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This month, we’ve covered many of the ways your clinic can start and continue to add value to your patients’ lives—beyond providing exceptional care—thus encouraging return business and word-of-mouth referrals. But what we haven’t talked about yet are the emotions that go along with this value—the “warm fuzzies,” as we like to call them. After all, people don’t make rational buying decisions—ever. None of us do. Instead, we use our emotions. (Just ask this psychologist, this sales guy, and this marketing firm.)
The Pepsi Paradox
Want an interesting example? Consider the “Pepsi Paradox” in Leonard Mlodnow’s book, Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior: In blind taste tests, an overwhelming number of participants rated Pepsi as tasting better than Coca-Cola. However, when those same people knew the brand of the sodas they were tasting, they rated Coke higher. Why? Because they associate the Coca-Cola brand with positive emotions (think skating polar bears in red scarves or an ice cold bottle of Coke at the ball game), and this in turn actually improves the taste of the soda.
When asked why they chose Coke over Pepsi, almost none of the participants admitted to the connection between brand perception and taste, indicating that it was a subconscious awareness. In fact, “in the early 2000s, new brain imaging studies found evidence that that an area of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC) is the seat of the warm fuzziness we experience when we contemplate a familiar brand-name product.” So, in 2007, researchers performed the same Pepsi vs. Coke taste experiment on a group of participants with healthy VMPCs and a group “whose brain scans showed significant VMPC damage.” So what were the findings? According to Mlodnow, “as expected, both the normal and the brain-damaged volunteers preferred Pepsi to Coke when they did not know what they were drinking. And, as expected, those with healthy brains switched their preference when they knew what they were drinking. But those who had damage to their VMPC—their brain’s ‘brand appreciation’ module—did not change preferences. They liked Pepsi better whether or not they knew what they were drinking.” Thus, “without the ability to unconsciously experience a warm and fuzzy feeling toward a brand name, there is no Pepsi Paradox.” Powerful, huh?
So what’s the key to tapping into your customers’ emotion-driven brains?
Make them feel good about you and your practice. Make patients happy, make them smile, make them laugh, and they’ll remember you fondly. Not only will this help you do better in business, but more importantly, it will also help your patients get better—and maybe make you (and your staff) happier in the process. According to an article in the Physical Therapy Journal, patients who perceive their care positively experience better outcomes. This means that practitioners who cater to the “specific needs of their patients” and “provide a positive, collaborative treatment experience” often end up helping their patients recover faster.
With this in mind, here are four ways you can cultivate the warm fuzzies:
1. Always Smile
Smiling—just like yawning—is contagious. And real smiles (those that engage the eyes) can dramatically increase people’s level of happiness. A smile also communicates openness, warmness, and, according to this WebMD article, intelligence. So start smiling—not creepily, just naturally. It’s the first step to building a positive rapport with your patients, which will keep them engaged and feeling encouraged about their therapy experience.
2. Really Listen
While we’re on the subject of building rapport, a good bed—table—side manner means more than just rattling off clinical terms and expecting your patients to do as they’re told. This will most likely backfire for the patient’s rehabilitation, and they’re surely not going to go around telling their friends anything nice about you. So stop talking—and start practicing your active listening skills. Actually hear what your patients want from therapy, what their expectations are, and what their fears are about going through this process. This will help you both get the most out of your experience together.
3. Be Positive
Whether this is in person, online, or anywhere in between, make sure that you are only focusing on the good. Do not slam a competitor, be negative about a patient’s recovery process, or lose control of your body language (eye rolling, frowning, arm-crossing, etc.) Anything that might cause your patients to wonder about the kindness of your heart or feel insecure in their relationship with you will breed whatever the opposite of the warm fuzzies are (cold pricklies?). As a parent or grandparent traditionally says: “if you do not have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” After all, a lot of the recovery process depends upon the patient’s attitude.
4. Go Further
Want to create a good, lasting, memorable impression? Go out of your way to make every patient’s experience wonderful. And you can do so in whatever manner is right for you. Perhaps it’s simply walking your elderly patrons to their cars after a session, opening the door for the mom with a stroller, asking a repeat patron how his son’s baseball game was, putting out fresh flowers in your waiting room, or offering spa-like fruit-infused water to thirsty patients (maybe even using branded cups). Just do something special—something that your patients might walk away from feeling a little bit more warm and fuzzy.
Looking for some more happiness-generating tips? Check out this article. But before you do, use the comment section below to tell us about the ways in which you’ve cultivated the warm fuzzies in your practice.