10.2.09 Issue #395 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

David Clow
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The Golden Five Minutes

Last time we met, I emphasized how important it would be for me if my dentist took time to talk with me about the immediate task at hand, and then about the big picture of my overall health. Some of you must be asking, what time? Your typical appointment with me has a specific agenda. Your execution of that agenda pays the bills. We meet in the operatory, and you do what I came for. Done.

If that sort of appointment is a staple of your business, just leave the back door open. A significant percentage of your patients will use it to exit your practice for good. For sheer practical return on investment, the time you spend communicating with me - not working on my mouth, not performing a procedure - might be the time that does your business the most good. The working time is when you’re performing the literal letter of dentistry. That’s the very least I seek from you. Chances are I don’t understand it. It might even be true that I don’t want to know about it at all. The talking time isn’t necessarily where you explain the procedure to me. It’s when you’re helping me to appreciate its value. You’re putting things in context, helping me understand not just what you did, but why, and how it makes me healthier. The five minutes you take to do this can repay you in some very important ways.

What Five Minutes Can Do For Us
First, they tell me that you view me as a person. I’d love to say that all dentists see me that way, but you and I know better. Five minutes of eye contact, friendly talk, and empathetic counsel from you is an impressive display of competency, caring, and investment - your investment in me, and your investment in your own greater aspirations. It helps me see that you view yourself not just as a repairman, but as a healer. It shows me that you won’t settle for whatever quick fix might have brought me to you on a given day, but that you want your work, and moreover your character, to make a difference in my week, my month and in all the time I’m out of your chair.

Second, that brief discussion helps me carry forward the work you did. This wasn’t your appointment, it was ours. I’m the one who takes charge when I leave your chair today, and I need to know what to do, what to expect, and what unexpected things to be concerned about. It doesn’t help me at all to make you the sole proprietor of my mouth. Your talking moments with me are coaching moments. They help me see how I help you help me.

Third, those five minutes help you accomplish everything you want your most expensive marketing media to do for you - they help make you irreplaceable. How many dentists are there in a two mile radius from you? How many alternatives do I have as a patient? If I suspect that a dentist is indifferent or just oblivious to who I am and uncaring about what I hope for and what I ask - and what I don’t know to ask - then I might look elsewhere. Sure, I understand that there are plenty of patients out there. But the time it takes you to find them and bring them in is considerable compared with the few minutes you take to give me a little knowledge and to make me feel valued by you.

Fourth and last, those five minutes might do you even more good than they do me. You didn’t go to dental school to be a mechanic. A patient who reciprocates your interest and shows you sincere gratitude is the kind of person who reminds you of your best intentions, and gives you the satisfaction you hoped to get from being a dentist. That patient makes your day. You owe it to yourself to have as many of them as you can get.

Your instincts might tell you that five minutes spent talking is five minutes lost not making money. I’d suggest otherwise. Those five minutes are my time to learn about what you’re doing, grasp its importance for my well-being, and most important, trust you. Those five minutes might be your most effective way to secure my confidence, loyalty, and interest in future care and ambitious courses of treatment with you.

On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.

David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.

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