We assume that people avoid seeing their dentist because they fear pain. Perhaps that´s a valid assumption.
Maybe they don´t call because they don´t have a relationship with a dentist. Or maybe they´re just busy. Then again, maybe it´s lack of foresight — the "Nothing hurts. Why invite trouble?" attitude.
For the record, I´m feeling no discomfort. I´d like to think it was all that busy-ness that kept me away for the last dozen years. But, whatever the reason, for the first time in twelve years I made an appointment for a check up.How did I choose the dentist? Did I ask for referrals from people I know? Did I call the Chamber of Commerce? Search the Internet? Consult the yellow pages?
Nope. Like so many other people, I drive by his office every day. He has a sign out front of his office.
You´ve heard me say that frequency sells. Repeat the message often enough and people who need what you´re offering will eventually seek you out. By my own estimate I’ve passed that sign well over three hundred times. Three hundred impressions made their way into my brain. At the conscious level? Well, conscious enough that I did start thinking I was past due for a check-up.
One day, on a whim, I pulled into the parking lot and walked in. I had a delightful conversation with the doctor´s receptionist. She set my appointment, took insurance information, and explained the pricing and credit policies of her office.
On the appointed day I arrived, checked in, and got only half-way through the first article in an August 2004 issue of People, when I was called into the exam room.
Met the hygienist, Janine. Nice lady. She took a patient history, cleaned my teeth, and filled out a chart. She also took an x-ray of each side of my mouth. We spent about an hour and a quarter together.
Then the dentist walked in.
I said "Hi."
He said "Hi," back, but there was no enthusiasm in his voice. He made no eye contact. He went directly to the chart, and after studying for a minute, picked up a probe and a mirror and stuck them in my mouth.
He made two comments to Janine, wheeled his short naugahide covered stool out of my line of vision and announced "You need two fillings and we´re going to have to remove that rear molar. I´m going to have Janine take a full panoramic x-ray."
With that, he was gone.
Janine escorted me across the hall, shot the panoramic x-ray, and told me I was finished.
I stopped at the reception desk to ask about my next appointment, which the receptionist scheduled within ten days.
I won’t be keeping the appointment. I’ve already called and cancelled.
This Doctor of Dentistry could have turned me into a strong reference for his practice. All he would have had to do was to treat me as if I mattered.
Imagine the difference it would have made if he had spent thirty seconds when he first walked into the room to say "Good morning, Mr. McKay. We´re always glad to welcome new patients, and we´re pleased that you´ve chosen us for your dental care."
Imagine how much better I´d feel at the beginning of the exam had he said "I´m going to take a look now at some areas Jeanine has marked on your chart. Would you mind opening your mouth?"
Imagine how much more confidence I´d have in his prescription of treatment had he said "Mr. McKay, you have a couple of minor cavities that need to be filled, but that back molar is a ticking time bomb. If you´re not in any pain, yet, it´s only a matter of time. I´m sorry, but the decay is such that we´re not going to be able to save that tooth. I´d like to schedule a time to remove it. Is there any reason we shouldn´t do that?"
But, those things will have to remain in my imagination, since they didn´t happen.
I´m one of those people who resents not being acknowledged. I don’t like it at a restaurant. I definately don’t like it when I’m paying a high priced professional for his services.
I’m presently taking steps to find a different dentist.
How much do you want to bet that the first doctor is still counting me as one of his patients? My patient file is probably one of the assets of his business.
And, though I did have the courtesy to cancel the appointment, I didn’t feel compelled to announce my departure from his practice. Maybe I’ll send him a copy of this article.
So, while I begin the search for a second opinion, let me summarize three good lessons to be learned from this particular dental experience.
- First, there is no amount of advertising as valuable as a good location.
If enough people drive by, you won´t need to spend a dime promoting your business. We advertise to reach the people who don´t drive by.
- Second, whether you pay large amounts in rent or large amounts for advertising, every customer / client / patient is already a major investment.
DO NOT TREAT THEM AS IF THEY ARE INTERCHANGABLE. Make eye contact. Smile. Tell them how much you appreciate their business. People like to be appreciated.
- And third, become very aware that the customer list you´ve paid so much to create (in rent or in advertising) is already outdated. You know people have tried you once and have decided not to repeat that experience.
Consumers today have more choice than ever before. One could argue that they are more valuable than ever before. The best way to be chosen is to be delightful.
What are you doing to delight them at first contact?
Maybe I´m just fixated on dentistry, but I´d like to help a dentist build a practice (and more selfishly, to create a great success story about the marketing of service businesses for a book I´m writing).
If you know a young dentist, a sole practitioner who´s just getting started in the business, and who feels the need for some professional marketing help, please ask her, or him to drop a note to: ChuckMcKay@FishingForCustomers.com
And I couldn´t be more proud of my friends the Eisenbrothers. Waiting For Your Cat To Bark is now the nation´s number one business book, according to the Wall Street Journal. It even scores number three in the non-fiction books list.
This will be the most important business book of the decade. If you haven´t yet purchased your own copy, do it now. And you might as well get a couple of extra copies,"cause you´re going to want to loan one to a friend in business, and you´re not going to get to get it back.