4 “Clusters of Emotions” that Can Impact Your Dental Practice, Part 1

Clusters of emotions that patients experience.

When dental patients in your practice reject treatment recommendations, they don’t blame their own laziness; they have simply decided to do nothing, or to seek treatment from one of your competitors. Research reveals that a poor customer experience is the reason that more than 70% of customers don’t convert. When patients seek treatment elsewhere, the most likely explanation is that the competitor demonstrated greater value and triggered an emotion, or emotions, that lead them to take action. Dental practice leaders have many lessons to learn from this.

Colin Shaw, author and Founder and CEO of Beyond` Philosophy, a consulting firm specializing in the customer experience, argues in his article (“20 Emotions that Drive or Destroy Value in Customer Experience”, My Customer), for the importance of emotions to the customer experience. He maintains that emotions powerfully affect our decision “to buy or not to buy, what we choose from a company’s offerings, what we remember and share about the experience, and, perhaps most importantly, whether we will be loyal to a brand.” We at iDENTIfy wholeheartedly concur and believe that Shaw’s views are important enough to share, along with our own responses.

Shaw poses the question,“What emotions should we strive for as an organization to foster customer loyalty and retention?” To provide an answer, Shaw draws on research carried out by his organization in tandem with the London Business School. They conducted a survey of 50,000 employees from 100 industries, in 40 countries. There were 4.5 million responses, of which 1.25 million regarded what customers want, and 1 million what they feel. The researchers used these findings to create a paradigm for identifying the impact of a variety of emotions. They called this the “Hierarchy of Emotional Value,” comprised of 20 emotions grouped in four clusters that boost or ruin the customer experience (see chart below). further explains that this framework is used “to benchmark your level of engagement with customers, something we refer to as an Emotional Signature. All organizations, including dental practices, have an emotional signature, whether they are aware of its existence or not.

Then Shaw proceeds to list the four clusters of emotions, classified according to the concealed ways that they impact the customer experience. These are: the Advocacy Cluster, Recommendation Cluster, Attention Cluster and the Destroying Cluster.

Below is a discussion of the first two, accompanied by our own comments (continue following us to read the discussion of the remaining two clusters):

The Advocacy Cluster. This cluster consists of two emotions, Happy and Pleased. Shaw says that you should provide your customers with experiences so delightful that they would want to take pictures to commemorate them. We mentioned the “happy factor” in one of our earlier blogs, Secrets to Providing Your Customers with a Collaborative CX, Blog 3, and encourage you to read more about it there. Based on our personal experience, when patients are happy they are more likely to tell their friends and family about your practice. In addition, when patients have fun during their visit to your office, they are more likely to return. IDENTIfy’s research revealed that when patients don’t enjoy their experience or have a poor experience, they are less likely to follow instructions and trust the doctor, regardless of the doctor’s manifest experience, knowledge, skills and abilities!

The Recommendation Cluster. Among the emotions in this cluster: Trusting, Valued, Cared For, Focused and Safe. Shaw explains, “These emotions are the foundation of customer loyalty. They are also the gateway emotions that allow you to pass to the pinnacle of the pyramid, the Advocacy Cluster.”

At iDENTIfy, we believe that trust emerges when you approach treatment coordination and planning as a way of helping the patient, so you should make it your mission to discover both their physical and emotional needs as they relate to treatment. Careful listening and two-way communication are very important, and anything less sends the message that quantity over quality is more important than the customer experience. Keep in mind that many dental practices focus on what they can do ‘to their patients, rather than striking a balance between the treatment they need and what they can do ‘for them.

The late Robert Vanarsdall, DDS, former Chairman of the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania, made the point that it is common for doctors to spend most of the consultation time talking about how treatment will benefit the patient cosmetically, usually forgoing a conversation about improving “function” and “oral hygiene to prevent gum disease” (Koup-Larsen, 2016) with patients or parents.  iDENTIfy’s position is that this is a huge missed opportunity because when the conversation focuses more on the ‘need’ for treatment, it is less likely to result in a dead-end treatment plan or comments such as: “The gap between my teeth doesn’t bother me.”

You can see that the argument that the feelings you evoke in patients can have a strong impact on the long-term success of your practice is a compelling one. To learn about the other emotion clusters, and what actions you should take to address them, please progress to Parts 2 and 3. Don’t miss our call to action and a practical team building exercise in Part 3.

–Read our other articles on topics such as Operational Excellence and High-Reliability Concepts:

Ten Steps You Can Take Right Away to Improve the Reliability of Your Dental Practice

High Reliability Concepts: Insights of Value to any organization.

Trude Henderson is the founder of iDENTIfy, Inc., a startup elective dental and medical practice improvement software company. In 2016, she was the first to introduce High-Reliability Organizational Concepts to the dental industry. For questions, contact her directly at Trude@GetIdentify.com. Follow Trude on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/trudehenderson/ (no email required)

Go to iDENTIfy’s website: www.getidentify.com

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