I have heard and read a lot about the use of fear as a way to motivate and achieve promising results. Employers sometimes use it with their employees, threatening to fire them if they don’t reach a certain goal; and doctors use it with their patients, sometimes to educate, a lot of the time, to sell. As a kid, I was terrified of seeing the doctor; mainly, because every time I did, she would do or say something to scare me as a way to educate me on what I was doing wrong. Every time I’d be forced to go back there for a needle or because I was sick, I would cry because I’d remember the fear my doctor instilled in me the first time I visited.
So here’s my question for you: Do you or does anyone on your team use fear as a motivating tool? Do you use it to educate or to sell? Do you even know you’re using it? If fear is your go-to in your practice, whether inadvertently or by design, I am going to ask you to hear me out when I tell you that using fear as a tool will do more harm to your practice than it will good.
Even though fear as a motivator might seem to achieve positive results, the truth of the matter is that it’s what you can’t see that should worry you. For example, you can’t see the destructive chain reaction of using fear as a tool in your practice– until it’s too late. Below are just 6 of the extremely crucial areas of your business that can be negatively affected by using fear as a motivating tool.
There have been too many cases of patients being scared into accepting a certain treatment. I have no doubt the dentist had good intentions, but that is not how patients will see it. Within just my circle of friends and acquaintances, I can name at least two that have told me their stories of being scared into accepting a treatment in detail. Here’s what I figured out: At the time, yes, they are motivated to accept the treatment. The victory belongs to the dental professional. But this leads very quickly into rational thinking as the patients realize the rash decision they’ve made may have been too rash. They realize also that they may have been bamboozled. This then leads to these patients seeking out a second opinion, most of the time with no intention of returning to their original dental professional.
How does this affect scheduling? These patients have agreed in the moment to come in for the proposed treatment, which means they have been added to the schedule; but, after they come down from that emotional high, they rethink their decision. The problem with using fear as a tool is your patients no longer see you as their dental professional but as a salesperson only intent on taking their money. Understandably, the treatment recommended could very well be justified and you or someone on your team actually feels genuine concern for the patient. Even though that is more likely the case, that is not how the patient will see us. This is about optics, about how your patients see you and your approach to their oral health. And it isn’t good. The patients who don’t go back to the dental professional become no-shows, some become cancellations. Not even coaxing will bring these patients back to you now that they’re sober.
I have been referred to a few dentists and I have found that the ones attempting to motivate me with fear into getting a procedure done or using fear as a tool to make me more compliant has never fostered a sense of genuine loyalty in any way shape or form. I find it hard to open up to a dental professional who prefers to manipulate my emotions and my decisions with fear. Loyalty requires sincere care and compassion and a genuine interest in my oral health. Too many times I’ve talked to patients who were scared into procedures they didn’t need, ended up getting and paying for, forcing them to consult a second opinion to learn that the procedures they agreed to weren’t necessary. Not only was trust lost, but so too was loyalty. None of those patients returned to any of their former dentists.
Of course, patient retention goes hand in hand with patient loyalty as the loss of that loyalty can be damaging to patient retention. If your patients can’t trust you to help them make a decision that is right and necessary for their oral health as well as their pocketbook, why would they bother coming back?
This type of negative motivation becomes negative reviews and word-of-mouth I doubt any dental professional can afford. I have seen it time and time again with people I know and even those I don’t. They are scared into believing they need a procedure they don’t actually need and later post about it on sites like Yelp and other popular rating sites, not only describing their negative experience with as much detail as possible to get their message across, but further warning others to stay away from that particular office and doctor.
These negative reviews and warnings have a detrimental effect on your brand. No practice wants to be known in the field as one too untrustworthy to visit. Fear can affect how you are perceived by your patients, your team, and your colleagues in the industry, resulting in a loss of authority and professionalism.
In the moment, fear achieves results. In the moment, patients do accept that appointment or that particular treatment. In the moment, patients will nod and accept whatever is being said, but when the moment passes, all those patients will be left with is anger, doubt, and in the young one’s case, just more fear. Fear provokes negative feelings. Think about the last time someone used fear to manipulate you. How did you feel about the one doing the manipulating? Negative comes from negative. We tend to stay away from what will trigger those negative feelings– and if the trigger is your practice, you can guarantee a significant loss of patients, a swift decline of case acceptance, and a sharp rise in cancellations and no-shows.
There are much better and much more effective ways to get your message across without resorting to fear. Consider getting to know your patients personally, implementing patient education in your office and on your website, and engaging in conversation with your patients through social media networks. It is true what they say. You catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.