My 11-year old son recently finished phase one of braces and a friend at the gym asked me, “How was the orthodontist?” As I answered the question, I found myself thinking of the same things a typical parent would think of:
- Did the appointments begin on time?
- How well did the staff communicate during the process?
- Did my son seem to enjoy the visits?
- How did the assistants treat him?
I laughed afterward because, with my experience in the dental world, I could have evaluated the office more like a buyer or dental consultant. “Well, the equipment was clearly very old, the turnover at the front desk was a little jarring, but it didn’t seem like he sacrificed quality supplies to keep overhead low.”
No. I evaluated the office based on the things any parent would understand.
Your patients do the same. Your patients have no idea how to judge your clinical skills, so they will default to judging the quality of your advice on the things they do understand. If you want to increase your case acceptance rate, my advice is to dry clean your shirts.
Yes – pay the extra money, and take the extra time to drop off and pick up beautifully pressed dry cleaned shirts.
Sometimes I read advice to dentists that case acceptance rates are a result of your case presentation: the quality of your argument, the imaging you show them, or how well you communicate to them the urgency of the situation in their mouth. This advice, while not wrong, ignores the more powerful non-verbal aspect of persuasion and communication. Patients are going to make a decision partially, and perhaps even subconsciously, on what they think of you, the doctor, giving them the recommendation.
Put simply – your non-verbal communication can be more powerful than your verbal skills.
A dry cleaned shirt looks sharp, is pressed, and is as nice as it gets (without looking ridiculous, like a tuxedo). As a bonus, your shirt is close to your face, probably the first place the patient looks when you come in the exam room. A crisp, laundered shirt sends a number of subtle messages to a patient:
- I’m professional.
- I plan ahead carefully even with mundane details like how nice my shirt looks.
- I could choose the easy, comfortable scrubs like my employees, but I choose to look nice for you.
- I do a good job and am successful enough to afford a nice shirt that I get pressed.
I’m always amazed when I meet a dentist who doesn’t have perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth. My first thought is, “Really? Don’t you know what you’re doing?” Intellectually, I know there are a lot of reasons for how they look, but my gut, emotional response to crooked slightly off-white teeth in a dentist’s mouth is negative.
Dry clean your shirts. Shine your shoes when you get to the office. Spend a little more on frequent, nicely done haircuts. Banish the words “like” and “you know” from your vocabulary.
Embrace the truth that patients have no idea of how to evaluate your clinical skills or expertise, but will evaluate you on what they do understand. And watch as your case acceptance rate goes up!
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