Why service beats product and why that matters in your dental practice

November 13, 2015

Last winter, my 2012 Mercedes convertible decided it did not like the cold weather.

Last winter, my 2012 Mercedes convertible decided it did not like the cold weather.

Whenever it was below 20 degrees, it would not start. Considering that this was the coldest winter in New York's history, it meant that my car was towed to the nearby Mercedes dealership on a weekly basis, sometimes more than once per week. Normally this would be a serious annoyance, to say the least. What made the experience tolerable was that a wonderful service representative at the Rallye Motors Dealership, Katie, was very responsive to my inconvenience and repeatedly provided me with immediate alternative transportation in the form of a loaner car, wherever I was stranded, in spite of the fact that I was not a customer of that dealership.

Related reading: 9 ways to improve your dental practice's customer service skills

The fact that my car had to be towed to the dealership five times was frustrating but Katie managed to minimize the hardship with her great service. On Thursday, Feb. 5, I picked up my car from the dealership after work, assured it was "good to go," and I drove to a dinner meeting with one of our coaching clients in Poughkeepsie, NY, 128 miles from my office. It was a lengthy meeting, and we were the last table to leave the restaurant. As we left, the client drove off, and I went to my car to drive to my nearby hotel.

The problem is that my Mercedes convertible, in spite of multiple repairs, prefers warm weather, and it was 9 degrees below zero. It would not start again. By the time I turned around, the restaurant had been closed and locked up, and I was the lone vehicle in the parking lot. I called Mercedes Benz roadside assistance and was told I would have to wait an hour for a technician.

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For the next hour, I assumed the fetal position in my frozen, "dead," car with my sports jacket and an old blanket from my trunk. I have never experienced anything like this cold in my entire life. When the service technician arrived at 11:30 p.m., he determined  it was an electrical or computer issue, and there was nothing he could do to help me (if I had known it was an IT issue, I would have called Scott Sanford of Healthy IT, who services many of the practices we work with).

The Mercedes technician called the local towing service the company contract with to find out how long it would take to get me towed to the nearby Mercedes dealership. Due to the extreme severity of the weather, I was told it would be another hour. I asked if the tow truck driver would drive me 3/4 mile to my hotel. The towing dispatcher said this request was against their policy because the hotel was in the opposite direction from the dealership. He told me it was only a short walk. In light of the fact that it was 9 degrees below, discretion does not allow me to publish the unkind words I used with the dispatcher. I decided to leave my car in the parking lot and deal with it the next day. The Mercedes technician did drive me to my hotel.

Related reading: 50 shades of great: How to unlock your dental practice's phone success

The next morning, I called the Rallye Mercedes dealership back on Long Island, which had been servicing my car. When I spoke to Katie, she was exasperated by the story from the previous evening and immediately offered to send a loaner vehicle 128 miles upstate to me on a flatbed and retrieve my vehicle. This was service above and beyond my expectations.

Why do I tell this rather lengthy story? It is to point out that, in the minds of our patients, service beats product … as long as the product is satisfactory to them. Our patients expect each of us to be competent, or they wouldn't come to us in the first place. Our patients really do not know the difference between a good crown and a bad one or a good resin restoration and a bad one, but they can easily identify the benefit of great service. At a time when we have all been conditioned to lousy service in so many of our daily dealings, it is outstanding service that differentiates those who will succeed from those who will struggle.

More on customer service: 4 ways to innovate your dental practice without breaking the bank

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When I went to retrieve my car from the Rallye Motors Mercedes Benz dealership, I was told that the general manager wanted to meet with me. He apologized for the insensitivity of the roadside assistance program and wanted to hear about my level of satisfaction with the accommodations provided by his service department. He explained that his dealership does a great deal of “PR” in the course of providing service. He takes a great deal of PRide in the customer service performance of his representatives. He described that customer satisfaction is based on PRice, PRoduc, and PeRsonality. I responded that it was the service and personality that most impressed me. Price and product are considerations for a commodity. I expressed my appreciation for their great service, and I ordered a new vehicle from his dealership. The service and personality had won me over.

Related reading: 4 ways to create the best experience for your dental patients

The same scenario exists in our practices. Do not treat your care like a commodity and focus on price or try to exaggerate the difference in product between your practice and others. It will be difficult to substantiate, and it could be inflammatory. The area where you can undeniably differentiate yourself is in providing unprecedented service and simply overwhelming your patients with the culture of caring. Great service will create the highest degree of confidence and trust and it will create the greatest likelihood of increased referrals. Service beats product in creating great PR.

For more information about providing great service, please call 516-599-0214 or email DrKatz@SmilePotential.com.

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