When it comes to developing long-term relationships with both your patients and your suppliers, it’s important to build trust as a foundation. With decades of experience at company director level, Andrew D’Arcy, Managing Director of Practice Plan, explains how creating these bonds can make managing your practice smoother and simpler.
Dentistry is a relationship business – and like all good relationships it should be built on trust. But how do you go about cultivating trust in what is essentially a commercial environment, which some people believe cannot be a level playing field?
To run your practice as smoothly as a possible you need to establish trust on two levels – by being both trusted by your patients and trusting of your suppliers. While many of you will be, understandably, primarily concerned with the former, the importance of the latter should not be underestimated as it will make the day-to-day management of your business so much easier.
“Regardless of what service is being provided, the crux of trusting someone is that we feel they have our best interests at heart.”
On top of that, the two are inter-related. This is because if you are thinking about how best to improve your relationships with patients, the easiest place to start is by reflecting on your relationships with service providers; what makes you trust them?
Regardless of what service is being provided, the crux of trusting someone is that we feel they have our best interests at heart. If you think about your business relationships, how do you differentiate between those you feel are focused on supporting your wellbeing and those who aren’t?
One key indicator is probably the amount of contact you have with them. If you rarely see or speak to your supplier, it is unlikely you will be able to have any meaningful relationship. It’s also unlikely they will have the full picture about you and your business. We’ve probably all experienced the frustration of speaking to someone who doesn’t know something about our situation that we feel they should – and would if they had been paying attention.
If you then apply that to your own practice, can you identify areas where there may be gaps in your teams’ knowledge of a patient and opportunities to improve the patient’s experience? Of course, no one is expecting every member of staff to have encyclopaedic knowledge of the entire patient list, but there are small things you can do to stay up-to-date. For instance, introducing team huddles, regular checks that everyone understands key processes that ensure your patients feel cared for and valued, or a book, where patient updates are recorded and making it mandatory that everyone is involved.
“Key to this is investing time to ensure that everyone in the team understands why these measures are important”
Key to this is investing time to ensure that everyone in the team understands why these measures are important – and involving them in the initial process of pinpointing areas where trust is being reduced or lost. The whole team will then be more committed to devising and implementing the solutions, and ensuring they are successful.
Some trust-building steps can be very simple – such as ensuring eye contact with the patient and introducing name badges – but they are also very effective. This is because they all add to the feeling of a personal connection and feeling valued.
If your patients are met at the practice by someone who makes eye contact, addresses them by name, has their name visible and has some knowledge of why they are there – all these small steps add up to a bigger picture of trust and confidence. They will feel like they are in a safe pair of hands – the same feeling you want to experience with your suppliers.
“It’s also important to remember that relationships are reciprocal, they should be a two-way street.”
It’s also important to remember that relationships are reciprocal, they should be a two-way street. If you also put in the effort to maintain contact and build connections you will reap the rewards of, not only being trusted by your patients, but also having a trusted network where you can seek credible, honest advice – or just a friendly ear to listen.
The business of dentistry revolves around the interaction of people – between practice staff and patients, and between practice staff and external suppliers. The stronger bonds you can build, the easier it will be to create a profitable, sustainable practice with minimal patient attrition.