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Management

Increasing patient and customer trust

12/09/2017
By Thomas Young
The secret to driving long-term, repeat business lies in building strong patient relationships, which begins by establishing trust. THOMAS YOUNG outlines ways practice staff can improve trust.

During an Excellence in Customer Service Award event I attended, guest speaker Dr Chris Hart gave an excellent presentation that clearly expressed how building trust results in customer loyalty, which results in more profitable customers and a greater chance for marketing and sales success.

Most businesses struggle because trust is not yet present in a loyal customer base. All too often their customer or patient experience ranges from merely satisfied to unhappy. The challenge is to move people into the loyal category, which means building trust.

What is trust?


"Selling is the process of building a trusting relationship with people. This is not a passing trend or sales technique but a way of life."
Thomas Young, CEO of Intuitive Websites and Author of Winning the Website War and Intuitive Selling.

Trust is the glue that holds the business relationship together and is expressed repeatedly through actions. This includes what the practice does and does not do.

Simple things are key, such as returning phone calls immediately and being consistent in words and actions. Trust is an absolutely essential part of sales, as well as business in general. If trust is not present, customers will not buy.

Trust is an investment

Building trust is not cheap; it is an investment in service to customers. This means hiring good people and providing them with ongoing training and going out of the way to better meet patient needs. The catch is that these investments pay off handsomely in improved profits and a strong referral base.

Remember, word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to generate new business – when trust is high, patients will make a special effort to tell others about their experience.

Eliminate customer sacrifices

Practice managers need to ask themselves what patients have to endure to do business with them, as these are barriers to success. Look at non-healthcare businesses you are passionate about and assess how easy is it to do to work with those organisations. Remove consumer sacrifices and build loyal customers.

Competence and credibility

Build trust with frequent interactions
Build trust with frequent interactions

Trust is built by showing competence and credibility. Competence is getting the job done right, better than the competitors. It is expressed through knowledge of the patient’s needs, the business’ product and service, and the ability to work with others.

Credibility is the practice’s character, integrity and honesty. Business owners and staff should only say what they really mean and be people of integrity. Show genuine concern for patients through unselfish behaviour. The focus is on the customer and his or her needs.

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Trust creates honesty

Don’t expect full honesty from people until trust is present. This is why objections really come from a lack of trust – customers fear that salespeople will take advantage of them if they share their shortcomings. When a customer trusts a salesperson, they are more inclined to tell them how to meet their needs specifically.

How to build trust

"Remember, word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to generate new business – when trust is high, patients will make a special effort to tell others about their experience."

Trust is built through frequent interactions. These interactions are an opportunity to build trust. In fact, any interaction with a customer impacts on trust.

Communication is about trust, not technique – when trust is high, it is effortless; when low, it’s a huge burden. Listening builds trust because it shows the customer how much they are valued. It meets a deep psychological need to be respected as a person.

Listening is the single most important way to build trust, while some other ways include:

  • Trust customers to do the right thing

  • Return all phone calls immediately

  • Send thank you notes

  • Be extremely organised and dependable

  • Do something different and special; be creative

  • Handle complaints promptly with empathy and honesty

  • Offer great customer service

  • Show sincere appreciation

  • Understand patients

  • Become a valuable resource to the customer

  • Create solutions that add value

  • Create a customer, not a sale

  • Do not over-promise but always do what is promised

  • Do something that is not expected

  • Always give more than expected

  • Do these things without any expectation of a return from the patient

It goes without saying to always act in the best interest of patients. Selling – in fact, doing business – is the process of building a trusting relationship with people. This is not a passing trend or sales technique but a way of life for anyone in business, including healthcare professionals.

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