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The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Communication in this New World

Communication is key in any relationship, including with your staff and with your patients. But this new world requires a different kind of communication technique as I am very quickly figuring out. It is important that, even if your office is closed or only open for emergencies, you shape your communication to match the current events.  

Ask yourself if you feel the communication techniques used in your office keep everyone informed or if there are holes; if so, what are they?  

Nobody knows how long we will have to endure this new world and all the significant changes that come with it, but it might be the perfect time to hone your communication techniques and keep better connected not just to your patients but to your staff.  

First thing’s first: we are all stuck navigating the challenges of this new world, one of those challenges being how to communicate with patients and staff while remembering that nothing is how it used to be. What do you avoid in your next email or chat? What do you focus on?  

Before you contemplate exactly what you’re going to do, check out the communication do’s and don’ts below and let them guide you through these rough waters.   

Staff Communication Do’s 

Do practice active listening 

If those on your team are still coming to the office, effective communication is more important than ever. A crucial component of effective communication is active listening. Listen to your staff and their needs. If they are telling you that they aren’t feeling well, it’s serious.  

Listening for symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, or sniffling will alert you that, even though someone on your team never spoke up, they are ill and need to go home right away.  

Do stick to your brand’s message 

The one thing about communication in this new world is that it might be easier to forget your purpose as you and your team communicate with your patients. Don’t forget your purpose and vision in each correspondence; there is a comfort in knowing that something is still normal, and patients will notice if that something has changed. 

Do take advantage of video chat 

A way to stay connected with your team while you are all at home is video chat. Take advantage of seeing each other’s faces and being able to communicate in an almost normal way. Every time I have a meeting by video chat with my coworkers, it not only helps reduce my stress but reminds me that we’re all enduring this together, as a team, as a family. 

Staff Communication Don’ts 

Don’t lose sight of the facts 

When it comes to the information you provide to your staff, be aware of the misinformation floating around online. Challenge everything by doing your research first to make sure the information you’re supplying is legit and backed by several reputable sources.  

Don’t leave anyone out 

Communication is a delicate process by which if one person is left out will no longer be effective. When you are communicating a crucial piece of information, don’t leave anyone out of the loop, make sure you are all on the same page, whether by email or by chat.   

Don’t use more than one platform 

Most of the time, I encourage use of many platforms in which to communicate with patients and staff, but in this case, using more than one can get very confusing very fast, and can result in a game of telephone that eventually skews the original message.  

To get your message across effectively and efficiently to your team, choose one method by which to communicate it. Have a meeting by video chat, or send an email to everyone, or invite everyone into a group chat.  

A more important aspect of this “Don’t” is don’t allow your team members to respond to a certain message on more than one platform. That too can skew the message and leave other team members in the dark. Keep it to one platform for the information and one platform for the feedback, preferably the same platform to keep things consistent. Make sure that if one is replying to your communication, everyone else is copied.  

This is a very bad time to not be on the same page when it comes to communicating important and potentially life-altering information.  

Patient Communication Do’s 

Do practice empathy and compassion 

The most important part of communication is not the content; most of the time, it’s the tone. How you say something tends to overrule what you’re saying. Make sure that your tone is empathetic and compassionate, which is easy given we are all living through the same nightmare. 

When updating your patients, stay away from the generic response and make it as personal as possible. Let them know that they are not alone, that you are with them and will continue to be with them through this.    

Do keep yourself up to date on what’s going on in your community 

Details regarding how this pandemic is affecting your community are changing almost hourly as tests are administered and new cases are brought to light.  

Keeping up to date on the latest news going on in your community will assist you in your communication to your patients, including the details of how long your office will be closed, when you will open, if you are open for emergencies only, or if an original open date has changed. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to relay that information to everyone else. 

Do stay in touch 

Communication in this new world can be challenging, but your patients will appreciate that you are keeping in touch any way that you can. If they need to contact you, give them a way to do it whether by phone or through an online video or audio tool (Skype, Microsoft Teams). 

Patient Communication Don’ts 

Don’t focus on sales 

Your patients are going through a very terrifying situation just as we all are. They are worrying about themselves and their loved ones. They are contemplating different and safer ways to buy food and other essential items. The last thing they want to see is a sales pitch.  

Don’t focus on your bottom line, focus on their health and well-being. There is a much higher probability that they will respond in a positive way to a message of concern, regarding their own dental hygiene.  

Right now, it’s all about education. Write blog posts, personal letters, or present webinars to engage your patients rather than deter them.  

Don’t lose sight of the facts 

Be very aware of the information you are providing to patients. There is a swarm of misinformation out there that disguises itself as fact when it clearly isn’t. When putting together a blog post or webinar or any kind of informational communication, do your research. Find credible sources to back up any claims made.  

The only thing worse than spreading the virus is spreading misinformation about the virus. 

Don’t use complicated jargon 

I don’t know about you, but my head is not clear in this terrifying time. I have a father who is susceptible to this virus as well as a sister and mother who have pre-existing conditions. I have managed to remain calm, but sometimes the panic sets in.  

When under this kind of pressure, any kind of communication that happens to contain a lot of jargon, I just throw away. My head isn’t clear enough to interpret what I’m reading and anything regarding the virus can cause more panic and more stress than is necessary. 

Stay away from jargon in your communication. Keep it simple and straightforward. Jargon can mess with people’s heads and possibly give the wrong impression.  

Conclusion 

The important takeaway from this article is to stay informed, stay consistent, and stay in touch. Whether it’s your patients or your staff you mean to relay information to, everyone needs to be on the same page and in the know.  

This is a tough new world we’re living in right now, but if we stay in touch and we remember that we are not alone, the challenges we navigate will become easier.  

In next week’s article, I’m going to focus on the world after this pandemic has passed and the communication techniques we should be adopting once all of us are back in the office and returning to our regular routines.   

I’ve been informed that opening may be sooner than we all think, but the normal we knew is gone as many guidelines will be put in place that weren’t before. Till next week, we are all in this together and we will weather this storm but only if we stay strong and united.  

Resources 

https://www.bdo.ca/en-ca/insights/advisory/human-resources/leading-through-covid-19-communicating-with-your-employees/ 

https://www.iabc.com/now-what-communicating-in-the-weird-new-organizational-normal/ 

https://www.iabc.com/communication-that-works-in-a-crisis-tips-and-techniques/ 

https://www.lightspeedhq.com/blog/covid-19-communication-plan/