and foremost. You can have the best products in the world, but if customers don’t feel welcome and valued, there will be no trust house! Period.
3) Aces for places – get the right team! A lot of what you achieve as a Practice and business hinges on having the right team in place. Most of what I mention above comes from your team and in particular the front of house team – the first and last contact point on each visit for your patients. If you have a grumpy, belligerent, self entitled, unhelpful, ‘I’m far to busy!’ ‘poison pillocks’ on your front of house desk – you ain’t gonna be winning any customer service competitions, trust me! The whole team should be smiling, courteous, ‘nothing is too much trouble,’ perfectly presented, polite and genuinely interested in the patients journey – humans pick up on those kind of positive vibes you know…! It is important that you invest in some customer service and sales training for the team as well incidentally. Remember, if you do happen to have ‘poison pillocks’ in your team – manage them immediately and replace them if necessary.
4) Processes – these are key to ensuring the smooth and stress free journey your patients have through your Practice – this is also key in building trust, especially with the more nervous patients. Making sure the team communicate accordingly with patients and each other is really, really important. For example, if the patient thinks that the Dentist and Hygienist aren’t on the same page, this will sow the nagging seeds of doubt in their minds i.e. when the Dentist offers one lot of prevention advice and the Hygienist says something different (feel free ask the wonderful Sheila Scott about this issue…) Make sure all your processes, from email replies, telephone conversations, treatment planning, quotes, team communication, website, Practice leaflets etc (I could list things here all day..) are consistent, professional and easy to relate too for patients. This helps build the trust house.
5) Clinical excellence – Now don’t think I’ve dismissed this area out of hand, far from it in fact – this is what you do so well Dr. Dentist, after all! Once your superb customer service has been delivered by your team and the patients feel welcome, cared for, valued and WOW’d – you now seal with deal and finish building the trust house! Obviously, your clinical skills are not up for discussion, but they do need to be spot on to deliver a lasting change to your patients life. Make sure you avoid jargon (no one knows what half of what you say actually means), are clear in your explanations of treatments, costs and how important prevention/your Hygiene team are. Make sure you highlight the importance of the same area’s as your Customer Care Champion (‘s) and Nursing Team did, but without obvious repetition – this is a key skill (come and see my Business Partner Dr. Charlie Fox in action for an excellent example of this) – if you can nail it as a team, your new patient conversion/current patient retention rates will go through the roof very rapidly.
So in summation – building the trust house is not simply about being an excellent clinician, although this is the proverbial ‘cherry on the cake’ for your patients. Just give it some thought, invest in your teams non clinical skill set, invest in some no critical essentials (thanks Paddi Lund) and really aim to WOW your patients, in every sense.
Oh and BTW – I haven’t touched on ‘follow up’ and ‘on-going communication’ in this script, that’s something for another day….