Building Rapport to Treatment Acceptance
Trust is very important to gaining patient confidence that will lead to the patient purchasing treatment in the dental practice. Having knowledge, training and the proper licensing will not get you doing dentistry until the patient says “yes.” Rapport is something we feel on an emotional level and not something we can touch, smell or see. Rapport is the next step to trust. So how do we make the connection with people that is referred to as rapport?
The first step to building rapport is to be and to employ people who genuinely like people enough to want to make a difference in their lives. The second step is to be able to put aside your personal conversations that are spinning in your head, such as the need to meet a production goal, to empathize with your patients’ concerns about their health. The third step is to be an “active listener” and an observer of human behavior. Listening actively is giving that person 100% of your attention and giving feedback to let them know that you are truly engaged. A technique called “mirroring” or matching your language, tone, energy level and body pose to the patient is also helpful in building a bond of communication. If you are acting with the thought of personal wealth by building rapport, it will be evident to the patient and will build distrust instead.
Last year I met a dentist who bragged that he had purchased a very successful practice and that there were a lot of “wealthy” people in the practice and in the surrounding neighborhood. His driving ambition was to make a lot of money as his predecessor had. He became upset when patients left without an appointment. His patient’s feedback given to the Scheduling Coordinator when she followed up was that the dentist came across as “pushy and money hungry.” Telling people what they need and pushing them to appoint will work sometimes, but usually not in the long run and it is not the way to build long term trusting relationships.
It has been said that about 70% of communication is body language. A person leaning toward you with eyes directly upon you is open to receive information from you. A person who has crossed their arms in front and is leaning back may have tuned you out completely or is showing resistance to what you are saying to them. A person who will not look you in the eye or whose eyes dart about the room or to their watch are not listening and getting impatient to leave. You have failed to create rapport with these people. If you are genuine in your approach to patients it will be evident and lead to better communication.
Often, it is not the dentist but a staff member who has won the trust and rapport of the patients. When a patient asks the Business Coordinator, “would you have this work done here?” it is demonstrating trust in this person’s assessment of the patients’ needs.
Start with making the new patient feel like a VIP. Think of it as someone special is coming to dinner and you need to make a great impression. You have out your best china and silver. The house is squeaky clean and there are fresh flowers in each room. And then think of it as sitting down and having a friendly chat to get to know this person. Ask the patient what they want and then give them information on what you can do to meet their needs. Don’t push for an answer but say “When you are ready, we will start.” With this approach the patient will often feel that you are interested in their health, not their wealth.
Doing dentistry follows because patients who feel good in your office want to stay in your office. They trust that you have their best interest at heart in helping to get and keep them healthy.
A couple of things to consider preparing to get to know your patient:
Patients have many choices when choosing a dentist. Make a lasting impression so that the patient trusts that they have made the best choice in you.
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