6 Types of Jerks and how to Deal with Them in Your Dental Practice

No matter the type of business you own, you’ll be faced with difficult people. As a dental team, you’re bound to stumble upon some of these types. Read the following to learn how to handle them with care, while protecting your reputation.
Difficult Dental Patients and How to Deal1. The Doubting Jerk 

This patient believes his Google search is more valuable than your dental degree and 10 years chair side experience. He will question your options, fees and even drop jargon. You know he has no idea what he’s talking about. He refuses to believe he needs a crown and thinks you are a money-hungry liar. When faced with this type of unreasonable human, it’s best to be armed.

How to Handle the Doubting Jerk

Come to the conversation with photos of his mouth. Be prepared to calmly answer his questions. Say this, “Mr. Jones, I know this can be confusing. I know it can be difficult to trust our recommendation, especially when you cannot see the decay the way we can see it on the radiographs. We have conversations like this all day and it never gets easier, especially when we only want what’s best for you. I have a legal and ethical commitment to share with you the treatment that is in your best interest. I assure you I’d recommend the same treatment plan to my own mother.” Smile warmly and wait for his or her next reply. Usually, after you’ve effectively disarmed with charm, the patient will become less defensive and more open. It may take a little diligence, but continue to break down the communication barriers with confidence and concern.

Staying calm and showing empathy will get you far. Have real before and after photos featuring your happy patients to show. The unreasonably untrusting person will become open and appreciative in many instances when they see how many others you’ve helped to smile. This is why marketing with real patients can make a real difference.

2. The Cheap Jerk 

For some dentists, this repulsive characteristic cannot be tolerated. However, if you can learn to convert this type, you can (sometimes) help dozens of deserving cheapos. The unreasonably cheap are easy to spot. They’re the patients you’ll see asking to skip X-Rays, claiming they never received the bill (again), and threatening a negative Google review when their insurance refused to cover their treatment.

In some cultures and in many households, negotiating is a way of life. Calling for a quote or bid is normal and not considered anything out the norm. If these types don’t receive some sort of “deal” they feel they haven’t done their job.

How to Handle Cheap Jerk

First, make sure to spot them early. There’s a good chance that on their first call they asked several questions and most were related to insurance acceptance, fees and billing processes. Make a note in the system that the patient seemed very focused on expenses. Next, make sure you have a “why us” packet. This helps these chronic negotiators understand that not all dentistry is the same. Next, do not assume this patient is without money. Some of the wealthiest people live to negotiate. Ask this patient what he or she values. Discover what really matters. If you can get this patient wanting the care he or she needs, price becomes a concern, but fades from the forefront. Discuss how your pricing is set and why it is where it is. Have a “stop the shopper” process in your practice. Support this with a printed document meant to build value. If a patient has an outstanding payment due, refuse to schedule future treatment. You can only handle so much. Know your breaking point and allow your team to gently remind you when it may be time to let go of a hassling haggler.

3. The Destructive Jerk 

This patient will respect the doctor to his face, but lie to the team. His goal is to divide and conquer your office. He will tell you that Suzy at the front desk told him he didn’t need X-Rays or tell Suzy that the doctor said his crown was only $600. He thinks he can lie and manipulate to cause drama and his end goal is to put himself on a pedestal by making those around him seem incompetent and inferior when they fall victim to his games. You’ll be able to spot him wearing a grinch-like, devious smile. He’ll seem pleasant at first to gain entry into your life. He’s the most difficult to spot, yet the most destructive. The longer he stays a patient, the more devastation he can cause, both to your reputation and your team’s harmony. He may not even realize he is causing damage, as it’s likely something that has become a habit, much like breathing. Causing drama is his subconscious hobby and he leaves the room seemingly unscathed, while you patch together the truth. Most who exhibit this kind of behavior feel an elevated sense of importance when they cause enough stress and drama to make others unnecessarily apologize and “make it right”. They live to critique others and often have a know-it-all personality. They’re experts in F-ing everything. There’s a good chance that even while reading this, your blood pressure is slightly elevated as you reminisce on your past experiences with one of these types.

