11 Things a Nashville Dentist Can Teach You About HVAC Service

Sept. 25, 2014
Could any of us handle emergency service as well as Downtown Dental in Nashville?  Here’s 11 things Downtown Dental did right.  

It was emergency service.  We’ve all been there.  But this time, I had the emergency and needed service.  I needed service for a broken tooth in a distant city.  Could any of us handle emergency service as well as Downtown Dental in Nashville?  I wonder.  Here’s 11 things Downtown Dental did right.

The day before Comfortech, I was in an airline lounge in Dallas, eating their snack mix when I bit down wrong. Half a molar came out. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of pain.  I debated delaying my departure for a day to deal with the tooth, but was scheduled to introduce Kix Brooks to kick off the Service Nation Alliance meeting. 

How could I miss Kix Brooks? I couldn’t. So I boarded the plane.

The biggest problem with the broken tooth was a filling that didn’t break off. It was sharp and jagged.  It was shredding my tongue whenever I talked.  I needed to do something about it as soon as possible. The next morning, I did the out-of-town equivalent of asking friends and co-workers about a good contractor: I asked the hotel concierge to find a dentist within walking distance of the hotel. 

After our meeting broke for lunch, I made a beeline to the concierge. The concierge was a bust. Useless. On the other hand, there was no need to tip him.

What next?  Google, of course.  Actually, I used Google Maps.  All of the nearby dentists popped up. I read a few reviews, but they all sounded the same.  My tongue hurt.  My tooth was starting to throb a little. Screw it. I called the closest… and got a recording.

The next closest has a bunch of reviews too. I didn’t read them. I called… and got a recording. At least this recording offered an alternative number I could call if I really, truly, honestly, no-kidding had a dental emergency.  This didn’t seem like the friendliest dentist and they’re scary enough when they are friendly. 

I called the next closest.  Hallelujah! A real person answered. She was empathetic.  She asked if I was in pain.  She said she would find a way to squeeze me in at 1:00 p.m., which gave me just enough time to walk to their office and fill out the paperwork. 

Using the Maps app, I walked to their office. A receptionist was waiting with the new patient paperwork I needed to complete, which largely consisted of me assuring the dentist that first, I wasn’t on any drugs that would preclude the dentist from giving me drugs; and second, that I had no communicable diseases that I could give the dentist.

Everyone was pleasant and professional. The dentist explained that the tooth cracked along the filling.  He gave me the option of smoothing off the jagged parts to protect my tongue, though I would still need a crown later, or getting a crown that afternoon. I asked about the quality of drugs, which he assured me was good, and told him to go ahead and give me the crown.

No sooner did I tell him to proceed than the credit manager showed up with a list of tasks that might have to be performed and the price. She asked if I needed financing. I just handed her a credit card.

During the procedure, the dental technician explained that I lucked out because Downtown Dental was the only office in downtown Nashville with the lastest state-of-the-art dental crown solid modeling and milling machine so they could make the crown on the spot.  They did.  And didn’t need to perform all of the expected tasks.

I paid. The dentist explained that I should come back if any adjustments were necessary. He promised he would take care of them. Three hours after my appointment I left the happiest I had ever been when leaving the dentist, excepting the time a dentist gave me too much nitrous oxide and it hadn’t worn off at the end of a cleaning.

Before I got back to the hotel, I had an email from Downtown Dental welcoming me to their online community.  Another invited me to write a review.  After the review was complete, I was invited to refer friends by email.  Next to the online form, Downtown Dental listed their hours of operation, a comprehensive list of services, forms of payment accepted, and insurance.

Getting a crown is about as pleasant as a major air conditioning repair on a triple digit temperature day. Yet, this dentist made a painful process as pleasant as possible.  Here are 11 things they did right.

1. They answered the phone.
Sounds simple, but two other companies failed to answer their phones. To paraphrase Woody Allen, sometimes success is simply answering the phone. Do humans answer your phones 24/7?

2. They squeezed me in.
As a patient, I felt fortunate they could see me on short notice.  In truth, it was smart business.  A crown is worth as much to the bottom line as half a dozen cleanings. 

Maybe they had excess capacity. Maybe not. Regardless, I’m willing to be there are dentists who would have made me fit their schedule, rather than work with their schedule to accommodate me.  If someone calls in with a dead, 10-year old air conditioner, do you find a way to accommodate him right away?

3. The dentist presented options.
If the dentist didn’t mention getting the crown that afternoon, I never would have asked about it.  Instead of proceeding with the minimum, least cost solution of the moment, he gave me options.  I choose the most expensive one.  Do you offer repair or replace options?  Or, do you simply fix stuff without giving people a chance to spend more money with you?

4. They presented the price upfront.
Not only did they present the price, but they gave me a list of things they might or might not have to do and got my permission to do what was necessary, so there would be no surprises when the final bill was presented.  When the bill came in less than expected, I was delighted.  Even though I teach the technique of overestimating to cover potential contingencies with the goal of coming in below expectation, I was still delighted to experience it.  You are flat rate, right?

5. They offered financing.
didn’t need it, but it was available if I did.  Dentists offer financing on a crown.  Why don’t you offer it on major repairs, let alone replacements?  Turns Financing was in our office today presenting a new program for the Service Roundtable. They will finance repairs as small as $400. Can you?

6. They set expectations about unpleasant parts of the service.
The dentist told me the shot was going to hurt a little, but that the pain would be over soon.  Similarly, he told he what to expect when grinding off the filling and grinding down other parts of the tooth.  I didn’t enjoy the process, but since I knew what to expect, it was tolerable.  Do you tell people what to expect when you replace a furnace or air conditioner?

7. They invested in state-of-the-art equipment.
While other dentists have crowns made by third parties, they made mine on-the-spot.  This required investment for the equipment and training for the technician who operated it.  What equipment would help your company?  How about Flir’s new thermographic attachment to the iPhone?

8. The dentist didn’t criticize his peers.
Based on a couple of instructional comments from the dentist to the assistant/technician, I got a feeling that the dentist didn’t like some of the things my dentist did (or didn’t do).  Yet, he didn’t say anything to me.  He wouldn’t build his practice up by tearing another dentist’s practice down.  Do you withhold criticism of competitors when talking with customers?

9. They addressed the possibilities of a callback.
The dentist didn’t say “callback.”  He said, “adjustment.”  He said it as though it’s a normal part of the process from time to time, so I shouldn’t be upset if I needed “adjustment.”  I didn’t.  If I did need adjustment, it wouldn’t have bothered me.  What can you say after a repair or installation that would make a callback less irritating if necessary?

10. They followed up.
While the follow-up was likely automated, it seemed personal.  As part of their online community I could, “receive email appointment reminders, confirm appointments via text message, request appointments online, receive exclusive specials & promotions, refer friends & family, and more.”  Note how all of these wonderful benefits also reduce their costs.  Do you make it easy for your customers to communicate and set appointments online?

11. They asked for a review.
The second email invited me to write a review.  It made it easy.  Since I was happy with the service, I was glad to do it.  Do you make it easy for your customers to provide reviews of your company?

For more out-of-the-box thinking about service businesses, subscribe to Matt Michel’s blog at  Or, join the Service Roundtable and learn from thousands of other contractors, just like you.  Call 877.262.3341 or visit

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.