Why the Customer Isn’t Always Right

“The customer is always right.”

For years we have heard this phrase from all different industries. It often carries with it the idea that it is an unalterable guideline that must be followed to be a success in business. After all, that’s how you get the sale, right?

There’s actually a major problem with this. What if the customer is wrong? What if they don’t have enough knowledge to make the correct decision? Do you just weakly tell them what they should do and then just throw up your hands and say “I tried to tell them!”?

I’ll give you a ridiculous example to make my point: What if I was a parachute salesman and a four-hundred pound man wanted to buy a parachute from me. The parachute for a two-hundred pound man was cheaper and he liked the color better. I explained that it was too risky for him, but ‘the customer is always right’ and I sold it to him anyway. Obviously if he understood why the parachute for a two-hundred pound man would not be a viable option he would opt for the correct choice – a parachute for a four-hundred pound man. Needless to say this would have dire consequences but I could tell myself that “I tried.”

As a responsible parachute salesman, the proper thing to do is sell him a large enough parachute or tell him to go somewhere else, with the reason given that I refuse to sell him something that could lead to his potential demise!

(Related: How to Create First Class Customer Service in a Dental Office)

As knowledgeable and responsible dental practitioners we need to take the same viewpoint.

About twenty years ago, I remember hearing a story from a dentist about his first year in practice (we’ll call him “Dr. X”). A patient (we’ll call him “Frank”) presented with numbers 6-11 that were worn down and his remaining maxillary teeth were missing. He also had a very flat palate. He had a full complement of teeth on the lower arch.

Why the Customer Isn’t Always Right

Dr. X explained to him it would be in his best interest to crown the six remaining maxillary teeth and make a partial denture. Dr. X reasoned that if this were his mouth that is what he would do. However, Frank’s wife had an upper denture and was happy with it (and a denture was going to be much cheaper), so Frank insisted on going with a full denture. Dr. X explained why he didn’t think that was the best thing in the long run but in the end gave in and did it Frank’s way.

Every time Frank came in after that to get his teeth cleaned he told Dr. X he wished he had listened to him. He just didn’t like the upper denture. He didn’t blame Dr. X as some patients might have. He took responsibility for his decision but the truth of it is Dr. X could have taken more responsibility for Frank and made him understand why he should follow the treatment he recommended. If he felt uncomfortable doing it Frank’s way, he could have refused to do the procedure. The truth is Dr. X was more informed and knowledgeable about dentistry than Frank was and should have been more insistent on his best treatment plan.

On a similar note, what about the patient who needs six crowns and we are doing them two at a time because “that’s what the insurance covers”? If you play that game long enough, you’re going to get burned. You’ll prep two on the upper left in January and have #30 break in July. Now the patient is upset because you didn’t start on the lower right.

What I have found in these types of situations is not that the dentist lacks the willingness or desire to have the patient do their full treatment plan. The problem is usually that the dentist doesn’t know how to communicate with the patient in such a way that they understand and commit to doing the full treatment plan.

This communication ability could also be called selling. (Yes that word again…)

(Related: Are You Selling Yourself Short to Your Patients?)

The solution to this problem is too simple.

Why the Customer Isn’t Always RightLearn how to properly and professionally sell. Life is so much easier that way. The patient gets what they need and dentistry is much more fun when you aren’t compromising. And I’ll tell you something, patients who do their full treatment plans are happier and refer you more of their friends and acquaintances. This approach is better for the patient and better for you and your practice.

We usually think that the patient’s decision is based on the cost. Then they turn around and tell you about their trip or their new boat. In my experience, 80% of the time money had nothing to do with it. They were afraid. They heard bad news about root canals. “Joe at the garage said…” Bottom-line in most cases if they decided against your treatment recommendations it was because they did not understand why they needed it.

Wow! This post by Dr. Winteregg is making me realize why the customer isn't always right.Click To Tweet

Our most popular seminars are the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars. They consist of three, three-day seminars that cover the basics of communication and case acceptance. There is a lot to know about these subjects, but you can learn if you decide you’re tired of “just doing what the insurance allows.”

I would like to give you one thing to try that is too simple to have to put in writing. Don’t give up so easily. Stick to your guns a little more and talk to them and find out what’s on their mind. This will work more often than you might think because real or proper selling is caring. Stick to your guns in a very caring manner and you’ll be surprised what happens.

In some cases the customer may know exactly what is best for him, but that is rare in dentistry. They don’t have the proper training and experience to make the proper decision. Learn how to sell them what they need. Don’t sell them the wrong parachute. The customer isn’t always right.