Beyond Practice Management: Where is the trust?

2013 05 10 13 33 36 839 Deems Don 200

What's the No. 1 reason people allow you to take care of them? Is it that you offer the cheapest services around? Is it that you're "open" 24/7/365? Is it that you "take" their insurance? Is it because you're convenient? Sure, perhaps some of those are true, and there may even be more reasons. Ultimately, they are giving you the opportunity to provide care for one reason only: trust.

I want you to think of your own physician or dentist, or any other healthcare provider from whom you receive services. Why do you choose them? Is it because you barter with them? Are they on your insurance plan? Are their hours convenient for you? Again, many of these may be true, but when it comes down to someone doing something to your body or making recommendations that you will follow through on, isn't it trust that is the deciding factor?

What is trust?

In a relationship (yes, even a doctor-patient relationship), trust is essential to a healthy relationship. How does trust happen in a relationship?

Don Deems, DDS, FAGD.Don Deems, DDS, FAGD.
Don Deems, DDS, FAGD.

No, it's not a "blind trust" or handing over the decision-making process to someone else; that's dependency.

No, it's not telling them your innermost secrets hoping they won't tell anyone (because they will).

Trust is doing the things you said you are going to do when you said you would do it, each and every time without failure, forevermore. Not one slip up, not one failure, not one excuse. Period.

Why is trust so important?

I know you know why, but it needs to be said. Without trust, a relationship can't develop, and without a relationship, your practice and the relationships in them will fail. Need I say more?

Building trust in your practice, building your practice

Why do people choose one dentist over another? Already I've alluded to many ancillary reasons people choose one healthcare provider over another, but in my interviewing of thousands of patients over the past 26-plus years, I can tell you that there is one common denominator for why people will stay with a dentist -- or leave that dentist: trust.

How is trust built? I've answered that already, but let's put it into practical terms.

Be reliable. Although I alluded to that already, let me emphasize a few points: Do what you say and honor any and all promises no matter how big or small they seem to you (better to underpromise and overdeliver if you're not sure). If you can't keep a promise, tell the person face-to-face why you can't, then make a new promise you can deliver on. Please don't leave it unaddressed!

Be honest. In these days, dishonesty and lack of integrity are tempting when we want to avoid conflict, or when we've made a mistake that our ego doesn't want to let out of the bag. Learn to speak the truth from your heart and not from your ego. Let your heart be your guide, and speak your feelings, being compassionate and understanding, not a "bull in a china cabinet" with other people's feelings. (Go ahead guys -- it'll be OK.)

Be open. I always end a new client interview with asking the client what they would like to know about my practice or me. Some are curious, some already know everything they want to know, and others honestly don't really care too much about anything else. Next, I always end the new client consultation with making sure I've covered ALL of the details, not omitting anything. Clients who understand their needs and the options available to them are more apt to follow through on them in their own time frame, so avoid pushiness, unless you want the patient to leave your practice.

Confidentiality is paramount. OK, I admit it. Sometimes we blow off a little frustration at a situation that can compromise the confidence a client has placed in us. YOU be the first to recognize it and be the FIRST to stop it. You have to be a role model in this area. The same goes for gossip in your practice: There's just no place for it. Breach a client's confidence, and you've got a high chance of losing that client. If you're called on the carpet about it, don't deny it. And, don't do it again.

Have complete integrity. You know integrity when you see it and when you feel it. You also know when you're acting outside of your integrity. To display your integrity, be sure to listen well, show respect and admiration for the person (no matter what your "knee-jerk" judgment is of them), and avoid taking sides in touchy situations, such as when a client is speaking negatively of another dentist's treatment of them. This is certainly the time to display your professionalism, understanding, and fairness. It doesn't do any good to make someone else look bad, and it's damaging to our profession.

Focus on building trust with your clients, your team, your family and friends, and everyone you do business with. Not only will your practice develop long-term clients who will refer other new clients, you'll have their trust and confidence -- perhaps before they even walk in your door! Now it's up to you.

Dr. Deems, known as The Dentist's Coach, is a professional personal and business coach and a practicing dentist. Since 2005, he has been annually named to Dentistry Today's Top Leaders list and is the author of several books, the most recent titled The Dentist's Coach: Build a Vibrant Practice and the Life You Want. He can be reached at or 501-413-1101. He speaks regularly on topics of this nature both nationally and internationally.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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