Tuesday Tip: Hilarious outcome demonstrates importance of good communciation

While most people thought the outcome of this miscommunication was funny, that's not always the case, so communicating clearly in your dental office is very important

Dental Office Communications

Communication, or lack thereof, seems to be the theme lately, whether it’s communication on a grand scale in the political arena, or on a much smaller scale in your dental practice. The majority of questionnaires I receive from doctors and team members before I visit their practices are variations of the same theme – we don't communicate well with each other or our patients. Although Nike has had great success with their slogan “Just Do It,” that does not apply to communication in dental offices.

I recently received this example from a client that clearly illustrates a failure to communicate. Here's the backstory – A fuel tanker was delivered to the company. Instructions were given to the supervisor from India to have the tanker labeled to meet legal requirements. The instructions were to label the trucks "DIESEL FUEL” in Arabic, and "NO SMOKING” in Arabic.

This is what he got:

Dental Office CommunicationsFunny, sure, but how often does something like this cause misunderstandings, bad decisions, hurt feelings, customer service issues and, don’t forget, economic costs? Although this example could be blamed on a language barrier, more often than not it’s more complicated, with meta-communication factors such as tone, voice inflection, speed, or body language factoring in. Additionally, as we experienced in teams at our recent Chicago meetings, providing clear visuals and practice before taking on a task can be huge to the success of an outcome.

There are many areas of communication failures and there is no one silver bullet solution. Let's take a look at just one thing you could do immediately to provide more clarity in your communication with team members and patients. Explain WHY you want something done! If people "get" the reasoning behind an assigned task, they approach it with a new level of understanding. In our example, if the boss had just explained that he needed Arabic letters due to the end use workers being Arab, then his supervisor could have processed the request differently, and not literally!

So try prefacing your requests with the reason behind the request. You get extra credit if the WHY resonates with your vision. You have a Vision Statement, right? Use it. Here is an example ­– "Susan, in order to assure all our patients have a clear understanding of their care (part of your Vision) I would like for you to spend a few minutes at the end of each appointment debriefing patients with what was accomplished today, what to expect post-operatively, and providing them with a clear reason for their return. Then take a minute to answer any questions they may have. This will help the patient make informed decisions."

Can you see the difference between this and simply saying, "Make sure you answer patient questions after my exam"? This could produce the compliance of Susan simply asking a patient, "Do you have any questions?" This is hardly the debrief you’re intending. Giving her a visual in the form of a written script and having her practice would be the icing on the communication cake!

Yes, Nike has a great brand identity slogan with "Just Do It,"' but it does not apply to dental offices if you truly want to improve communication with your team and patients. Try adding, “And here is WHY."

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Are verbal skills a friend or foe?

Tuesday Tips from Pride Institute are provided weekly on their Facebook page, as well as in this column in DentistryIQ. To ensure you don’t miss any of Pride Institute’s proven methods to take your practice to the next level, visit prideinstitute.com, and like them on Facebook.

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