For patients, it doesn’t matter why you’re a great clinician. What matters is that they perceive you as skilled, competent, and great. Today, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Christian Coachman, founder of Digital Smile Design, to guide you through the process of creating perceived value. Your patients aren’t buying your treatment — they’re buying the emotional experience that you provide! To learn how to translate your real value to perceived value, listen to Episode 580 of The Best Practices Show!
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People buy an emotional experience.
What matters is patients’ perception of value.
Every great practice needs a great storyteller.
Master the process of creating perceived value.
Being a good clinician is not a guarantee of success.
Learn how to translate your real value into perceived value.
“From my dental technician perspective, what I realized was that many clients that I have, dentist clients, of course, could be great clinicians but not necessarily have great practices, and vice versa. I saw clinicians that were not that great but were really succeeding with their practice. So, I noticed that being a good clinician, unfortunately — and I say unfortunately — is not a guarantee of success. And as a technician, 25 years ago, I started to ask myself, how can I help my good clinicians to be more successful beyond just managing the clinical procedures? That’s when I started what I call the emotional dentistry concept, everything that can help a dentist generate perceived value.” (3:49—4:40)
“What I realized was that we all have our real value. Our real value is the value that we know we deserve because of our effort on learning, practicing, becoming more experienced, trying over and over again, using the right instruments and materials, etc. Every year, we get better, and that grows our real value. But what I also noticed is that in a capitalist world, real value doesn’t make the magic alone. It doesn’t really matter how much real value you know you deserve. What really matters for a business, including a dental practice business, is the value that people believe you deserve, or people feel you deserve. Basically, when patients accept a treatment plan, this treatment plan actually has very little to do with your clinical skills and a lot to do with the perception of value that this person had until that moment. So, I understood that it’s all about mastering the process of creating perceived value. That’s when we started to explore the psychology, the human behavior, communication skills, body language, emotional experience, and everything that you need to do, everything that you can improve, to translate your real value into perceived value.” (4:41—6:14)
“People don’t buy your treatment. They buy the emotional experience before your treatment. Meaning, they make the yes or no decision based on everything that they experienced so far, until the moment you presented the estimate to them. Now, rationally, people think that they are saying yes or no because of your clinical skills. Doctors think that the patient is saying yes or no because of their clinical skills. But, in fact, what we see is that the yes or no depends on this emotional experience. Why? Because major decisions in life are emotionally driven, and also because it’s very hard for the patient to understand clinical skills, even after the treatment. Imagine before the treatment.” (6:41—7:34)
“Even if you’re a great clinician, a happy patient will have a hard time explaining the clinical technicalities of why you did something well. And the explanation, the word of mouth, will end up being much more on the emotional side, on the experience, on the perceived value generation. So, at the end of the day, before or after doing — it doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception of value. And the perception of value is not necessarily 100% connected to your real value. So, it’s an art. Translating your real value into perceived value is an art that needs to bring — your team needs to master this process. The whole nonclinical experience needs to represent this process — your ambiance, your hospitality, your communication skills, your body language, the quality of your team in terms of behavior as well. And these things, unfortunately — and I repeat the word unfortunately here — are usually even more important than the quality of the treatment for at least the short-term success.” (7:42—8:57)
“Steve Jobs had a quote that is more or less like this. He says that the most powerful people in the world are the storytellers because they generate change. So, when I listened to that quote, he’s saying that it’s not the doers that are changing the world, the people that are actually doing something. Before them, you need a storyteller creating the inspiration. They are the ones, at the end, that are making people embrace the change. So, every great project, every great practice, needs a very good storyteller.” (9:19—10:01)
“We know that idealistically, philosophically, what really matters is our internal value. But the shortcut to succeed is to learn how to transmit this value. If we can, every day, invest a few minutes to try to imagine our day tomorrow, try to forecast, try to predict the key moments of tomorrow — just a day, tomorrow. It can be a normal day. But maybe you have an important discussion with your assistant. Maybe you’re going to have to cover an important topic with your son. Maybe you’re going to have to talk about a complex topic with your wife. Maybe you’re going to have to interview somebody. Maybe you have a patient that is a little tougher than the average patient. You know that’s going to happen tomorrow, so you have the chance to prepare for these moments. And you invest a few minutes, and I mentioned the shower because I like to do this exercise in the shower. So, as you’re having a shower, you’re thinking about tomorrow, and you’re identifying those one, two, three moments that can be a key moment of your day that you can easily not think about. But if you think about it, it allows you this chance to mentalize the moment, to predict the moment, to build the moment in your head, to try to anticipate, what are the challenges that that moment will bring? What are the barriers that the other person will have when listening to you, or the topics that will create friction, that will create stress?” (11:21—13:10)
