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    How to create a ‘pre-suasive’ dental practice

    Creating the right atmosphere can help patients feel more at ease.

    As a Cialdini-certified trainer, I help other dentists learn about Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of ethical persuasion and apply them in their dental practices.

    Ethical persuasion is an essential part of being a great clinician. You can’t help your patients unless you can persuade them to accept your diagnosis and treatment plans. Cialdini discovered that ethical persuasion is based in six main principles: liking, social proof, reciprocity, authority, scarcity and consistency. When you keep these principles in mind, you find that your case presentations become more persuasive, that patients are more likely to make and keep appointments, and that you provide the sort of amazing care to patients that helps a practice grow and thrive.

    Last fall, Dr. Cialdini published a new book in which he shifted his focus from the art of persuasion to setting the stage for persuasive attempts. In “Pre-suasion,” he talks about how things like a person’s physical environment, emotional state and current thoughts can affect what sorts of messages they’ll find persuasive and how likely they are to be persuaded.

    It’s a great book, and I’d recommended it to anyone who’s interested in creating a really great dental practice. One of the most important takeaways is that small things can have a huge effect on later decisions. If a patient is refusing to get a crown, is it really because he doesn’t care about his teeth? Or is he just aggravated because the bathroom soap dispenser was empty, and so he likes you a little less than he did earlier today?

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    Cialdini focuses on how subtle environmental cues change people, for instance, how the view outside his office window changes his writing style. Little things in your office also change people and their receptivity to treatment. It’s time to put some thought into creating the right pre-suasive atmosphere in every part of your office.

    The reception and waiting area

    When a patient walks into your office, what are they thinking about? Unless they’re regular patients with a long history of easy appointments and cavity-free check-ups, they’re probably worrying about one of two things: the possibility of pain or the possibility of expensive dental work. You can use pre-suasive techniques to distract them or to make them feel more at ease.  To create a positive atmosphere in your waiting area, try:

    • Hanging photos of people with great smiles. Since frightened people naturally seek out the safety of a group, photos can help them feel more at ease. The smiles will refocus their attention from pain or cost to smiles and teeth.

    • Adding a complimentary coffee and hot beverage kiosk. The unexpected gift will help them like you and your office, and the warm drinks will relax and soothe them.

    • Utilizing lights and decor that mimic natural light and the outdoors as much as possible. Cialdini cites research about how the weather has a dramatic effect on people’s outlook. Help people feel like it’s a sunny day by paying careful attention to your decorating choices.

    • Offering soothing entertainment. Research has shown that tablets with games have a mild sedative effect, so make some available. You may even want to publicly post a “leaderboard” with scores to encourage a sense of fun and togetherness for your patients.

    The bathroom

    Make sure your bathroom has a really good mirror. Most people can’t help looking in mirrors, and it will refocus your patients’ attention to their appearances and away from pain. Human nature means that most of us are more willing to take big steps to protect our looks than to protect our health. A patient who has just looked in the mirror may be more willing to accept a necessary root canal or crown than a patient who hasn’t, because now they’re focused on their appearance rather than fear of pain.

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