Professional Courtesy: Goodwill Hunting by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Dentaltown Magazine

Dental renaissance man and top Townie talks lifelong learning

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director, Dentaltown magazine

L.L. Bean is one of the greatest retail companies of all time. Even if its “woodsy Maine” style doesn’t fit in your closet, you have to respect the company’s total commitment to customer satisfaction. The company had an unconditional satisfaction guarantee in place for more than 100 years with a lifetime return policy. The founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, launched the policy when the majority of his first batch of hunting shoes fell apart. Bean not only fixed the boots but also refunded each customer. This move generated tremendous goodwill with customers and led to a better boot the second time around.

Recently, L.L. Bean announced an end to this generous return policy, because of growing fraud. Over the past five years the company lost more than $250 million to items returned in such poor quality they could only be sent to a landfill. How did they lose a quarter of a billion dollars in just five years? Some people took advantage of the company by returning items they purchased at a thrift store or found in their attic decades after purchase. Others would treat the policy as an annual opportunity to trade their purchase for the latest model. Now, shoppers will have just one year from the time of purchase to make a return. It was only a matter of days before an individual claiming to be “a loyal customer” filed a lawsuit. Last time I checked, loyal customers wouldn’t want their favorite store to go out of business because buffoons are taking advantage of their generosity. I digress.

Getting back to the business of dentistry, this story begs the question: How do you generate goodwill with the patients in your practice? Whether you realize it or not, goodwill is something you should be generating every day. A lifetime warranty on a crown would be absurd, but replacing a crown that fell off after six months would not be unreasonable. Every procedure we complete has some expectation for success. How you handle a case that did not meet your expectations or the patient’s will have a huge impact on the growth of goodwill. When you have to redo a procedure, it’s an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson the same way L.L. did more than a century ago.

Growing goodwill in your practice is not just about providing a warranty or standing by the quality of your work; it can be as simple as staying on schedule, calling patients after treatment or sending a thank-you note for a referral. A happy dental team will keep your patients happy, and happy patients will give some goodwill back to you with a positive review. Building this intangible goodwill adds value to your practice and ensures that you will have loyal patients. It is a well-known fact that retaining your existing patients is less expensive than replacing them with new patients. You can then grow your practice with referrals from your happy patients. This added value is important when it’s time to sell your practice.

I don’t want to overstate the financial value of your goodwill when you retire, but I will say that having goodwill in your practice can make it much easier to get up and go to work in the morning. There will also be times when you need to spend some of that goodwill, such as when your schedule is running behind, a lab case is delayed or a tooth is sensitive after it was filled. Therefore, my best advice is to pay attention to the many ways you can grow the goodwill balance in your practice. Spend it wisely and be sure you have some left in the account when you sell your practice.

Please feel free to comment on this article online at Dentaltown.com. You can also reach me via email: tom@dentaltown.com or on Twitter: @ddsTom.

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