Developing great relationships with your dental patients is one of the most effective ways to promote both patient loyalty and patient referrals. So, what can you do to establish these strong connections quickly?
American psychologist and expert on human behaviour, Robert Cialdini, says to make a positive and lasting first impression you need to rapidly seek out commonalities.
These commonalities don’t necessarily need to be meaningful. It could be as simple as you are both cyclists or both enjoy cooking. The result is a greater chance of being ‘liked’ by your patient, and they are left with the feeling of being connected.
“There’s research that shows that self-disclosure is reciprocal” says Cialdini. “That means if you share details about yourself, people will tell you about themselves and when you hit on a commonality, there’s rapport.”
Developing rapport in the dental surgery is more challenging in some ways, given that there isn’t the opportunity while the patient is receiving treatment to use other non-verbal communication skills, such as ‘mirroring’ and ‘open body language’. Therefore, it is your listening skills, voice and likeability that you will be reliant upon. Be confident and friendly in your conversation, and try and make your patient feel good about themselves. It is common for patients to arrive feeling wary that their oral care isn’t up to your standard, and with our natural human response being to not only avoid pain but also avoid feeling inadequate, it is a good idea to quickly put them at ease.
If you want patients to come back, give them good reason to do so. Don’t hesitate to offer up information about yourself and be more social in your interaction with them.
Another helpful technique in building rapport is to speak slowly. If you are one of those people who naturally speak quite quickly, concentrate on bringing the rate down. It allows others to absorb and process what you are saying and lends you more credibility. Speaking slowly also puts a stop to stumbling over yourself and helps cease your use of filler words, such as ‘like’, ‘basically’ and ‘you know’.
And finally, suspend your ego. This is one of the most effective communication tools you can master. When you are building a relationship with a patient, it is all about them. Listening and remembering what the patient has said is so much easier when you release the need to get the next word in. Continue encouraging them to expand on their input by asking How? Why? What? When? Validate them and be thoughtful in your responses.
Building rapport is a multi-faceted skill that can be quickly improved upon with each additional interaction. So concentrate your efforts in one area at a time, for example “with every patient today I will find at least one commonality”. Once you have established this skill, then go to another such as slowing down your speed when talking.
Keep perfecting your rapport building skills and you will master the art of keeping your great patients and being referred new ones!