If a dental patient was calling you and expressed what was truly on their mind, they might probably say something like, “I’ve had negative experiences with dentists in the past, and what I’m really hoping is you can demonstrate to me on the phone right now that you’re caring, compassionate, and will deliver value if I see you.” That’s really what they want to know, but don’t be confused by the words that they use.
Here’s a little test that I like to use just to underscore a point. Let’s imagine that there’s two callers. You have two phones, and they both ring at the same time. On line 1 is Bill, and Bill is calling because his fiancé has “asked” him to get his teeth done in time for their big day so they are proper and they have some nice pictures for their wedding album. On the other line is Agnes, and Agnes just received a direct mail piece offering a complimentary consultation and wants to know how much a crown costs. My question for you is who would you rather talk to?
Now, if you’re like most people and you’re honest, you’d probably rather talk to Bill. The reason is that Bill really doesn’t require any selling. Bill has already been sold. He is frankly the result of your effective marketing because his fiancé is a happy patient of yours, and she’s already established credibility. She’s already created urgency. She’s already directed him.
Agnes is the same potential quality patient. She’s just at a different stage in the relationship. Basically, by working with Agnes and getting excited about talking with her, you are creating a future Bill because there’s every reason to believe that in the future, Agnes will be in the same position, a happy patient. It’s just a matter of running the race at the caller’s pace. So, we want you to get excited even more about the other one because Bill is already ripe fruit or low-hanging fruit. He’s ready for harvesting, and Agnes is a seed that has to be planted.
So, in marketing math. We touched on it a little bit. It’s just the reality that you can measure certain things like you do now, and there’s the reality that you don’t know what you don’t know. In the case of this, one simple example is if the practice is investing $1000 a month in marketing, and as a result of that marketing, they get the phone to ring 10 times, what you can measure is the cost per call which $1000 divided by 10 calls. It’s $100 a call. If you fail to connect with that patient and get them into the office, you could say, “It costs me $100.”
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The average patient lifetime value which was actually calculated by the University of Minnesota in conjunction with my friend Bill Rossi at Advanced Practice Management 12 years ago came up to an average lifetime value, profit, of $4800 per patient. I’m sure it’s higher now. If your practice is above average, it’s higher still. So, the real cost is closer $5000 for effectively getting the caller. That’s something that you need to keep in mind, and that’s why this is such a valuable skill right there. That explains it.
Now, how do we actually connect with these callers? One way is the verbal component even though it only comprises 7% of effective communication. Remember, that’s only when you have the face-to-face opportunity. So, it at least doubles when you don’t have the body language, the visual component, but negatively charged words can really affect people. Positively charged words can also affect people, but in a positive way by way of example.
Which seminar would you rather attend: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Dealing with Racism or Men and Women as Allies and Friends and Celebrating Pluralism? Some of you may be ahead of me and already realized that they’re the same lecture. Their talking about the same subject matter. However, the one on the bottom speaks in positive terms about how we can actually help this problem or basically capitalize on an opportunity as opposed to dealing with a problem. It’s been proven. I’m a health coach, and we know that people that achieve and sustain weight loss do so because they did not approach it from a problem-solution standpoint but from an opportunity standpoint. It’s all about the words that you use with other people and in your self-talk, the words that you use with yourself.
So, use positive words. Here are some really good ones to incorporate into your communication. They are proud, conservative, and concerned. Pride is self-evident, but it gives a sense that you really have the admiration and loyalty and appreciation for your doctor’s care, skill, and judgment. It shows passion, and when we talk about enthusiasm, you’ll see why that’s so important. Passion is just another manifestation of enthusiasm.
What I would ask you to do because you’ve got to practice this in order to incorporate it. I’m sure people are not in agreement that this makes sense. If you want to internalize it and make it your own, I encourage you to practice it with your team. In this case, I would ask you to share specific reasons why you are proud to be a part of your practice.
Now, with conservative, I don’t care what your political vent is. Nobody wants to go to a doctor who plays with their health or takes unnecessary risks, and personally speaking, I would always want people to take the conservative approach. I think you can wave the wand very well into this mindset also because in every sense it shows caring, but I think it’s a conservative approach as well. Another question is how would you demonstrate that in your treatment?
