I stand in awe of the skills and responsibilities of medical specialists. And when it's my health or the health of someone I love, I'm prepared to pay the price …. as long as I feel I'm getting value.
I required some major surgery not that long ago. When I changed specialist to my surgeon, Mr P., my wife Gwen did some checking and got good feedback on other families that had dealt with him. Their feedback backed up the things that he had told us such as:
- He visits his patients every day in hospital including at the weekend.
- He gives you his mobile phone number and encourages you to phone at any time if you are concerned.
- While you are in hospital, he sorts out any problems with nursing staff not following his instructions for patient care and attention. This turned out not to be a concern for me, but I know from this feedback that he is quite firm with nursing staff if the slightest hint of the standard he expects for his patients isn't being met.
- He is technically excellent and up with the latest techniques.
- He has a good bedside manner.
Given all of this, I expected his fee to be at the higher end of the scale.
We had the important appointment with him at which I confirmed that surgery was my preferred option and that I agreed that it should be as soon as possible. Gwen then asked the question, "How much will it cost?"
Now, I should point out here that Gwen really just wanted to know what to expect so that she could calculate the gap between our private health insurance cover and the total bill. This was not a prelude to her trying to knock down the price.
Let me pause to clarify that. Gwen is a Londoner and I reckon wheeling and dealing is in their genes. She loves a bargain. I'm sure she would have tried to knock him down on price BUT she was under strict instructions from me NOT to bargain. I'd shared with her one of my two favorite quotes about discounting, from Tom O'Toole of Australia's famous Beechworth Bakery:
"If they ask for a 20% discount, I ask which 20% of the ingredients do they want taken out. I can take out 20% of the ingredients but it doesn't taste real good!"
And I'd stressed, "I don't want 20% less anaesthetic. I don't want him to rush to get the job done in 20% less time. So, promise me, no price haggling!"
Our otherwise calm and confident specialist clearly hadn't heard my other favorite discounting quote, from English sales trainer Richard Denny:
"Never apologise for your prices. Your product knowledge and the service you give demonstrate that your prices are fair."
As soon as Gwen said the words, "How much will it cost?" he became quite nervous, almost stammering as he started to justify the price.
He explained that he was at the lower end of the price scale for urologists. He even went on to detail some of his overheads. I particularly remember him saying that he paid over $ 3,000 per month in professional indemnity insurance – and I'd thought my professional indemnity insurance as a trainer and consultant was high!
So, there was no need for the nervous justification of his price, which was around about $ 1,500 less than I'd anticipated. And looking back on the professional and caring way he's handled everything to do with the surgery and post-operative care, he would have been worth every penny of the higher fee.