Making Emotional Connections
Jason Olitsky, DMD
Although making emotional connections is important in decision-making and creating lasting relationships with our patients, it can be challenging to wrap our heads around what exactly is involved in creating an emotional connection. Consumers get emotionally connected with their decisions to buy when marketing suggests that the buyer will feel a certain way when they own the product or have the provided service. Esthetic dentistry is very visual, and the transformations are captured in beautiful pictures and stunning video. In this manner, dentistry easily lends itself to emotional marketing, but a strong visual relationship accounts for only one piece of the creation of an emotional connection. Emotional connections are also created through listening, asking questions, and storytelling.
When patients present to the office for consultations, they are usually thinking about whether or not it is going to hurt or how much is it going to cost. This can cause them to become emotionally disconnected from their goal of achieving an improved smile. Initially, patients are emotionally moved enough by their goals to overcome their fears and make the appointment, but the pathway to happiness gets blocked by anxiety over other concerns. It is our job to clear the path of those emotions and restore each patient's connection with his or her decision to improve his or her smile. This is done without the use of any instruments, cameras, or dental knowledge. We simply connect with the patient by listening, asking questions, and being excited about his or her smile transformation. Conveying excitement about your solutions to transform their smiles and how they will result in improved quality of life helps get people emotionally connected with the decision to improve their smiles.
When a patient presents with a concern during a consultation, the first question I usually ask is, "When did you first notice this?" followed by, "What were you doing when you noticed it?" These questions take patients back to the mental state they were in when they first noticed their smile was going to negatively affect their confidence. Common answers include, "A few years ago," and "When I was taking pictures with friends." A good follow-up question to these answers is, "How did it affect you?" or alternatively, "How did it make you feel?" This may be the toughest question to ask your patients, but it has the most impact and will help you gauge each patient's motivation for improving his or her smile. Probing deeper into these questions usually reveals a powerful disconnect regarding how patients feel about themselves and a belief that their smile does not properly reflect their persona. For example, happy people usually smile all the time, so if patients associate themselves with being happy people, then having to hold back their smiles would keep them from fully being themselves.
When attempting to gain treatment acceptance, using before and after images of a similarly aged patient who required similar solutions is even more impactful when you share the patient's story. These patient success stories are much more meaningful than any dental imaging software that places an imaginary new smile on a picture of your patient's mouth. When sharing the before and after pictures from the similar case, ask a question like, "What would be different if we could do something like this for you?" Then, when patients tell you how improving their smile would positively improve their lives, respond enthusiastically, "We can do that for you! I am so excited to help you-this is going to be amazing!"
Following this conversation, we perform an examination of the patient's pictures from the consultation, including a discussion of biomechanics and functional risk factors that may have led the patient to his or her current condition.
Ten years ago, developing expensive print marketing and a website was a great marketing strategy, but today, connecting on social media is an important strategy for practice growth. Although much has changed in a few short years, establishing an emotional connection with your patients has always been a tried-and-true way to improve treatment acceptance and the success of your practice.
About the Author
Jason Olitsky, DMD, maintains a private practice with his wife, Colleen Olitsky, DMD, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.