11.20.09 Issue #402 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

David Clow
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Anti-Depression Dentistry

The commonly accepted definition of “recession” in economics is two down quarters of gross domestic product. Nobody living in this economy could put it so dispassionately. These are stressful times, with days of worry and nights of sleeplessness taking a physical and mental toll on everyone. In the headlines, we’re in a recession. In the strain we feel in our hearts and minds, we’re depressed.

Recent articles in Time and The New York Times discussed this downturn from an unusual point of view: the dentist’s. They said that some dentists are seeing a shift in their patients’ interest away from discretionary cosmetic procedures and toward maintenance and repair; others are witnessing new interest in cosmetic procedures from patients eager to present themselves at their best for job interviews. Many dentists say they’re seeing a rush of patients using insurance benefits before they lose them in another wave of layoffs; they see many others who have deferred basic care until a problem becomes too serious to neglect - a false economy at best. Finally, it seems there are widespread new cases of bruxism. That’s not surprising - the news has all of us grinding our teeth.

Beyond the Procedure
If you’re seeing symptoms of this bad economy showing up in your patients’ mouths, there’s an opportunity here for both of you to extend your relationship beyond the usual. The immediate solution for a patient who’s grinding her teeth, for example, is a night guard. That might solve the symptom. You can provide the same immediate sort of solution for the patient who put off a toothache until it became a root canal case, or the one who settled for whitening when they really want veneers. That’s the literal work you do, the work for which you charge the fee. But if you could give a patient just a little insight and understanding about their problems, you might be a resource for them above and beyond the literal. Helping me fix the immediate damage is something any dentist can do. Helping me understand it a little better offers me a glimmer of hope and a measure of confidence. If I understand something, I can do something about it. If I feel just that much empowerment, I don’t feel quite so helpless.

If you can give me that over and above the procedure you perform, you’ve performed a service greater than just the literal one. And you’ve earned my confidence. In this difficult economy, that’s a great way for you to cement a relationship.

The Value-Add
Marketers call this the “value-add.” The literal product or service is part of a transaction, but not all of it, and not necessarily what the customer values the most. Your value-add is the intangible factor that makes your version of a treatment better than the one offered by your competitors. A night guard is a night guard if that’s all a dentist offers, and a patient can get one as easily from the dentist down the street as they can from you. But a night guard with a few value-added words of counsel, empathy and understanding might be more than a fix for bruxism. Can you help me see that I’m grinding my teeth? Can your insight help me connect it with the stress I’m experiencing? Can you help me understand the investment value of early care versus late care, and the practical importance of a great smile in a tough job market?

A little enlightenment from you could make a big difference for me. One of the worst things about this economy is the uncertainty that haunts us day and night. Anything that makes us feel just a little more in control of things is a godsend in a time when we feel helpless against layoffs, downturns, and another dip in the Dow. Of course, I know I won’t find “personal counseling” on the bill I get from you, but a moment of insight and empathy might be what I value most from you on the day we meet. Your patients aren’t asking you to be psychologists. However, if you can be an emotional resource, you’re a better investment than the dentist who settles for being a repair person. Getting more back for the dollar is on everyone’s mind these days. You can win my loyalty even when I’m bargain hunting and deferring the high-end treatment until things improve. When they do, and I want those veneers after all, you’ll be the dentist I call.

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.

Hear David Clow’s FREE podcast at The Dentist’s Network – HERE

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