You have likely faced that question more than once from a patient. If it has ever caught you off guard or if you have ever wondered the best way to respond, here are some thoughts:
First, what is expensive? How do you arrive at a conclusion that something is expensive or inexpensive? It is usually by comparison. You compare the price of one item to the price of another item of similar “value” to arrive at your conclusion. But what if there is nothing against which to compare? Then about the only conclusion you can come to is that…it’s expensive!
To what do people compare the price of dentistry? Let’s face it. It is pretty hard to shop the price of a crown, a bridge or anything else unless you take the time to have an exam. Most people do not have the time to do that multiple times. Most people don’t “shop” for a dentist. So lacking a real comparison, the average patient comes to the conclusion that it is expensive. Even if you do crowns for the cheapest price in your area, it is not likely that a patient will exclaim with delight, “That is a deal!” when presented the fee for their work.
My late business partner, Walter Hailey, loved to say, “If you are going to be accused of being expensive, you might as well be it!”
So quit worrying about your fees. They are not the problem. Perception is! You’ll gain far more ground by working on your patients’ perceptions than you will fretting over your fees.
But before you start looking for the quick fix, the silver bullet, or the magic phrase that will resolve someone’s questions about what you charge, remember that we often move too fast to solve patient problems that we really don’t understand. Maybe it is the scientist in us that looks for the perfect material, procedure, or instrument to treat the clinical problem. We have been trained for the “quick fix.” But people/patients are not problems to be fixed. Just consider if someone says you are expense, is it because:
- They have not been to the dentist for some time and are comparing today's fees to outdated fees?
- They have never had a lot of dental work done, so they don't know what it costs?
- They are having some financial stress so everything sounds expensive?
- They are surprised because they thought they were just going to have to pay for a routine cleaning and then discovered that there is more work to be done?
- They have never placed that much value on their mouth or their health and have not considered what is was really going to cost to stay in good shape?
- It is the first time someone has had a conversation with them from a “comprehensive care” point of view instead of just trying to maintain the status quo?
- They just say that about everything to try and get a better deal!
The list could go on. The point is that you have no more idea of how to answer that question without additional information than you would know how to treat a patient who calls up and says her or she needs a filling until you did an exam personally to see the real condition.
Every patient has a unique situation…a story. Until you really understand them, their story, and their reason for asking, there's no quick fix verbal skill that will answer their question. It's about the relationship first, not the case or your fees.
So the next time you get the “Why are you so expensive?” question or one similar to it, just stop. Take a deep breath. And listen as you ask…”Tell me more about that.” You might be surprised to hear what comes next. The reason behind the question will most likely be something you had not considered.