It's not private treatment that they want

Just back from a quick 2 days of workshops in Bristol and Bracknell – and I’ve been hearing some horror stories about NHS dental practice that I’ll share in next week’s newsletter – there’s going to be blood on the streets in April.
On a more positive note, I keep on saying that I work for the money BUT do this work because of the people I meet.
The last 2 days have been a pleasure – working with existing clients, new clients and tasters – just such lovely people.
We have always had firm boundaries as to the type of clients we will work with – those that we trust, respect and like – and it certainly pays of in terms of job satisfaction.
So my mini-angst after last Friday’s mystery note scribbler has been replaced by the rosy glow of knowing that I’ve been delivering my “Unique Ability®” these last few days.
One point is in my mind.
The number of dental teams who tell me that they offer “private treatment options” to their patients – or, for that matter, that they are “going private”.
What does that mean?
In the mind of the dentist/team, “private” often means:

  • Better quality materials
  • More time to deliver the treatment with the patient in the chair
  • A chance to engage the services of a better technician
  • A higher quality “finish” to the work – all margins and microns.

When they choose “private”, is that what the patients are really looking for?
I’m not so sure.
When I’m travelling, I use Hilton – and not Travellodge. Why?
It partly because I want a bigger room, comfy bed, a desk to work at with wifi, more soundproofing. But it’s also because I want some customer service – and don’t want to hang out with a bunch of obese, £20,000 a year reps eating egg and bacon with a copy of The Sun on their lap.
When I’m at Bristol Airport I pay to wait in the business lounge. Why?
It’s partly because I want an easy chair and a cappucino. But it’s also because I don’t want to sit with 100 Neanderthals waiting to go on stag and hen parties in Dublin or 500 yokels pissed up at 8.00am, waiting for a flight to Malaga.
I pay “private” because I want:

  • Better customer service
  • To hang out with better people (yes – I’m a working class snob)
  • To feel special and “individual” (remember my thoughts on individuality?)
  • To be treated like royalty (21st Century English, not 18th Century French)

So I’m asking you to embrace the possibility that the patients don’t give a “monkey’s” about your clinical doo-dads, your qualifications, the courses you have been on, their margins and microns.
What they care about is how they feel when they visit.
And if they feel like royalty – then that’s what “private” means.
Try this one on for size..
“We offer NHS and private service – which would you prefer?”
Stop using the word “treatment” – private treatment reads “more expensive treatment”.
Or “a more expensive way of doing the same thing”.
Start using the word “service” – private service reads “higher quality service”.
Or “a more customer-focused service”.
Or “no riff-raff”.
Which would you choose?
I was surprised that my best business coaching comment of the week came from no less than Jermaine Jackson.

“Class and no class don’t mix.”



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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.