Murpjhy Online

How 3 minutes can change patients’ entire experience

April 20, 2023
If an extra three minutes listening to your patients might keep both them and your associates from ever leaving—not to mention prevent lawsuits—isn't worth taking the time?

If we had to choose one rule that most people could agree on, we’d probably pick the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. Few sayings are more commonplace or accepted. As such, many are completely caught off guard when I say I disagree with the principle. I challenge my clients to put into practice a slightly more nuanced, strategic Platinum Rule, which stipulates that we treat others how they want to be treated. In other words, how you want to be treated is completely irrelevant when approaching someone who has different preferences and expectations from yours.          

Stay with me here, and I’ll provide you with some tools and insight that will serve you as you go about the important business of properly serving others. Consider my update to the old rule, and you’ll create that elusive wow" experience that will preclude both your patients and associates from ever leaving and doing business with your competition.

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Is it hard to master this so-called Platinum Rule? It shouldn’t be. If you already love being in business, then it should come relatively easily to you. If you enjoy being in business, then sharing your enjoyment with all those you encounter in your business is simply what you do. Fewer things are more contagious in this world than fun. So, when you’re out in the world having a wonderful time, you’re going to notice a lot of others around you starting to have a wonderful time with you. How is this so? The answer rests in the fact that everyone has an innate proclivity to want to feel good and enjoy themselves in any given moment.

How to apply the Platinum Rule 

While all this sounds sensible, it’s also quite general. The premise will become more applicable when I delve into some specifics. For a moment, let’s consider the idea of patient care. As a professional care provider, you know exactly how your expertise benefits your patients, and just as importantly, your employees. Focus on your skill set for a moment and consider what you do better than any other dental practitioner in town. Perhaps it’s a deft and gentle hand or a soothing way with words. Maybe you have a distinct way of explaining complex ideas in straightforward terms. 

Once you’ve isolated those attributes, couple them with the game-changing art of listening. What does being a good listener have to do with being a formidable player in the marketplace? In short, everything. Interestingly, you don’t need to be a good listener to heed the Golden Rule. Hence, very few people really take the time to listen.

However, if you want to implement the more powerful updated version of the rule, then you have no choice but to make listening a priority. When you set out to treat others how they want to be treated, how will you know how they want to be treated if you’re not listening to them? People give a constant, steady stream of feedback that reveals how they want to be treated. If you should ever need more clues about their preferences, all you need to do is ask them. They’ll be shocked, if for no other reason than because you simply cared. 

Take 3 minutes

I often remind clients of a study performed by researcher Wendy Levinson, who recorded numerous conversations between doctors and their patients. At the end of her study, Levinson summarily concluded that the doctors who were never sued spent a scant three more minutes with their patients than their counterparts who had been sued two or more times.1

Think about that for a second. If the difference between being sued and being admired is a mere three minutes, then doesn’t it make you want to give everyone in your chair that tiny added benefit? When people feel they’re worth your time, they become your ardent supporters. The others may likely become fierce detractors. It certainly makes you think twice before accidentally burning a bridge by ignoring someone. 

To put it in a different context, consider what happens when you render a service as expected. You do a good job, so to speak. Then you typically get paid, but not much else occurs. Think about what happens when, God forbid, you do a job poorly. The whole world seems to know about it overnight. It’s blasted across every review platform on the internet. If you really blew it, then you may be in the midst of a PR nightmare, and unfortunately for you, when it comes to the world of medicine, absolutely no good comes out of bad press. 

You’re smart enough not to venture down that road. Now think about what happens when you deliver that coveted “wow" experience. You take that bit of extra time to connect with a patient, and in the process, you surpass their expectations. Without you having to do anything else, they become your best commercial. They sing your praises, driving new patients to your door. You can’t buy that kind of leverage. It’s yours for the taking, but only because you delivered the kind of experience that’s not expected from the competition. 

People want to be around excellence. It’s worth the effort to offer the level of care unmatched by others on the block. When you reach that notoriety, your patients don’t dare cancel on you. You’re too valuable to them. As for your employees, when they know that you truly care about them, they show up to win right alongside you. At that point, it’s not even about how much they’re being paid. Assuming you pay them fairly, they’re coming to work every day because of their own eagerness to be a part of your success.  

My mother told me growing up that it costs nothing to be kind. She’s absolutely right. For a moment, put aside the glitz and glamor of new-fangled technology and Hollywood smiles. I’m not saying that those flashy and alluring aspects are not important components of your business. They are, and there’s a place for them. However, I challenge you to never lose sight of what takes precedence. To truly succeed, you must care most about the people in your care. To truly care about them, you must treat them intentionally the way that they wish to be treated. 

If you’re looking for more ways to be of value to those you serve and set yourself apart from the competition, I invite you to reach out to us at (973) 422-9140 or [email protected]. Serving others is what we do best, and my staff and I are happy to share our insights.

1. Bad rapport with patients to blame for most malpractice suits. The University of Chicago Chronicle. February 20, 1997. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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