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The Car and The Dentist

The Car and The Dentist

Some people joke with their friends that they would much rather be laid out in front an undertaker than a dentist. And some of them are only half joking too it would appear. For some, dental visits can be counted in a total which sits in the single digit territory for their entire lives.


And do you know what happens when these people go eventually? Yup. You can guess pretty easily. There are things that need attention that have been sorted out in a much cheaper and pain free manner had they chosen to visit earlier. And they go away anxious, numb, daunted by the premises and the smells, sights and sounds, promising that they’ll never visit again contrary to the knowledge that this is the worst possible mind-set and asking themselves had they not yet learned a lesson?


So where the risk is somewhat smaller and the financial exposure not that intrusive for the most part, why oh why do so many of us take the same position on car care and maintenance of our cars, as we do towards the dentist? Surely the proverb can be loosely adapted to the automotive industry to cater for the fact that a stitch in time saves nine (thousand euro). If we look after our cars, they too will serve us well, cause us minimal financial outlay and perhaps have a good trade-in or “residual value” when the time comes to change up. It’s really not that hard.


The business of dentistry has tried to adapt to the expectations and modern lifestyle of their customer-base in a similar to how the automotive sector has tried to adapt to people getting their cars serviced. No longer do we have to wait on hold for the receptionist to tell us when suits them to see us for our filling or our first oil service. We can now book an appointment online, choose a time that suits us, see how much it’s going to cost us, the associated aftercare inclusions and while we’re at it, make a price comparison with “another place down the road” too. You can do all of this without arriving at any shiny premises and being asked “Can I help you?” by anyone in a uniform or a suit. Unattractive and all as the aforementioned filling and service visit may be, both industries are (albeit tardily) reaching out to their customers to make the process, customer experience and customer retention cycle as easy as possible.


A quick online browse of some motoring brands’ websites and dedicated service booking sites shows a lot of prices and quotations so it would appear that you certainly know what to expect when you go in – we regularly update our offers too. Secondly, the old story that people in the industry will try to sell you everything else once you arrive, can be easily be dismissed with a “no thank you” or “may I see some examples first” especially when you consider that some brands allow you to pay online. You have no obligation whatsoever to receive anything other than the product you have paid for, or easier still, pre-paid for.


Both visits normally occur once a year for most of us too. Modern and reasonably – modern cars need an annual or mileage based inspection in the same way that dentist tells a lot of us to come back within the year and not to “let it go that long again next time”. Of course, there are some anomalies for each; a car’s timing belt needs to be changed roughly every years or you might get a puncture once in a blue moon, in the same way that you’d probably need something dentally-unusual like an out of hours visit in around the same time frame. Again, for both, menu pricing applies and you can budget for them to a certain extent.


Like many, some motoring brands have used the humble cup of coffee to make a comparison to their own products and services. And while we navigate this caffeine comparison do bear with us for a valuable lesson in how the motor industry and brands looks at loyalty. So imagine you visit the same coffee establishment frequently, like every second day. They get to know you. They get to know you have a loyalty card. They might give you an occasional extra stamp if they’re in the mood. You get the extra coffee for free once the loyalty card is stamped. Hell, if you forgot your wallet or purse someday, they might even throw a blind eye because you’ve become valuable to them and they know you’ll be back. If your dentist was pretty good, they might do the same. And guess what? Motoring brands are no different. Even when your car’s warranty runs out, the vast majority (We could probably say all motor brands in Ireland and probably get little or no queries) will have have a sliding scale or a level of flexibility as a rough guide to how they can help their customers with any unexpected costs that occur outside warranty and the most loyal customers will get the biggest part of that flexibility.


Unlike your coffee shop’s loyalty card, there’ll be no real formality. If something goes wrong and you need an extraction unexpected repair, there’ll be no free stamp, but it’s not uncommon for a repair to be covered or to get some partial assistance – for example, the dealership will cover X and you cover Y – based on your loyalty. It’s a simple form of customer delight which they’re all told by their respective brand head offices to apply to cases where they (and we!) can keep a customer in a brand-loyal mind set by giving assistance like this. In an extreme but noteworthy example, Audi Ireland recently chose ten customers at random who had their cars serviced with Audi dealers earlier this year and brought the ten customers and the friends/partners off to Germany to see the Audi factory and drive some very rare cars on a private track. Now this is a rarity and it’s unlikely that your dentist will send you off to the factory to see where her drill and adjustable chair are made, but it’s an insight into how much these brands chase and value the loyalty of their customers and how much they’re willing to do just to retain them. In fact, based on the success of that project and the awareness it generated for Audi, it looks like it might happen again for some lucky Audi customers next year. Having a customer visit a dealership occasionally during the lifetime they own a car, and the lifetime their husband or wife own a car, and their son or daughter; well that’s big business for motor retailers.


Now we’re sure this reminder of the dentist has not made the thought of visiting them again any more enjoyable for some people. But maybe it has justified it and enforced that fact that it is a sensible decision. And if you visited your dentist recently then it means it’s going to be another year or so before you have to book it again. Surely the feeling of having done it knowing everything is ok and knowing another visit isn’t needed until next year, is pretty damn comforting. That’s a great feeling to have toward you car too. Whether it’s a €4,000 car or a €40,000 car, it’s nice to know that you’re ok, and you’re ok until next year too.

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