As I sit in my backyard on a Saturday morning in Phoenix, Arizona, the sun is just starting to peek over the horizon. My wife and four children are still asleep inside, and today will mark 19 days for them in isolation from the world during the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s only 6 am, and I’ve already seen two patients today. This sounds like the opening scene of some cheesy sci-fi movie, but it’s not. This is real life in the spring of 2020. My name is Dr. Brian Harris, but most people know me as the Virtual Dentist.
Don’t leave yet. This isn’t just another article about teledentistry or telemedicine, and I promise I won’t tell you that you need to floss your teeth or brush more frequently. If you hang around until the end, you might realize that this article actually has nothing to do with teeth at all.
It’s much bigger than that. The ideas I want to share with you can actually apply to any business that interacts with people or provides a service, especially during the times we live in now and for what we are all going to experience for several years to come.
Where It All Began
For any of this to make sense, I need to take you back to January of 2017 so you have some context of how I got here. I had just finished up a long week of seeing patients, and I was exhausted. My wife and I were talking that night, and I mentioned to her how amazing it would be to show up to work each day and only do the procedures that I loved to do.
Naturally, she responded with “So why don’t you?”
I rolled my eyes (without her seeing, of course) and told her that it just doesn’t work that way. What she said next was the one phrase that completely changed the trajectory of my career as a cosmetic dentist.
“Brian, the problem is that everyone knows you are a dentist, but nobody knows what you do,” she said.
I asked her to go on.
“The people in the neighborhood, people you went to high school with, and the people we go to church with all know that you are a dentist. But they really don’t know what you do unless they have personally come to see you for treatment. You should start posting your before and after cases on social media so they can see what you do,” she said.
So as any smart husband would do, I took her advice even though it felt so self-serving and uncomfortable at first.
My First Virtual Patient
Sure enough, within two weeks I received a message from someone named Kendall asking for my help. She was 22 years old and attending college at Arizona State University but hated how her smile looked. It was starting to affect her personal life, but she just didn’t know what to do about it.
My initial instinct was to respond and say “Hey Kendall, here is my office number. Call in the morning and schedule a consult with me.”
But before I hit send, I paused and wondered what her smile actually looked like. Maybe if I have her send me a smile photo, I thought, I could give her some advice right now. So I asked her to send a smile photo, and when I saw it, I instantly knew that I could help her.
As I messaged her back some different options, it felt so impersonal typing it all out. So, I decided just to record a video of myself talking to her and sharing with her what was possible.
As I started talking, I remember that the first words out of my mouth were “Kendall, I can help you.” As I said it, I actually felt a personal connection with her, even though I was just talking to a computer screen. I went on for 10 minutes to personally introduce myself, talked about her options, shared the cost of treatment with her, and ended with an invite to come meet with me in person before I emailed her the video.
Even though I was recording a video, I was able to feel a real human connection and felt like I was truly helping her regardless of if she decided to come see me as a patient. She was blown away by the response and came in a week later to see me. We were meeting face to face for the first time, but there was already a trusting relationship formed. She knew what it was going to cost, so we started on her smile with some simple cosmetic dentistry that same day.
A few weeks later, I got a notification that someone had tagged me in a photo on Instagram. When I opened up my phone, I saw a picture of Kendall pointing to the big smile on her face and thanking me for helping her in the caption below. Together, she and I created a true pivot point in her life. She was now moving through life with a level of self-confidence she had never felt before.
You Can Be a Virtual Dentist Too
At that very moment, I realized that there are millions of Kendalls out there who are struggling with their smile but have no idea who to trust, what to do, or what things cost. I wondered what it would be like if I started doing all of my consults this way. How many more people could I reach? How many more lives could I impact? How many more people could I serve?
This is the moment when I became the Virtual Dentist. I have recorded more than 4,000 virtual consults for patients, and my schedule is currently booked out for five months with smile transformations alone.
I now mentor hundreds of other “virtual dentists” who use the teledentistry software I developed called SmileVirtual, which connects patients looking to improve their smile with dentists from all over the world.
People who have a dental emergency or who are just looking for advice from a doctor they can trust can go to smilevirtual.com and submit a virtual consult request to a dentist or specialist in their area. That doctor will then get back to them with different treatment options and pricing without them ever having to leave their home.
We are living during a time where trust, transparency, and convenience are the three most important things we can offer our customers in any business. People want to do business with people they trust, and the best way to build trust is by creating total transparency with your pricing and making it convenient for your customers to do business with you.
Now more than ever before, we are in competition for people’s time. As the world gets back to work after months of being quarantined at home, people aren’t going to have the luxury to take time off like they used to be able to.
My challenge to anyone reading this is to look for ways to create more transparency in your business and serve people at the highest level possible. Make it easy for them to do business with you. If you do so, you will create happy paying customers who return often and refer their friends and family to you.
When I share smile transformations on social media, others will often comment on the differences that these procedures must have made in their lives. I used to see it that way too, until one day it occurred to me that it’s not about the difference it makes, it’s the difference the difference makes.
Transforming a smile and helping someone achieve a level of self-confidence they have never experienced before is a beautiful thing. But allowing them to now show up differently in life in both personal and professional relationships is way more powerful. They become happier and more confident people, better parents, better friends, better employees, and better bosses. That’s what it is about. It’s not about the teeth. It’s about people.
Dr. Harris has been in the cosmetic dentistry industry for 15 years. He is currently recognized as one of the nation’s top cosmetic dentists, but if you were to ask him what he does for a living, he will tell you that he is a confidence builder. People fly to Phoenix from all over the globe to transform their smiles because of his personalized approach to cosmetic dentistry and his unique process for transforming smiles. Dr. Harris is the pioneer of virtual consults in dentistry. He’s done more than 3,500 of them in the last three years and is the creator of Smile Virtual, the first fully HIPPA-compliant virtual consult software platform in dentistry.