I believe that marketing is one of the most important functions of any business. Peter Drucker in his classic book, The Practice of Management, said: "Business, because its function is to create a customer and to sustain it, has only two purposes, marketing and innovation...everything else is an expense." I agree with that. I think the next task is to define what marketing means. There are many definitions, but I will stay with Drucker`s: "Marketing is so basic that it cannot be considered a separate function...It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is from the customer`s point of view." With that as a basis, I find Dr. Levin`s column, Practice Productivity, in the October issue, flawed.
I feel that if I sat down and debated with Dr. Levin that we would find many areas of agreement, but expression of opinion in such a problematical and paradoxical domain is difficult. The first flaw I find is the lead sentence in paragraph three: "Frankly, the philosophy that providing excellent clinical dentistry builds a practice is not applicable in this day and age." He then goes on with the story of the patient interrupting to ask about a chamfer. I agree that could never happen because, as Drucker says, people see you as a result, not a process. The quality is in the result. You can bet when the shade is off or the crown comes out or the filling is sensitive, then they know quality. And I agree that all patients want quality, even managed-care patients.
The task for the dentist is to create a philosophy that has room for quality in the primary position. When it comes to technical fields like dentistry, our job is to educate our patients, like Nike does by its elaborate drawings of "Air." This requires the dentist to become not only committed to excellence, but also to have the ability to teach.
He then goes on to give us his four ways that patients judge clinical quality. Preposterous! There have been many studies on how people perceive quality, and this letter would be too long to discuss them. But don`t get me wrong, I do see validity in the WOW factor. I`m just prioritizing by putting quality first.
Lastly, I would like to call attention to the discussion on technology. Again, I could write an entire article on this subject. The most important and impressive piece of equipment in any dental practice is the doctor. Not his hands, but his heart. I am reminded of the tired saying: "People don`t care now much you know, they only know how much you care." I once heard George Lucas, the producer of the movie "Star Wars," talk about the scene when Luke Skywalker unmasks his father, Darth Vader. He said the main message was that technology will not save us; what we need is to be more human. It`s our humanity that will save us. In my practice of the future, I do not see a boutique, but rather a practice with a philosophy based on quality and guided by the human touch.
Barry Polansky, DMD
Cherry Hill, NJ