How to Handle the Destructive Jerk 

 It’s important to note these occurrences in his or her chart. To be sure you’re not overreacting to an honest miscommunication, give him 3 strikes. Once you’ve acknowledged this destructive human in your business look for your next option to let him or her go. Next time he or she calls anyone on the team with a complaint (over a bill, false statement, ANYTHING), say the following, “Mr. Jones, based on our past conversations, I no longer feel our team is the right fit for you. It appears as though in many instances, you’ve been dissatisfied with our team and I feel this may be because we aren’t the right fit.” Get ready because rejection is ultimately what this destruction human fears. He may go to great lengths to talk badly about you. He will react strongly to being let go and will want answers. There’s a chance he will go quietly, but then privately seek revenge in the form of false reviews, unpaid bills and slander. It’s still a small price to pay for your team’s sanity. Let him go.

4. The Fearful Jerk

This person hides behind his fear of dentistry to justify total and complete neglect of his oral health. Yes, perhaps he has a true phobia to overcome, but starting an interaction with a doctor like this: “I hate you,” simply has no justification.

This person thinks their fear of the dentist justifies missed appointments, audible screams during a visit and behavior that resembles a toddler. He can often be spotted with piercings and tattoos – go figure!

How to handle the fearful jerk

First, recognize a truly phobic patient. Meet him or her with total compassion. In fact, don’t really call these patients jerks (or any patients for that matter). The title is meant to help us face our obstacles with a sense of humor, but is not intended for us to lose our compassion. Remember, you went into this wonderful profession to help people. You can’t truly do that if you believe they’re all a bunch of jerks (even when they act otherwise.) When the patient expresses his or her fear, say this, “Kelsey, I know it’s been a while since your last dental appointment.  I want you to know that we’re here to help you. Today is the start of your healthy smile journey. We’re going to make sure you’re comfortable at all times. If you ever experience discomfort, just raise your left hand. Also, know that we treat fearful patients very often and enjoy helping you to gain trust in our team. We’re happy you chose us to help you restore your health. What questions do you have for me today?” Make sure to invest a bit of time chatting. Allow the patient to share his or her horror story. Ask the patient if he prefers to hear each step as it’s happening or if he would prefer to relax and watch television or listen to music. Have headphones and distractions available, as it helps many patients relax.

5. The Doctor-Hopping Jerk

This patient doesn’t seem to realize that you value loyalty. He or she may show up to their next appointment with dentistry completed that was not done by your team, with no explanation.

How to Handle the Doctor-Hopping Jerk

Acknowledge the patient’s choice to receive care elsewhere. Let him or her know that you cannot be held responsible for the quality of that work, but that you hope it works out well for her. Let the hopper know that it’s always best to establish a primary care dentist, just like a primary care physician that can track records and oral health trends. Changes in the mouth can show early signs of diseases. Ask the reason the patient didn’t receive the care from you. At that point in time, if the reason is financial alone, say this, “Mrs. Jones, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m confident we can work out a plan that is fair and will allow you to receive the care you deserve from our team. You’ve been coming here for so many years, we would hate to lose you as our patient.” It’s not intended as a guilt trip, but an honest and open way to communicate to Mrs. Jones that you value her.

6. The Perfect Jerk

We all deal with perfectionism to some degree, but some people simply will not recognize excellent work. These folks set their own unrealistic expectations and no matter how many hoops you jump through, the work won’t be good enough. Who knows what kind of childhood trauma they are filling? You simply have to learn how to recognize these jerks and create a plan for handling them.

How the Handle the Perfect Jerk

Let the patient know that these results are beautiful. Show him or her why slightly natural teeth are considered more modern and more beautiful than the “Chiclet” style she is describing. Let her know this is the plan you discussed. Sometimes, you simply have to explain that you did your best and you’re very happy with the outcome. Next, get very good at filtering out perfectionists and setting your real expectations — several times over — to prevent these types of exchanges in the future.

If you’d like more information on how to market to non-jerks, schedule a complimentary marketing planning session with our team. http://meetme.so/cmps

Identity Dental Marketing

Grace Rizza

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