I had a terrible experience with my last dental cleaning.
The appointment itself was a small part of the problem. It got off to a rocky start as I had to wait 15 minutes past my scheduled start time. That could be forgiven since appointments often run over. But it seemed like the hygienist was in a real rush to get out of there. It was early afternoon, and maybe I was her last appointment, I don't know. But what should have been a 60 minute appointment lasted under 20 minutes. She went quickly through the normal cleaning routine, really rushing things and not doing what I thought should be a thorough job.
And I was a little irked that they didn't do some of the normal nice touches either. Normally, I get an eye compress and get to pick my flavor of the tooth polish at the end. I didn't get either. (I know, real first world problems).
Honestly, I could have overlooked all of that, but the real issues came when I got the bill. My insurance covers standard dental cleanings, but they had billed me as a periodontal patient because a few years ago I was at risk for periodontal issues. This is a more expensive cleaning procedure.
I called up the dentist office confused why I had to pay anything, and they explained the situation. Now I've been a patient there for years and had no issue. So I was pretty aghast at this. I told them that the cleaning I got wasn't anywhere near a periodontal "deep cleaning", let alone a standard cleaning. So they waived the cost. I was pretty satisfied at that, though disgruntled that they had someone who was doing bad work and billing for extra.
Then a second bill came. For $19.20. While they had waived the initial cost, it got billed through insurance and then my part had to be paid. I called the dentist office back because standard cleanings should be free. But again, because of the way they had billed it, I was on the hook for some money. I expected them to waive this part but they wouldn't. I was pretty frustrated at this point. We went the rounds, but they wouldn't budge.
So I left them with an option: I'll pay the $19.20, and they could cancel my next appointment and lose me and my family as patients going forward. They opted to take the $19.20. And I canceled my next appointment and have found a new dentist to try.
I'm not sure what the lifetime value of my family is as patients, but I expect it is pretty high. Maybe patient acquisition is easy, or maybe there is higher value elsewhere, and that's why they made such a decision. I don't really know. But exchanging very short-term gains for the long-term value is never a good trade.
Yet we see it happen all the time. My dentist office decided $19.20 was worth losing all of us as patients. Companies decide all the time that short-term gain is better than long-term investment. Individually we do it as well.
As I sit here writing this, there is a candy dish with peanut butter M&Ms close by. It is way too easy for me to eat a handful of M&Ms at any time (and I munch on them more often than I should). They make me pretty happy in the short-term. But M&Ms don't really align with my long-term goals of being fit. And yet I make the tradeoff.
Play The Long Game
So how can we do better about playing the long game? The long game is really about knowing what we want in life and focusing our efforts on that. With the M&Ms, I really want fitness, so limiting how much candy I eat is critical to that. With a successful business, I want long-term customers/patients, so collecting $19.20 is a pittance.
Here's what we need to keep in mind:
Hopefully, the road will be long, so ensuring that we play the long game will benefit not only us but our families, businesses, customers, and everyone we come in contact with.
Best of the Rest