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I just read Peter Elias’ intriguing article, “Relationships will never be obsolete in medicine.” He makes the case that you don’t need a “relationship” with your airline pilot as you trust the product (the plane). But in healthcare, because the product is “unreliable,” “we cope by replacing the uncertainties of the medical process with the dependability of a relationship between the clinician and patient. Our faith that the clinician will give his/her best effort is a stand-in for assurance of the dependability of a good outcome.”
This got me thinking: does this mean that businesses only need do the soft stuff—fostering communication and relationship building—if their products are “unreliable?” Is this an inference to draw from Elias’ piece? Or is it required even when we have “reliable” products to sell?
First let me explain my frame of reference. I wear two hats these days. I am a clinical psychologist with a private practice and I am the Communications Strategist at VisibleGains, the developer of Postwire. Both jobs have a lot to do with building relationships.
Postwire is a tool to help professionals better communicate with their prospects or customers by enabling the personal, private sharing of content. As Shawn LaVana, our head of marketing says: “At Postwire, we’re on a mission to help you organize and share information so you can build productive relationships that lead to successful outcomes.”
Our Postwire clients are not just businesses in the traditional sense of the word. We also have healthcare professionals using Postwire to better communicate with their patients. Sure, we get it when the physical therapist needs to capture a patient’s exact exercise regime on video to avoid the patient making mistakes in executing the instructions. But what about our business clients, sales, marketing, coaches and consultants? Do they only need to worry about relationship building and communication if they have “unreliable” products?
As a clinical psychologist in private practice, I help people to manage the challenges of everyday iife including living through kids challenged with ADHD and executive functioning difficulties, anxieties and phobias, challenging marriages and aging parents. My job albeit dependent on strong skills and knowledge of clinical theory, is very heavily dependent on building trust and confidence and excellent communication. I love this quote from Peter Elias:
“When (or if) medicine, the biological applied sciences, and artificial intelligence reach the point where diagnosis and treatment are as accurate, effective, and reliable as online banking or air travel, we may well find that stories of deep and trusting relationships with flawed and error-prone clinicians are a subject of humor and relegated to history books. Future generations may laugh at our reverence for a collaborative relationship with a skilled and empathic clinician, even as we laugh at the faith primitive societies placed in their shamans to predict and influence the weather, crops and their fortunes in battle.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Elias that the relationship is critical in my psychology practice because the change my clients and I are trying to impart is challenging, requiring much science, art, and faith. And yes, my product is I suppose “unreliable,” or more kindly said, challenging.
What is really interesting about the two hats that I wear is that I am doing the same thing both in my clinical practice and at Postwire. I am helping to build trust, credibility, and better communication between professional and customer, whether the professional is a business person, coach, or healthcare provider and whether the customer is a prospect, client, or patient.
While I see Elias’ point with the airline pilot, it seems to me that it is a no-brainer to realize that the solution to reaching our destination is to go on an airplane. In the airline case we may not need a trusting personal relationship to realize our problem or the solution. But so often, we (buyers, clients, patients) need help figuring out what our problem is, dealing with the anxiety of a possible change, as well as wanting help along the way. Our CEO Cliff Pollan, a 35 year sales veteran, is an evangelist when it comes to believing in the value of relationship building and communication in selling. This was a big part of what led us to develop Postwire.
So while Postwire’s clients actually have very reliable products, these very reliable products are being sold to human beings who have needs that require trust and communication as part of the trip.
I tip my two hats off to Elias for raising this important topic.