“If you put a little bit of energy, you can almost identify, anticipate, most of the issues that you’re going to have in the key moment of your day tomorrow. And by anticipating this, you can build a strategy in advance. Building a strategy in advance is basically building the communication process to create value in your words, to create the perception of value. So, it’s not about you knowing that you’re right, you knowing that you have the answer, but it’s you putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to understand how to make that person at least respect a little bit more of what you’re going to say.” (13:11—13:51)
“My goal is never to convince everybody. It’s not about convincing everybody. I think it’s about increasing the chances of people respecting a little bit more of what you’re saying, even if they don’t agree with it. They say, ‘Christian, I actually don’t agree with you. But the way you’re putting this and the way you’re explaining yourself makes me think, and I’m at least respecting what you’re saying.’ That makes a huge difference. And for me, this is the shortcut to achieving your goals. This is the shortcut to building projects. This is the shortcut to grow. This is the shortcut to empower partnerships and collaboration. This is the shortcut to empower staff members. This is the shortcut to avoid problems, [mis]communication, and stress.” (13:52—14:37)
“We’ve been talking about AI — not in dentistry, in life, in general — for many, many years. And why, suddenly, a few months ago, boom, ChatGPT and things like this? I was thinking about it. And in my non-AI specialist humble opinion, I had an aha moment why a tool like ChatGPT is so disruptive. It’s because it’s not only about information — Chat GPT tells stories. It’s actually a very well-written answer. If you asked AI in the past, you could search on Google, ‘I want to find this,’ and Google will give you the links, and the topics, and the explanations there in a very direct way but not transforming that information into a beautiful paragraph. ChatGPT creates an answer that looks like a human. Why? Because it looks like there’s somebody thinking and putting a story together. That’s why I think this is so disruptive. That’s why everybody is feeling so threatened that suddenly AI is going to substitute us, because suddenly AI is telling stories about the information.” (15:09—16:31)
“The more you understand about emotions, human behavior, communication skills, persuasion, body language — [there’s] so much content out there about that, showing that if you master all of these tools, you become more powerful. You can influence more people. You can make people change their minds. You can make people change their priorities. You can make people give up on certain things and adopt other new things. You have an impact on people. The better communicator you are, the bigger the impact you have on people, period. That comes with responsibility. And, of course, we can use examples of people that are great communicators without responsibility or good intentions. Many, unfortunately, politicians do that. They master communication. They become very good with persuasion, and they don’t have your best interest. So, I believe that to make myself comfortable with investing in communication skills, to make myself ethically supported, I need to always remind myself that every little thing that I learn about how to communicate better makes my job harder in terms of being more responsible for everything I say and everything I do.” (20:12—21:42)
“There’s a saying in the book, The Little Prince, that says something like, the more you captivate people, the more you fascinate people, the more responsible for them you are. That’s so beautiful. When you make somebody like you a little bit more, when you make somebody admire you a little bit more, you are a little bit more responsible for that person, and you need to take that very seriously. And if you have that in mind, that really makes you think more and more about your behavior, your attitude, and everything you do towards that person because you already brought that person to your side. You made that person like you a little bit more. And this is something that I like to always remind myself of. When people say, ‘Christian, you are a good communicator,’ I immediately try to think about that. If I’m a better communicator, I need to be even more careful about people, about what I say to people, and about the influence that I have on people.” (21:44—22:51)
“Your treatment plan needs to be the most ethical treatment plan possible in the world. I usually use the example, the daughter test. You know you are a very good communicator. You know you can convince the patient. You build that beautiful treatment plan. You’re full of confidence. Of course, we have the financial side in our head saying, ‘You’re going to sell this $80,000 treatment plan,’ and you’re super excited. You need to hold that for a minute and do the daughter test. What is the daughter test? It’s to pretend the patient that is walking in is your daughter. You look at your daughter with the exact same problems and clinical situation, and you look at your treatment plan, and you ask yourself, ‘Would I do this on my daughter?’ And if you’re not 100% sure, don’t use your communication skills to convince the patient.” (23:15—24:14)
