Last week Jayne and I were away learning in Queensland. On our last night, we dined out with friends from Victoria who just happened to be up there, most likely escaping the terrible Melbourne cold weather.
The restaurant my friends chose for dinner was very busy.
After being seated, and continuing on with our conversations, it felt as if we had all been chatting for what seemed like an eternity…. but sadly, no-one had come to take our food or pre-dinner drink orders.
My friend got up and went looking for a staff member. When he returned, he remarked that he had been told that the restaurant was sadly understaffed this evening.
Which didn’t bother us.
After all, how many times have you been out for dinner and felt RUSHED by the staff and the overly quick serving of one course straight after another?
A very apologetic waitress appeared, and did a wonderful job putting us at ease and taking our detailed order, paying due consideration to the dietary requirements of certain members of our party.
Our meal was served promptly and efficiently, and my friends and my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful evening.
After completion of our main course, the restaurant manager appeared and again apologised for the situation of his restaurant being under-staffed this evening.
What he then said came as a complete and total surprise….
“I’d like to thank you for your understanding and your patience tonight, and I’d like you to please choose any dessert from the menu and have that this evening COMPLIMENTARY, as a gesture of my appreciation of your understanding.”
How Good Was That?
If ever a diner was going to be angry, a comment and an offer like that one is the ultimate diffuser.
This manager totally recognised that diners were experiencing what’s known in business as a SERVICE DEFECT.
And he was doing his best to negate that defect.
And negate it he did.
How Can We Apply This Lesson To Dentistry?
In 2014, I saw a new patient to the practice for a relief of pain appointment, scheduled first thing, at 7:00am.
The appointment had been booked the day before, and the treatment that was provided to the patient was a pulpal extirpation and a dressing and a temporary restoration.
I think the patient was then being referred to an endodontist for the molar root canal therapy.
Anyway, following the treatment, the dental receptionist processing the patient came running back to me to let me know that the patient was challenging our fee for today’s treatment.
When I met with the patient, he told me that when he had called the day before, he had not been informed about the potential cost for today’s visit.
And as it happened to be, the person who had scheduled the appointment yesterday was not in the office this morning to confirm or to clarify the conversation they had had with this patient yesterday.
So what did you do David?
So here’s what I did.
Firstly, I apologised to the patient for the misunderstanding and miscommunication on yesterday’s phone call.
Although I had not been provided with any “report” on that call, and because I had no way of confirming or denying the patient’s memory of that call, the only thing I could do was accept the patient’s version of the event.
To me, it felt that this patient was looking for an argument about the fee.
So here’s what I said next:
“I’m so sorry that you have arrived without an estimate of the appointment costs being provided to you, so here’s what I’m going to do…
I’m going to let you decide what you want to pay me for today.
Obviously, I’ve performed treatment on you today that has gotten you out of pain.
Our fee for today is $405.00, but all you need to do is pay me what you think my efforts are worth for today, and ZERO is okay.”
The patient was shocked.
It was as if he wanted an argument…
So I repeated my offer:
“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding today…all you need to do is pay me what you think my efforts are worth, and ZERO is okay.”
And with that, I left the room.
Why did you do that David?
In this day and age, when it is so easy for someone to leave a negative review on the internet, I wanted to make it so clear that it wasn’t about the money.
Sure, I could have gotten up on my moral high horse and asked the patient serious questions like:
“What do you think we are, a charity?”
“Would you work for nothing? Well why do you expect me to?”
But there was no point in arguing…
And by arguing, I only would have brought THE TWO IDIOT RULE into play…
And that’s not a good place to be.
Sometimes we get into situations where we would rather not be. But because we do not have a time machine, we are stuck there in the present moment and we have to make the best of what we’ve got at our disposal at the time.
Cutting our losses, and making a clean getaway with minimal damage, is often the best strategy.
I’ll certainly be going back to that restaurant next time I’m in Queensland….
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