This week I’ve been following a debate on an online chat forum about dental practice profitability and what sort of impact “over the top” service and patient gifts and goody bags have on the end profit and bottom-line of that practice.
This is a really good question.
And the answer?
How long is a piece of string?
I’m thinking what is trying to be measured in this debate is really two very very intangible pieces of data.
Let’s break it down into the two component questions….
Firstly, should a dental practice engage in over the top world class service?
And secondly, should patients of the practice be given gifts and goody bags?
If we do provide world class service to our patients through a systematic series of documented processes that are trained for and audited, do you think that patients will notice?
And if we were to have no customer service protocols in our office, would patients recognise the absence of any systems?
And what sort of impact on business would either of these two scenarios have?
Would patients leave a dental practice and go elsewhere because service was non-existent?
Would patients stay and be regular attenders and recommend a dental practice to their family and friends because they always had these regular “WOW!” experiences of service at their dentist?
What do you think?
With regards to gifts and goody bags, there are whole lot of tangibles and intangibles….
For example, a new patient visiting a dental office for the first time leaves the practice with a treatment plan, a goody bag of gifts and possibly a clean set of teeth….
And just depending, they may also leave with a big hole in their back pocket at a fee for service office, or they may leave with zero financial impact if they have been visiting an insurance sponsored dental office…
The value and the content of every gift bag needs to be appropriate and impactful.
Otherwise it’s just trash.
Imagine paying a couple of hundred dollars for a dental visit, or paying even more, and receiving a bag of plastic bits and pieces of things that look like they were purchased at a two-dollar shop or at a sideshow alley at Coney Island?
Would that gift bag have value?
Maybe yes and maybe no….
Are the contents of the gift bag unique?
Are they useful to the patient?
Or are they simply clutter?
Will the contents of the bag be put to immediate good use, or will those contents simply end up taking up space in someone’s kitchen cupboard or bathroom cabinet or bedside table drawer?
Will those contents, if the gift bags are regular, simply become a pile or stack of useless clutter, like the stacks eye-masks and small toiletry tubes and tiny fabric zip bags that regular long haul flyers can accumulate?
Here’s my take:
There’s a third variable.
And it’s very, very tangible.
And that’s the person, and the behaviour of the person, who is delivering the world class service, or who is handing over the gift bag.
The service needs to be genuine and from the heart.
And not saccharine-coated either.
And the gift bag?
Well it needs to be handed over as if it was a well-thought out birthday gift being given to our special loved one.
Each and every time.
And nothing less.
The trouble is, that gift bags at dental offices are often handed to the departing patient with a thrusting and a feeling of “obligatory” or even “after-thought”.
“Oh. Here’s your obligatory and/or useless Gift Bag/ Pile of Junk”
[Dental team member to choose wordage and inflection]
A gift given without “meaning” is a gift wasted.
Some businesses that I deal with on a regular basis do gift giving really well.
And I mean REALLY well.
And others that I deal with regularly give no gifts.
Marketing company Glazer-Kennedy regularly send out unique well thought out gifts to their tiered members as an occasional unexpected thank-you for doing business with them.
Rock band KISS provide unique pieces of memorabilia as gifts to say thank-you to those fans who invest in their annual ocean cruise ship events.
Care Credit also sends out surprise well thought out gifts.
None of these gift givings fall into the “useless” or the “without any thought” categories.
Whereas sometimes, when I’m buying toiletries and fragrances, I will be given a gift bag of mini-products that I will never ever intend on using??
Sometimes, when we give an add-on gift, the recipient will think
“What a waste of money”
And they’ll think
“I’d have rather had the cost of this piece of junk taken off the price of what I just bought”.
Are your gift bags falling into the category of the creation of that type of emotion?
Because if they are, then it’s time for a serious rethink on them.
And with your service that you are providing, is it memorable?
Because it is genuine and well-intended?
And not because it’s mechanical and awkward and vanilla-sticky?
It is always good to audit your processes.
Always make sure that the dollar cost of time and effort and product is being invested wisely and genuinely.
And not simply being performed as an add-on mechanical obligation.
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