Trust is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. Whether it’s with a spouse, friend, or family member, without trust there’s no way the relationship will survive. The same is true of your relationship with patients. If patients don’t trust you, they will move on—fast.
Take this quick quiz to measure your level of trust with patients:
- Will patients leave your practice if their insurance plans change?
- Do your patients accept the vast majority of recommended treatment?
- Do patients accept the vast majority of recommended treatment that is larger than a single tooth case?
- Do 60% of your patients refer at least one new patient each year?
- Do your new patients generally refer other family members within 12 months?
The more “no’s” that you have to these questions, the less trust patients actually have in your practice. If I were starting a practice today, I would assume that patients have a moderate level of trust but not enough trust that all of the answers to these questions would be “yes.”
So how can you create a high level of trust?
Customer Service—A Critical Component in Patient Trust
When you build outstanding customer service, it not only affects your patients’ conscious minds but also their subconscious minds, and you’re on your way to creating a high level of trust.
Have you ever had a great experience with a product or service and told lots of people about it without consciously making a decision that you were going to talk about it? Sure, we all have. When patients feel compelled to tell other people how wonderful your practice is without consciously thinking about it, that’s an example of customer service being so powerful that their subconscious mind compelled them to talk to others.
Most practices do not provide customer service at this level. In fact, recent customer service studies from the Levin Group Data Center show that dental practices score an average of 7.2 out of 10. While there are certainly star performers, most practices have nowhere near as high level of customer service as they would like to think.
This perception stems from the belief that excellent clinical care and excellent customer service are one in the same. The key to great customer service is to be as intentional about it as you are with any other practice system (ie, scheduling, case presentation, or hygiene system). Your customer service system should include the following patient interactions:
- Greet every patient by standing up, shaking hands, smiling, and effusively telling them how glad you are to see them.
- Hand off all patients between staff members with introductions, handshakes, smiles, and a greeting that tells the patient how glad you are to see or meet them. Doctors should ask each patient about what is new in their lives at each visit. Record this information into their personal file so that you can develop a personal knowledge of them for future interactions.
- Leave time at the end of each appointment for doctors to chat with patients, answer questions, thank them for coming in, and tell them how much they appreciate that they are a patient in the practice.
- Design and teach scripting for all patient interactions to ensure that communication is at the highest level.
This is but one small part of a comprehensive customer service system. The key is to put all of these interactions in place, practice them, and make them part of your daily practice habits. Soon, you’ll perform them without having to give it any real thought because they will become intertwined within your daily duties.
When trust is high, patients become committed and remain loyal to practices. They will not leave simply because they have a change of dental insurance or move a few miles away. They’ll even tend to refer others without realizing it because they feel compelled to talk about the practice. Rely on great customer service as one of the most powerful strategies to help build patient trust and increase practice success.
Dr. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with more than 26,000 dentists. Dr. Levin, an internationally known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and more than 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs—dentistry’s only all-business study clubs, the next generation of dental business education.