In dental school, we learn a lot about clinical work and practice care. These are important topics, of course. They are necessary skills for performing the life-changing treatments we perform on patients every day. The treatment we can perform on a moment’s notice changes lives. It can get people smiling again after years of hiding their smiles. It can help them advance in their careers. And it can even help them make better romantic connections.
But we can’t do any of that without top-quality team members to support us and patients who trust us to have their best interests at heart. Building deep relationships with team members and patients is one of the most important parts of running a successful practice and not a topic we learn in dental school.
Our team members need to perform top-quality dental care and care deeply about the practice and patients. They also need to trust us to give them the tools, training, and support to set them up for success. And our patients need to know we are genuine, compassionate human beings who are not just trying to sell dental services to them.
In the Delivering WOW Platinum Coaching Program, mindset coach Dr. Shakila Angadi shared the following three strategies for building the deep relationships with patients and team members we need to develop as dentists to succeed.
When a team member approaches you upset about something or with an idea for improving the practice, do you stop what you’re doing? Do you look them in the eye and make them feel heard? Do you give them the attention they desire?
Dr. Angadi says practice leaders must give team members eye contact and be mindful of their body language. Make sure it’s clear that you are listening to them and giving them your undivided attention. If you are in the middle of something you can’t break away from, that’s okay. In those cases, pause what you are doing for a moment, look them in the eyes, and let them know you want to give them the proper attention but cannot at that moment. Schedule a time during which you can give them your full attention.
The same is true with patient concerns. Even if you are used to splitting your attention between multiple projects, don’t do it when a patient or team member is talking with you. Put down your phone or turn away from the computer screen. Otherwise, the person will think you don’t value them. Even if you agree with what they propose, the person will walk away feeling unimportant.
Whether you are talking to a patient or a team member, Dr. Angadi says it’s important to mirror their emotions. If they are coming to you with a problem, talk with them in a way that shows them you understand and sympathize with them. Connect with them as humans. Express emotions similar to the ones they express with you.
If a practice or patient is upset, whatever they are upset about is causing a problem in your practice. Be upset, too. Of course, you don’t need to have the same level of emotional reaction as them. But, be sure to express empathy and concern when your patients or team members are concerns. If they are happy about something, celebrate with them.
If a patient says that they’re afraid about getting a root canal, let them know you understand their concern. Step in their shoes, see why they might be afraid, and let them know it’s completely normal to feel that fear and that you understand.
We need to make sure that we acknowledge what patients and team members say and mirror the emotion they are coming to us with. Once we repeat the emotion, the person coming to you with that emotion will feel immediately connected with and supported by you. That builds trust.
Being heard is important. But we also need to offer solutions to patients and team members that help solve real problems. For example, a dental assistant might come to you and say they feel stressed because they never get a moment to breathe between patients and are constantly rushing around the practice.
Whatever the issue, once you’ve listened and understood the concern, offer a real solution. And make sure that the solution focuses on the problem and not the person. It’s easy to say, “you just need to roll up your sleeves, it’ll all be over by 5pm and then you get to go home and rest” but that won’t build a deep relationship with them. That’ll put them down and make you seem unsympathetic.
Offer a solution that focuses on the problem instead. In a short-term busy period, the solution might be to adjust their schedule to help them get extra downtime after the rush. If it’s a long-term issue, perhaps creative patient scheduling will help them get a break. Or, maybe your practice has become busy enough that you need to hire an additional team member. That can happen when you start implementing the dental practice growth strategies our WOW Platinum Coaching experts provide.
Are you ready to build deeper relationships with patients and team members?
Actively listening, mirroring emotions, and offering solutions are three ways to build deeper relationships with patients and team members. For more help, join the Delivering WOW Platinum Coaching Program today, where you’ll get training directly from Dr. Angadi and our other experts on all aspects of starting, operating, and growing a dental practice.