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Episode #295: Avoid the COVID Mindset Gap with Dr. Christopher Phelps

the best practices show podcast Apr 23, 2021

You may be tired of hearing about the pandemic, but this topic is worth listening to! Today, Kirk Behrendt brings in Dr. Christopher Phelps to explain the two mindsets that the pandemic created: risk-tolerant and risk-adverse. By understanding these ways of thinking, you can build strategies to change your patients’ and teams’ behaviors to grow your practice — especially during this time of uncertainty. To learn the best ways to market effectively to both mindsets, listen to Episode 295 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

  • COVID-19 created two main types of mindsets: risk-tolerant and risk-averse.
  • Analyze who’s coming in and why so you can improve your marketing.  
  • Create the conditions to drive patients to you and stay long-term.
  • Use the social proof and authority principles to market to both mindsets.
  • Market more to your risk-tolerant patients — they're still looking to get in somewhere.
  • Listen to your patients’ insights to come up with solutions.
  • Remind patients of all the safety precautions you're taking.
  • Positive Google reviews can attract more risk-tolerant patients.
  • Now is the best time to offer membership plans for patients.
  • Be adaptable to get ahead.


  • “Whether you realize it or not, when your patient walks through the door of your practice, they're coming in with a mindset already established. And most of the time, unfortunately, the mindset they're coming in with is competing with what we want to talk about. So, potentially, if their mindset competes, the door to “yes” is already shut in our face.” (09:26—09:43)
  • “Before COVID-19, 80% of our patients were more proactive, especially when given choice in the matter. And the minority were the reactive mindset ones, the ones that would just put it off until it’s too late. Now, COVID-19 has flipped the paradigm because this new mindset that pairs well with this proactive and reactive is, are they risk-tolerant or are they risk-averse. And what we’re finding is the risk-tolerant mindset tends to go along with the reactive mindset people, the ones that are taking the calculated risk by letting things get worse.” (12:01—12:31)
  • “All of those reactive mindset people, those risk-tolerant people, had always felt like they could get into a dentist anywhere at any time when their issue became apparent. That was what their calculated risk was, ‘Yeah, it doesn't bother me today. But when it does tomorrow, I'll find a dentist somewhere.’ But what did the shutdown show them? When their problem did manifest, could they find us? Could they get in somewhere? And the answer was, they could not. So, what it did was it created this powerful scarcity effect.” (12:52—13:20)
  • “While we had the risk-tolerant folks filling our chairs — that's great — guess who’s not coming in right now, and still really isn't coming in unless they have a big dental issue? That risk-adverse crowd, the majority of our patients.” (15:16—15:28)
  • “When I talk to a lot of the dentists that follow my advice on this, it’s been off the charts. In fact, many of our practices like mine, we actually produced so much towards the end of the year that we made up for the two-month gap. It was like we never even shut down . . . because we were tapping into that risk-tolerant mindset, getting as much done as possible. And they were more than happy to say yes because they didn't want to be stuck in that same situation again.” (17:13—17:38)
  • “I've almost been in practice for 20 years. I'm still going through the risk-tolerant folks, because we had a ton of them to get through. You built your practice on them; you just hadn’t realized they only come in on occasion.” (17:45—17:55)
  • “My main advice is . . . and I still feel like you need to be doing this now, you've got to increase your marketing efforts to find more of those risk-tolerant patients. They're still looking to get in somewhere. They're still not sure who’s open and who’s going to get them in today, because that's what they're looking for, a short period of time. So, if you've got the capacity, you need to be marketing to them . . . and buy you more time until we get the other side back.” (18:07—18:35)
  • “These patients, when they're coming in, their focus is on getting in somewhere. That's why one of the messages I like to use is, ‘Call today, get in today.’ Now, I'm not guaranteeing I'm going to treat them today. I'm not guaranteeing I'll even start it today, much less finish it . . . I usually can find a chair somewhere to get them in and diagnose them, treatment plan them for as much as I can do in their next same-day visit. And we’re still getting a lot of acceptance because of the gift you gave them by getting them in and satisfying their search.” (19:53—20:29)
  • “The only way to get these people back sooner is we have to constantly communicate to our existing patients, our risk-adverse crowd, why they're safe in our office.” (22:59—23:07)
  • “We’ve got to remind [patients], especially those that are going out, if they're going to the store, if they're getting their hair done, if they're getting their nails done, they're already committed to taking a risk to go there. And [those businesses are] taking no precautions — not like we are. Why wouldn't they come see us too?” (26:40—26:55)
  • “Show people the social proof. Because your patients, if they don't see people coming to your office right now, they think it’s a ghost town . . . When you share with them that, ‘No, we’re busy,’ that influences them to go, ‘Well, if all those people are going and they feel safe, maybe I will too.’ . . . We’ve already extended our risk-tolerant folks by finding more of them. Now, we get our risk-averse crowd to come in sooner than they would have otherwise.” (31:26—32:00)
  • “When your market speaks, you need to listen. Their answers give me insights into what they were using to make their decision, what their mindset was, which then helps me figure out what marketing messages I need to create to get more [patients] like them. If I can get their attention in any kind of advertising medium, now I've got a shot to bring them in the door, to call me and not somebody else.” (36:15—36:36)


