This 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. (Something to note is that this is not the dealership that I purchased my car from.) 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 inconveniences 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 the dealership.
The fact that my car had to be towed to the dealership 5 times was frustrating but Katie managed to minimize the hardship with her great service. On Thursday, February 5th I picked up my car from the dealership after work, assured that 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 restaurant, 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.
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 pm, he determined that 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 that they 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 I waited for the tow, “would the tow truck driver drive me 3/4 mile to my hotel”. The towing dispatcher said that 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 or he would drop me off at a 7-Eleven somewhere along the way…at 1:00 am. In light of the fact that it was 9 degrees BELOW ZERO, 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 who responded did drive me to my hotel.
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. And 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 that will succeed from those that will struggle.
When I went to retrieve my car from the Rallye Motors Mercedes Benz dealership I was told that the General Manager, Mr. Ty Klipstein, 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, PRoduct, 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.
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 a 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 how coaching can help you provide great service, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.