Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This one is on the house

Okay today's topic,

Last Friday, I woke up and did the usual brushing and flossing of teeth. I kissed the wife goodbye, and set out to go to work. Before I leave, I take out the trash, and this is when I saw it.
I had a flat tire.
Oh, SON OF A B!#$%^. My first patient is in 30 minutes, and it takes me 18 minutes to get to work.
What are my options here? Change the tire...hell no.
Call my roadside assistance...takes too long.
Take my wife's van and let her deal with this problem...I don't think so.
So I got out the bicycle pump and start to pump. After about 5 minutes and a bucket of back sweat, I thought I put enough air in the tire to at least get to a gas station to pump it up.
I jump in the car and make it to a gas station. I pump it up and get to work without incident.

I think about it all day and come to the conclusion that at the end of the day I will do the same thing. I will get to a gas station, pump it up, and then get to the nearest tire place.
So at the end of the day, the tire still had some air in it. It had enough to make it one mile down the road to the nearest tire place (I know what you are saying, "the guy works a mile from a tire place?" Well this is Apopka, I work one mile from four tire places. I love my town. I just think it is funny that the above is true).
I pull into the place and the inside is SPOTLESS. You know, spotless like there hasn't been a customer here for awhile and the front desk person doesn't have anything to do so she cleans the floor and counters so well that you can eat off of them.

So I walk in, and she jumps up to welcome me. I tell her that I have a nail in my tire and that I need it repaired. She told me to go around back and they would take care of me. Well I drove around back and they proceed to take care of it. Now this is a dirty job to say the least. All the guys that they have working there are dirty. Not dirty like with dirt, but dirty with grease and tire black all over them. Everyone smokes, so that just adds to it. And it is hot as blazes out as well.

So I stand to the side and let them do their work, not touching anything. Then a guy comes out. He is clean and wearing nicer clothes, and I recognize him. Wait a minute, that is one of my patients. And this is when, if you are anything like me, you are thinking "What is his name? Where the hell is my assistant when you really need her, she would know?" And again, if you are anything like me, you are saying, "I know I did a crown on #14 on him, and I remember that he has a 6 mm pocket on the MB line angle of #30, but I can't remember his name."

"DON!!!" That's it. I remembered. And now I remember he owns the joint.
"Hey, Don, how the heck are you?"
"Hey, Doc."

So we chit chat for a bit, and then he gets back to work. It was nice seeing him again. So the guy fixes me up, and I take the slip of paper back around to the front. The woman up at the front says to me, "Are you the gentleman with the F150?"
I said, "yes"
And she said, "It has been taken care of."
I was shocked to say the least. Thrilled, but shocked. I mean here is a business that looks to be just trying to ride out this storm, and he is giving product/services away. I guess he is thinking of the future. He is thinking one day the economy is going to come back, and I now have just spent $25 making this a customer for life. Because I tell you what, I have not stopped thinking about this all week.

What does this mean to me and you?
How can we create "raving fans"?

I think the same way Don did for me. I see the person with a pain and it turns out to be a canker sore, and I give them some Orabase send them away and don't charge them. I smooth out a chip on a molar that is killing their tongue..."it has been taken care of."
I look at a 10-year-old when the new tooth is coming in and the mother doesn't know what the heck it is. I see them in the reception area (because I already know what it is) and say, "Get out of here, your money is no good here."

But you bet your sweet tush I also say, "Don't forget to send your friends here." It is not the $25. It is the good will you are spreading. It is the "raving fan" you have just made that is going to send their friends, kids, parents, and neighbors all for $25.

My father hates it when I send people out the door without charging them. First, I am kind of old school that when someone comes in and asked me to look at something and I don't even put on gloves and I say, "yeah, that is tori, it is totally natural," I am not going to charge them $75. I still think $75 is a lot of money. And I know most of my patients do too.

I think it will only create the "damn, dentists are expensive" mentality. Or worse the, "usually I like to be kissed before I get that" mentality. So you look at someone, are nice to them, and charge them, and they leave with a bad taste in their mouth. But you say, "Hey, this one is on the house" and their face lights up like it is Christmas morning.

Now, I know what you are thinking, if I let $75 go 100 times a year, I am losing $7500.
But am I? Am I letting $7500 go or am I storing up patients for life that might spend $7500 on veneers someday?

What do you think?
What do you do?
Do you think there is any truth to what I am saying?
I would love to hear what you think.

Have a great rest of the week.


Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree if you really didn't do anything you don't have to charge for it. Now if I take x-ray film or break out the handpiece to do somenthing then I do charge. I had someone get a poppy seed stuck and could not get it out recently. Took 2 sec to fish it out, no need to charge for then. The good will is just icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

There is no better way to index and securitize your store of annuities (patients' future oral health needs) than that gesture. You can only believe that a minor freebie carries a far greater dividend. Kudos to you, it has been one of my protocols for years! Dr. Tom Reed, Denver, CO Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Anonymous said...

Did you ever think that he did not feel comfortable charging his dentist? My friend is a cardiologist and he had hired one of his patient whom he had saved from heart attack and had placed pace maker. When he came to fix his refrigerator, my doctor friend was not home. His patient (repairman) said to me that he purchased new compressor, took out old one and had to dispose off and put a new one in but how can he charge even for the parts when doc had saved his life! I had to assure him that Doc hired him because he trusted him and he expected to pay him for his parts and services. Repairman was financially hurting but my doctor friend has not seen the bill from him, yet. Moral of the story is dentist and doctors are still very respected in the society and we should continue to earn that respect with our good deeds.

Tom said...

As a dental student who majored in Business Management for my undergrad degree, I love what you wrote!

That is how I want to run my practice.

I slightly disagree with the first comment. Even if you do have to take an x-ray for something minor just to make sure everything is OK, if you charge the patient, that person may shop around for another dentist who's cheaper. If you tell them it's on the house, you've probably won that patient over.

The actual cost of a digital x-ray if your assistant is sitting around not doing anything else is next to nothing... Sure, you paid a lot for the equipment, but you would have had that cost whether or not you took an x-ray for a minor thing that day.

gatordmd said...

Hey Tom,

I hope you are liking the blog. I think it is all about relationships and you seem like a guy that is getting that. If it is about money then people are going to see that and hopefully be turned off.
But one thing you have to think about....You have to be aware of people that are looking for a dentist and CHEAP is in their criteria.
They are always going to find someone cheaper than you. But, in letting them off by not charging them for an x-ray, hopefully they will see that you have a heart of their well being NOT to make a ton of money.

Talk to you later,

Anonymous said...

I think it makes a lot of sense to not charge patients to look at things. That creates a culture that --- if they think something might be wrong --- they will come in to you immediately and let you take a look. If they know that looking will cost them $75, then a lot of problems will be left to fester until the next cleaning.

You can charge them when there are actual problems to fix.


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