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    How to create a ‘pre-suasive’ dental practice

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


    The hallways

    Your hallways are important, even though patients will only experience them for a few moments. Keep the décor cheerful and smile-focused. Use the space for inspiration, not advertisements, so that your patients understand that your main focus is on helping them, not on making money. In general, prominent advertisements for procedures can be very risky for a dentist, since it sends the message that you’re trying to “sell” a treatment or a vendor. Think carefully about each poster, flier or model you add to your practice.

    The patient bays

    In a well-run office, your patients are going to spend most of their visit in a patient bay. In many offices, they have a lot of time to look around the bay and take in everything – your décor, your tools, even the brand of sterilizing wipes you use. You need to be especially attentive to the arrangement of the bays. Helpful touches include:

    • Personal photos of you or your hygienists. These humanize you and your staff and can make it easier for patients to like you and trust your advice.

    • Diplomas or certifications. These convey authority with no effort on your part.

    • Photos of past, happy patients. Worried people naturally seek out a crowd. Seeing a crowd of happy patients who succeeded with their treatments will make your new patients want to succeed with their treatments.

    • Anything but ads. As I mentioned before, ads make it look like you’ll put profit ahead of patient well-being.  Keep promotional materials for procedures out of site unless you’re actually answering questions about that procedure.

    • Reading materials that emphasize aesthetic appeal or health. A copy of a financial magazine will focus patients on the cost of treatment rather than on the health or aesthetic value. There’s a reason that health, beauty and home and garden magazines make great reading material for your patients. They aren’t only interesting and calming, but they also shift attention to areas where you can help them.

    • Impeccable maintenance. If your patient bays look dingy, sloppy or poorly maintained, patients will think that you’ll do dingy, sloppy and poor work on their teeth. Walk through each bay with a critical eye at least once a week and resolve any issues immediately.

    The employee-only areas

    The pre-suasive mood in your employee-only areas could be even more important than the mood you set in your public areas. Why? Because, as Cialdini discovered, what we look at effects how we perform in our jobs. He cites the example of an employee engagement consulting group who discovered that they did better work when they could see the employees they were supposed to engage. They started putting poster-sized portraits of their clients’ employees in their workspaces and saw their performance improve dramatically.

    More from the author: Do you know why patients aren't coming in?

    Your employees also need reminders of why they’re there and who they serve. Your reception desk and hygiene teams may get to interact with patients all day, but what about your billing and scheduling teams? Does your IT person understand that patient service is your number one priority? Put pictures of your patients throughout the office so that your staff members remember who they’re serving.

    Another interesting sidenote from Cialdini’s research is that inspirational posters actually improve job performance. Don’t be afraid to use them, and swap them out occasionally so that they feel fresh and new all the time.

    Finally, it’s important to send the message that you value your employees. Think about adding little ways of saying “thank you” to your staff-only areas. Maybe a fresh bouquet every week, interesting coffee choices or nicer headphones will help your staff feel appreciated at work. Create an environment where even the back office staff feel appreciated, able to succeed and ready to focus on patient care.

    Without pre-suasion there can be no persuasion

    Cialdini’s work on pre-suasion hammers home an important point. There is no generic “patient” or “employee.” Everyone you talk to is being tugged in different directions by their hopes, their worries, the food they had for breakfast and the last thing they saw before they walked into a meeting. You can’t force your patients to prioritize health or accept treatment. You can’t even persuade everyone to agree with your goals for treatment. You can, however, create an environment where your patients are more likely to prioritize their oral health and your staff members are more likely to prioritize your patients. And creating that effective pre-suasive environment will help you build a thriving dental practice.

    You can find information on Dr. Phelps’ upcoming events and training opportunities at: www.guidethemtoyes.com.


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