“Let’s say we could define what makes patients say yes. If we could dissect the “yes” and divide the yes into pieces and say, ‘Seventy percent of the yes comes from here. Thirty percent comes from there,’ I believe that at least two-thirds of the “yes” of patients comes from nonclinical aspects. So, the perceived value creation, the experience, the emotional connection, the fascination, the link, the relationship building, the trust building, in minutes, in one appointment, because everything needs to be happening before you present the plan. So, all this magic needs to happen, and two-thirds of that, in my humble opinion, comes from nondental things. But one-third of it still comes from dental. That’s when you can really top this amazing experience with a very different way of explaining the actual clinical vision, the clinical plan that you have for the patient. And that’s through what we call visual storytelling.” (25:02—26:21)
[Visual storytelling] is translating a boring treatment plan — and I say boring because everybody that is not a dentist thinks that dentistry is boring, and they don’t want to talk about dentistry. So, if you talk about dentistry as a dentist and you present treatment plans like everybody does, you’re working against yourself. You’re diminishing the chances of people actually engaging with it. So, if we know that nobody likes to go to the dentist, it means that everything that we do that makes people feel like they are at the dentist’s works against us. That’s basically the rule. Everything that you can do that makes the experience not look like a dental experience is a smart thing to do — absolutely everything, anything. If your practice smells like a dental practice, that’s working against you. If you’re even looking like a dentist, if your team looks like a dental team, if the front desk — everything. Whatever you can change works in your favor, including the process of presenting the plan.” (26:22—27:26)
“You need to translate your [treatment] plan. You need to change your treatment plan presentation from two perspectives. First, you need to change your dental language into a language that people actually connect with. Second, you need to translate your vision into a visual presentation. So, we know that every smart person that wants to convince somebody else of a project, they build a slide presentation. Treatment plans should be presented like any business project is presented, with a few cool visual slides that can make the nonexpert understand your vision and make that person embrace your vision. This is what we call visual 3D storytelling. And this is when 3D technology comes in. This is when working with your lab, transforming your lab into a content generator is key. So, your lab needs to support you with storytelling. Your lab needs to support you with images to allow you to tell a cool story. You need to learn how to ask for the right images from your lab because they have the software. They have the technology, not you.” (27:32—28:53)
“Let’s say you want to tell the patient that their chin is too far back because the bone behind is not supporting it. You show the face in 3D, and you have the CBCT behind, and you put transparency on the facial image, and you show the position of the bone and the thickness of the bone, and you trace some lines. You draw over the picture, then you overlap the intraoral picture with the X-ray, the CBCT, the ideal design, and the 3D simulation of the ortho simulation. So, everything needs to be visual. That’s completely, directly related to the first question, perceived value. I would say that this is one-third of the magic. Two-thirds of the magic is the nonclinical connection value, perceived value generation. One-third is the visual, clinical, 3D, perceived value generation.” (29:20—30:12)
“The shortcut to success is understanding how to translate your real value into perceived value. But the definition of success is very tricky. The success that we are [talking about] here is the exterior success, the business success, the professional success. And we talk about professional success because it’s very important. You cannot deny that succeeding in the world is important. But, at the end of the day, without being successful internally, meaning everything that nobody knows, everything that nobody cares [about], everything that has nothing to do with anybody else — that is the real success, when you’re successful inside yourself, with yourself.” (34:36—35:26)
“Commercially speaking, we talk about the exterior success. But we cannot forget the balance, and we cannot forget that, at the end of the day, happiness comes from first having your inner success.” (35:34—35:49)
2:21 Dr. Coachman’s background.
3:20 Real value and perceived value, explained.
6:16 People buy emotional experiences.
8:58 The power of story in perceived value.
10:55 The shortcut to overall success.
14:39 Why people feel threatened by AI.
16:33 The optimism and silver lining around AI.
19:41 Communicate responsibly.
22:51 Do the “daughter test”.
24:16 Make the invisible visible.
27:32 Use visual 3D storytelling.
30:45 The story of Digital Smile Design and its future.
33:23 More about DSD and how to get in touch with Dr. Coachman.
34:22 Last thoughts about real value and perceived value.
Dr. Christian Coachman Bio:
Combining his advanced skills, experience, and technology solutions, Dr. Christian Coachman pioneered the Digital Smile Design methodology and founded Digital Smile Design company (DSD). Since its inception, thousands of dentists worldwide have attended DSD courses and workshops, such as the renowned DSD Residency program.
Dr. Coachman is the developer of worldwide, well-known concepts such as the Digital Smile Design, the Pink Hybrid Implant Restoration, the Digital Planning Center, Emotional Dentistry, Interdisciplinary Treatment Simulation, and Digital Smile Donator.
He regularly consults for dental industry companies, developing products, implementing concepts, and marketing strategies, such as the Facially Driven Digital Orthodontic Workflow developed in collaboration with Invisalign Align Technology.
He has lectured and published internationally in the fields of esthetic and digital dentistry, dental photography, oral rehabilitation, dental ceramics, implants, and communication strategies and marketing in dentistry.