It’s true what they say: “The customer is always right.”
The issue here is quite significant. However, what if the customer is incorrect? What if they are unable to make the right choice because they lack the necessary information? Do you feebly explain to them the proper course of action and then give up and say, “I tried to inform them!”?
Let me illustrate my idea using a crazy scenario: Consider the following: I work as a parachute salesman, and a 400-pound man approaches me with an offer to buy one. The man’s two-hundred-pound parachute was less expensive, and he preferred the color. I tried to convince him that the risk was too great, but in the end, I gave in since “the customer is always right.” If he knew a two-hundred-pound man couldn’t safely use a two-hundred-pound parachute, he would have chosen a four-hundred-pound parachute instead. Inevitably, this would lead to disastrous results, but at least I could say to myself, “I tried.”
In my position as a conscientious parachute vendor, I have two options: either offer him a parachute big enough to prevent his death in case of an emergency or tell him to find another vendor.
We, as educated and conscientious dentists, must share this perspective.
About twenty years ago, I was listening to a dentist (we’ll call him “Dr. X” for simplicity’s sake) recount his experiences during his first year in private practice. A man we’ll name “Jim” presented to the dentist with severely worn molars 6-11 and no remaining maxillary molars. His palate was also unusually flat. This man’s lower jaw was completely toothed.
Dr. X advised him to have the remaining six maxillary teeth crowned so that he could use them to anchor a partial denture. If this were Dr. X’s mouth, he would do the same thing, he reasoned. Jim’ s complete dentures were more expensive than a bridge, but his wife already had one and was satisfied with it. Dr. X argued with Jim about why his approach wasn’t optimal, but in the end, he agreed to do things Jim’s way.
Jim would tell Dr. X he regretted not listening to him every time he came in for a dental cleaning after that. The upper denture specifically bothered him. Unlike some patients, he did not place the blame on Dr. X. The truth is that Dr. X could have taken more responsibility for Jim and helped him see why he should follow the treatment he prescribed, but he chose to accept responsibility for his own decision instead. He had the option to decline performing the procedure Jim had suggested if he had felt uneasy about doing it that way. Jim should have been more adamant on Dr. X’s recommended course of treatment because he is more knowledgeable about dentistry than Jim is.
In a similar vein, how do we treat a patient who requires six crowns but is only getting two at a time because “that’s what the insurance covers”? You’re going to get burned if you keep playing that game. Starting in January, you will be responsible for preparing the top two items and #30 will be broken in July. Since you didn’t begin on the patient’s bottom right, he or she is now upset.
When this occurs, it is not because the dentist is unable or uninterested in seeing the patient through the entirety of their treatment plan, as I have observed in the past. The majority of dental patients don’t complete their treatment plans because their dentists are unable to effectively communicate their condition and options to them.
You could call this skill of expression “selling,” too.
This issue has an overly simplistic solution.
Take the time to educate yourself on the art of selling. It makes everything much less complicated. When you give the patient exactly what they want, dentistry becomes a lot of joy for both of you. One more thing: people who finish their treatments are happier and more likely to recommend you to their friends and family. In addition to benefiting the patient, this strategy also helps your business.
Most of the time, we assume that the patient’s decision is motivated by financial considerations. When you turn around, they start gushing about their recent vacation or shiny new boat. It was never about the money in my experience. People were frightened. Unfortunately, they learned some unfavorable information concerning root canals. “In most situations, if they opted not to follow your therapy recommendations, it was because they lacked an appreciation for the gravity of the situation.
Please attempt this one thing that is so basic that it doesn’t even need to be written down. Avoid giving up so quickly. Be more steadfast in your stance and engage them in conversation to learn more about their perspective. More often than you might imagine, this will succeed since genuine concern for the customer is at the heart of effective selling. You may be shocked by the results if you steadfastly care about your position.
Customers who know exactly what they need may be more common in other industries, but dentists can usually count on them being the exception. They lack the education and experience to make a sound judgment. Find out how to convince them to buy from you. Don’t give them bad advice or the wrong kind of parachute to jump out of. Customer service isn’t always about making the customer happy.