20th September 2017
Trust – Hard to build, easy to lose
Deborah Bell discusses the importance of building trust with patients and suppliers.
The number one ingredient when building strong and productive relationships is trust – and dentistry is one of those professions that thrives on such trusting relationships. In the dentist-patient relationship, trust comes from the assurance around patient confidentiality, from conducting procedures that are in the patient’s best interest and, understandably, patients have more confidence in dentists who have a natural ability to communicate clearly and compassionately. While many of you will no doubt be primarily concerned with securing the trust of your patients, the importance of establishing the trust of your supplier should not be underestimated.
You could argue that both patient and supplier relationships are interrelated. After all, if you’re thinking about patient experience and how best to improve interactions with your patients, the easiest place to start is to reflect on your relationships with your service providers, asking yourself 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 well being and those who aren’t?
The most common meanings of trust that we encounter in everyday interactions are almost entirely personal and not institutional. People rarely give over their trust to institutions; really, they trust other people. While companies are often described as credible and reliable, it’s really the people within the companies that make those companies what they are. A key indicator of this is probably the amount of contact you have with them. Don’t expect to have any meaningful relationship with your supplier if you never see them or rarely speak to them. How can they understand you and your business without forming a fuller picture of your aims and goals?
Applying that thinking to your practice, you can most likely identify areas where there may be gaps in your team’s knowledge of a patient and opportunities to improve that particular patient’s experience. Of course, no one expects every team member to know the ins and outs of the patient list, but there are small things you can do to stay up to date. For example, how do you make sure that all staff understand the key processes that ensure your patients feel cared for and valued? If you don’t do them already, introducing team huddles which allows you to check people’s understanding of such processes is a simple, but effective way.
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. Other simple ideas to build trust include making sure patients are greeted at the practice by someone who makes eye contact with them, by someone who addresses them by their name – whilst small steps, they will most definitely 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.
Remembering that relationships are a two way street isn’t to be underestimated; you only get out what you put in and maintaining contact and building connections will reap you the rewards of, not only being trusted by your patients, but also having a trusted network where you can seek credible, honest advice. Dentistry exists because of the interaction of people, between practice staff and patients and between practice staff and external suppliers. The stronger the bond you build, the easier it will be to create a profitable, sustainable practice.