Concern is a wonderful word to use because it means you care. I’m going to jump ahead but people don’t really care what you know until they know how much you care. So, this is a really good term. Show people that you are human beings and you have passion, and when you do that, people will connect with you. If they were calling about insurance or a second opinion, all of a sudden, that question’s going to begin to diminish in importance because they have connected with you.
Again, how do you show your concern for your patient, specifically? It’s all about the verbiage, and here’s some more terms. Instead of appointment say visit. It’s softer. Use challenge or opportunity instead of problem. Today’s amount instead of cost, and initial or monthly amount instead of down payment and monthly payment. What I like to use is remove or removal instead of extraction. Here’s some more positive words that you can use: Approval, approve, endorse, authorize, authorization, okay can I get your John Hancock instead of sign here. This is a really good one, too. Also, you don’t need to use the same verbiage that your callers are using. If someone says, “I’m looking for the cheapest dentist,” say “value”. “Value and economy, we understand that. That’s why were offer,” and give them the benefits.
A really good exercise is to heighten your awareness by listening to your friends and family and patient and co-workers and notice how their words make you feel. It’s really interesting. Say something and monitor, engage your own emotional reaction, and just make a note of it. Well, that word is a word that can make them feel good, or that word is a word that didn’t make them feel good. So, I would have preferred to have heard this word. Then, you’re building a little vocabulary for your communication quicker.
So, this is time to play Guess the Charge! These are pretty simple now that you all have already mastered the distinction between negative and positive. So, we give a thumbs down for, “The office can’t see you until next Tuesday.” “I can help you with that”, thumbs up. “You must submit your own insurance forms.” “We’re delighted you’ve chosen to call you.” Pretty straight forward, right? Just ask yourself how you feel. “Which would you prefer, morning or afternoon for your next visit?” “We don’t do it that way.” That’s exactly what the answering service said to me two weeks ago. “Why don’t you accept messages?” “Well, we don’t do it that way,” and she hung up. We appreciate you considering us.” So, in other words, is your attitude a my way or the highway or yes we can? Of course, you know what we hope it is.
So, here’s some of the emotional pillars that support a solid conversation based on emotion and connection: Empathy and rapport. Empathy is simply the capability, the capacity to understand another’s feelings, to walk a mile in their moccasins. Rapport is a relation marked by harmony and conformity, and as I said, this is important because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Another memorable phrase that I love by Maya Angelou is that people may not remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.
Enthusiasm is key. Henry Ford said no one ever bought anything without an exchange of enthusiasm. We all know people like this however. They’re at 10 out of 10, and we prefer more of a 7. However, I will share that on the phone it’s usually the opposite. People need to up the volume, the intensity, the articulation just a little bit. I’m not really speaking in my normal voice right now. It’s a little bit louder. It’s a little bit clearer. It’s a little bit more articulated, and that’s because we’re on the phone. I would ask you to do the same. Exude that enthusiasm. Make it bigger than maybe what you think it needs to be. People will appreciate it. They won’t be scratching their heads saying, “What is this person doing?” They will appreciate the enthusiasm.
It’s very important to get the caller’s name. Those of you that are too young to know How to Win Friends and Influence People was a book published in 1935 by Dale Carnegie. One of the gems in that book was that a person’s name is the sweetest sound they will ever hear. So, people perk up when they hear their name. You don’t want to overdo it, but most people aren’t in danger of doing it. That’s why in the TAFI intro, you may recall the first statement we make after our introduction, no matter what people ask us, it’s, “I can help you with that. My name is Danny. May I ask with whom I’m speaking?”
Then, get the name, and I want to take a moment here to talk a little bit more about this. If someone calls for whom English is not their first language or has a speech impediment, take the time to get their name. Imagine you are them. They are going through life where people who hear this hard to pronounce name will say, “Okay, thank you dear, honey, buddy, pal,” and they just gloss through it. The person knows what they’re doing.
Imagine, now, you take the time, and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite get your name, and I certainly want to make sure I can pronounce it correctly. It might be a bad connection. Would you mind spelling that for me, and let me try to pronounce it.” You will basically have a friend for life because this person, as I said, has gone through life without people taking the time to know you’re their name. It really works, and it’s such a simple way to connect. So, I strongly encourage you to do it.