By Dr. Jason Tam

From the time we leave high school, most of us are surrounded by professionals such as dentists, doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc.  We went through many years of school and developed great relationships with highly educated and successful individuals.  We’ve been fortunate to have great exposure and experiences that helped shape us into the people we are today.  It is fantastic to have such a well accomplished circle and amazing memories, but it can be like poison for us if we don’t realize that most people are not like us. This fact often holds true for our staff members vs. our patient pool. The point being that it is vital to treat people the way they expect to be treated instead of simply saying, “treat people the way you want to be treated”. Let me explain.


Telling staff to treat patients like they want to be treated is a double-edged sword. It is easy to assume staff members have had the same experiences we have and to think that they should therefore understand how we want them to treat our clients. Many times, however, reality is far different from our perception. Perhaps their experience was working for someone who delivered poor customer service. Maybe they have not been exposed to the demographic of patients in your office and do not understand the intricacies of their customs. Perhaps they are just tone deaf when it comes to treating people well. Whatever the reason, we cannot and should not assume that telling our staff members to treat others like they want to be treated is a good idea.


Explaining to patients what is going on with their body and what we plan to do with a full-blown, detailed diagnostic records review and treatment plan explanation might be what we want but it’s usually the last thing that the layperson desires. It is all too easy to rhyme off a diagnosis and treatment options while using technical language in our very first meeting with a new patient who is there to buy us not braces or aligners. We consider it normal and standard to do this in order to showcase our years of education because we think it will impress patients but the fact is that patients usually do not care. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We are in the people business working on teeth, not the teeth business working on people! Even PCDs don’t understand ortho and our explanations so how can we realistically expect the average mom and dad to follow our nerd talk? Think of the last time you had a PCD bring their kid in for treatment if you doubt this fact – you have to break it down for them just like the average layperson. So it may not even be a good idea when we, the orthodontist and practice owner, treat customers like we want to be treated. In doing so we may totally blow our chances of starting the case and helping the customer get what they want.


Designing an office that we like is another example of treating others like we want to be treated.  It is too easy to design our office and set up our schedules based upon our own preferences, assuming others will also like them, yet completely miss the mark with our patient pool.  Yes we have to work there every day but if we don’t attract enough patients and give a great experience we will be very lonely in our perfect office that no one but us likes. Think about who your patient is and cater to them in this and everything else!


It is a tough pill to swallow, but most of us are actually overeducated for the work we do, our personal experiences probably hinder our ability to relate to others, our patients do not care about the things we care about and most people do not think like us.  Don’t treat people how you want to be treated.  Treat people how they want to be treated! The take home here is that every person is an individual and they are best served when we business owners take the time to get to know the demographic we target and the individual patients we serve as well as humanly possible so we can treat them the way THEY want to be treated. Figuring out how to do so is the key to incredible success.


Dr. Jason Tam is the owner of MCO Orthodontics, with three offices just outside of Toronto, Canada.  He completed his dental school at the University of Toronto, followed by a GPR at New York Hospital Queens, and an orthodontic residency at Boston University.  While his practice is primarily braces, he is a Top 1% Super Elite Invisalign Provider.  Dr. Tam has a special interest in office efficiencies and implementation.  He is happily married with two young boys, and a baby girl. Dr. Tam presented a killer talk at the Inaugural 2015 MKS Forum and loves helping others learn and grow.

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