In our first installment of this three-part blog series, we discussed ways to improve your “know” factor, such as creating a killer website that’s both aesthetically pleasing and chockfull of educational information about services, policies, and procedures. In part two, we’ll delve into some proven approaches for boosting your professional likeability. Why should you care about being liked? For better or worse, your perceived likability can dramatically impact your ability to attract and retain patients. Even the most accomplished doctors may struggle to maintain their caseload if, for whatever reason, patients just don’t like them.
As with most things in life, being “likeable” comes more naturally to some people than it does to others. Extroverts tend to have an easier time achieving this particular element of the “like, know, trust” trifecta because they’re more comfortable engaging people in conversation. Fortunately, you can easily increase your “like” factor by consistently implementing a few simple strategies to develop and nurture your patient relationships.
PART 2. The “Like” Factor
Here are six simple strategies to help you boost your “like” factor:
- Mind your manners. Surprisingly enough, it’s fairly easy to boost your “like factor” simply by exercising common courtesy and acting like a human being. Being truly likeable has nothing to do with Facebook; social media is no substitute for professional etiquette. Luckily, you don’t need to go to charm school to master this technique – a simple “thank you” goes a long way, as does “please.” This next suggestion should be a no-brainer since you’re in the business of creating beautiful smiles and all, but in addition to making eye contact when you introduce yourself and interact with patients and their families, don’t forget to SMILE! Here’s another FREE tactic that can give you a leg up on your competition: be considerate. If you keep patients waiting, apologize for the delay. This shows that you respect their time and we tend to like people who show us the respect we deserve. If you follow the golden rule and treat others the way you want to be treated, you can’t go wrong.
- Show interest in your patients’ lives. Dentistry, like all areas of medicine, is inherently more personal than most professional services. Some doctors shy away from engaging patients in personal conversations because they feel their focus should be solely on the health issues at hand, but a little personal chitchat can help put patients at ease and set the right tone for treatment planning. Taking the time to get to know your patients by asking questions about their lives encourages the development of your relationship with them, especially if you remember this information and follow up during future visits. A good rule of thumb for finding the balance between integrating a personal touch and fulfilling your professional obligations? Start personal and end personal.
- Employ likeable people. Hiring gregarious people doesn’t completely let you off the hook when it comes to boosting your own likeability, but it sure can help the cause! While a candidate’s competence and credentials are undeniably important, don’t underestimate the value of an applicant’s likeability, especially when hiring for positions that serve as the primary point of contact with your patients. Since we naturally gravitate toward pleasant people, chances are that your staff already includes several individuals who embody these traits. Employees that can easily build rapport with patients are worth their weight in gold and bring tremendous value to your practice, so be sure to let them know you appreciate their efforts (see #6).
- Empower your practice with positive language. Whether you see the glass as half full or half empty, using positive language in your interactions with patients (and teaching your staff to do the same) is an effective and cost-free method for enhancing your congeniality component. Here are some examples of positive words and phrases:Absolutely, Yes, It would be my pleasure, Welcome, Happy, Please, Glad, Sure, Like, Enjoy. If you’re not incorporating positive language in phone interactions with patients, you might never get the chance to apply this approach in real life. At PDM, we provide a variety of staff training services, including teaching your team techniques for handling patient phone calls that prevent potential high-dollar cases from slipping through the cracks.McKinneyDentist.com, a Texas-based dental practice, found great success when they took this strategy to the next level with their “Say Yes” philosophy. The concept grew out of their purposeful decision to take a new approach to frequent patient requests for teeth cleanings. Rather than employing the standard response they were taught in dental school (which starts with “no” and is followed by a proviso about X-rays, an accompanying exam, or some other stipulation), the McKinney team decided to try saying yes. Turns out, patients like hearing that word,” says Dr. Marvin Berlin. “They appreciate being able to get cleanings on their first visit, or have a painful tooth treated immediately, same-day. This is where our ‘Say Yes’ philosophy was born, and where we discovered that listening to patients and addressing their immediate concerns works much better than bullying them into what we were taught they should do.
- Show your (patients) a whole lotta love. If you can earn points for common courtesy, imagine what you can achieve through thoughtfulness? In a world that seems to have forgotten customer service, finding ways to show your patients that you appreciate them encourages continued loyalty and referrals. There are millions of ways to thank people and make them feel good. Many, such as heartfelt compliments and thank you’s, won’t cost you a dime. Consider using your social media channels and other online forums (like your blog or practice newsletter) to promote your clients and showcase their transformations. Check out this fabulous list of ideas for showing gratitude, courtesy of business coach and marketing industry thought leader Tea Silvestre. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Sending handwritten thank-you cards.
- Sponsoring monthly drawings where all the entries come from those who made a purchase.
- Featuring preferred customers on your website.
- Hosting an event for preferred/long-term patients and showing your gratitude with a party atmosphere.
- Show your (staff) a whole lotta love. Showing your staff some love is just as important as conveying your appreciation to patients. According to entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (who also happens to be the sixth richest billionaire in the United Kingdom), taking care of your staff should actually be your foremost concern. Why? Everything at your practice trickles down from them. Branson says, “If the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the job they’re doing, If you give them the tools to do a good job, [if] they’re proud of the brand, if they’re well looked after, [and] they’re treated well, then they’re going to be smiling, they’re going to happy, and therefore the customer will have a nice experience.” In keeping with that philosophy is Branson’s belief that an unhappy staff equals unhappy customers: “If the person whose working for your company is not given the right tools, is not looked after, is not appreciated, they’re not going to do things with a smile, and therefore the customer will be treated in a way in which they don’t want to come back for more,” he says. “So my philosophy has always been, if you can put your staff first, your customers second, and your shareholders third, effectively in the end the shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff are happy.” Take care of your people and they’ll take of you by providing your patients with stellar care and superior customer service!
Stay tuned for the last installment in our three-part where we’ll discuss methods for improving your “trust” factor with patients. If you’d like assistance implementing any of these strategies, please call us today at (727) 286-6211 to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our dental marketing experts.