  • Dr. Phelps’ background. (03:33—08:06)
  • What is the COVID-19 mindset and why is it important in dentistry? (08:32—10:22)
  • How COVID-19 created the risk-tolerant and risk-adverse mindset. (11:01—15:55)
  • Educating your team about the risk-tolerant mindset. (16:19—18:35)
  • Misconceptions about same-day dentistry. (18:57—20:29)
  • No-show rates increase as the gap between call time and visit increase. (21:08—21:42)
  • Constantly communicate why patients are safe in your office. (22:18—23:24)
  • The social proof principle and the authority principle. (24:00—27:17)
  • How to talk to your team about risk-tolerant and risk-adverse mindsets. (27:40—28:41)
  • Leverage your Google reviews to build trust and gain exposure. (29:05—32:02)
  • Be adaptable for times like this. (33:12—35:31)
  • Create conditions for patients to come and stay with your practice. (36:08—36:36)
  • Last thoughts on where we are now as dentists. (37:03—40:02)
  • There's never been a better time to have a membership plan for patients. (40:40—44:04)
  • Dr. Phelps’ book and podcast. (44:47—46:45)

Reach Out to Dr. Phelps:

Dr. Phelps’ website: https://www.drphelpshelps.com/

Dr. Phelps’ Instagram: @dr.christopherphelps https://www.instagram.com/dr.christopherphelps/

Dr. Phelps’ podcast, Dental Slang: https://www.dentalslang.com/

Further Reading:

How to Grow Your Dental Membership Plan by Dr. Phelps: https://www.amazon.com/Grow-Your-Dental-Membership-Plan/dp/0692788093

Books by Dr. Robert Cialdini: https://www.amazon.com/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Robert-Cialdini/dp/006124189X

Dr. Christopher Phelps Bio:

An entrepreneur and Amazon bestselling author, Chris is also a general dentist practicing in Charlotte, NC. In his first seven years of practice, Chris grew his practice revenue by a factor of 10X, growing from one practice location to four. After selling two of those offices for profit, Chris focused on maximizing the capacity of his remaining two practices and enjoyed two consecutive years of $1 million of revenue growth in each of the two practices, effectively collecting with two offices what he had collected when he owned four.

The Call Tracker ROI program he developed played a major role, decreasing missed calls by 90% and increasing team conversions of new patient appointments over the telephone from 24% to over 86%, which helped increase his new patient numbers from 60/month to averaging over 300/month; all the while decreasing his marketing expenses by 74%.

In 2016, he launched Golden Goose Scheduling to help practices answer and schedule more new patient calls so they didn’t have to pay more in marketing money to get them.

Chris writes frequently for industry publications such as Dental Economics, Dental Practice Management, Dental Products Report, DentistryIQ, and Remin Media. He is the author of Grow Your Practice with Wine & Cheese, and also published a CE article in Contemporary Esthetics Magazine.

In 2016 and 2018, Dr. Phelps was selected as the Doctor’s Choice National Dental Award winner. He was nominated and voted on by his fellow dentists, and out of the 6,000 dentists nominated across the U.S., he was the only one to receive this honor. Additionally, he was chosen for the 2016 Doctor’s Choice Top 100, due to a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

In addition to being a Kolbe Certified Trainer, a key opinion leader to several large dental companies, and understanding how to get new patients in the door, Dr. Phelps is also an expert in the Science of Influence and Ethical Persuasion. He has studied under the authority in this field, Dr. Robert Cialdini, and is the only dentist in the world to be named a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT). Chris uses Cialdini’s Principles to ethically steer patients to more referrals, decreased no-shows, and higher case acceptance.


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