The empowered principal – purpose

It’s important to make sure your patients leave your practice with a good feeling, Neil Sikka says.

Companies throughout the world spend millions of pounds trying to persuade us to buy their products and use their services.

They use ‘subliminal marketing’ to connect with us in a way that draws us in. By delivering messages to our ‘subconscious mind’ they influence the buying decisions we make on a daily basis. What are the tools they use and how can we apply this to our practices and patients without having access to the marketing budgets of these multinationals?

Maya Angelou, the American poet and historian said: ‘People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but they will always remember how you make them feel.’

If we think about our favourite restaurant or hotel, why do we return again and again? The staff may be really friendly, the ambience attractive, the food enticing. All these elements combine to give us a wonderful experience, which encourages us to return. Ultimately it is the feeling we have afterwards that we remember.

If we consider the most memorable events in our lives, what stays in our minds is how we felt at that time?

It may be that we felt secure, excited, valued or even loved. Whatever it may be, these feelings are common to us all.

We all actually share the same primal needs. This is our purpose, and can be described under four categories:

  1. Certainty
  2. Uncertainty
  3. Significance
  4. Connection.


To live within a secure, safe environment without wars and bloodshed is something we all take for granted in the west. Knowing that if we are sick or unwell, we have the support of a wonderful healthcare system. This fulfils our need for certainty. On a simpler level, when we use a service we want the certainty that it will deliver on its promise.

What about within a dental setting? How do we give certainty to our patients? Below are some simple example of how we can do this:

  1. Treated by the same dentist or hygienist each visit
  2. Treated in a safe clinical environment
  3. Always seen on time
  4. The fee quoted the same as the final figure.


Imagine how uninteresting it would be if every day was always the same. We all need some variety and excitement to feel alive.

Excitement may not be what everyone needs when they visit the dentist but we can use the opportunity to engage with our patients and make their visit pleasurable.

  1. A notice board highlighting all the community work done by members of the practice. In my experience this is always of interest to our patients
  2. Fresh flowers in reception each week
  3. An updated copy of Hello magazine always seems to generate some excitement!

Significance and connection

Cast your mind back to the last time you arrived at a hotel or restaurant and the person greeting you smiled, remembered your name and made you feel welcome.

These small actions make us feel valued, they give us significance. Our patients are no different and there are many small daily routines we can implement to show them we care. Below are just a few examples:

  1. Acknowledging patient presence immediately on arrival with direct eye contact
  2. Greeting patients by name at reception
  3. Listening to patient comments and publishing them on a poster in reception in the manner of ‘You said, we did’
  4. Dentist to personally escort patient to and from waiting area and reception
  5. Call to patient after complex treatment
  6. Dentists to check in with reception at the end of each day for any patient feedback and to act on it.

If we focus on how to fulfil patients’ needs they will become our marketing team, spreading the word about our wonderful service. We all know how valuable patients are who come to us through personal recommendation!

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