August 23, 2019
The answer is irrefutably, yes. Verified by countless social scientists.
Think about the experience of choosing a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Standing behind a first-time customer will for sure remind you that it’s bewildering – the first timer is paralyzed by choice! The veteran customers walk up and bark out their orders for a grande, non-fat, low-foam, latte in rapid-fire staccato. But the newbie is slow to order due to the sheer number of options.
Need more examples? Try heading into a Verizon or ATT store and trying to decide on a long-distance package and phone. Follow that with a visit to Schwab to set up a 401k, and then dash over to Nordstrom’s shoe department for a pair of black heels where you’ll have 25 options. You’ll be exhausted before lunch. The array of choices is mind-boggling.
Then, head home and watch a democratic presidential primary candidate debate—you’ll likely benefit by having a strong libation first. It’s no wonder many voters just wait until others narrow the field for them.
Now, picture the new, first-time plastic surgery patient trying to sort out her options with four quotes for body enhancement. There’s BodyTite, CoolSculpting, and traditional lipo—but wait, don’t forget CellFina. Is there any wonder the patient chooses to do nothing? Like the first time Starbuck’s customer, she’s paralyzed by choice!
Shadowing plastic surgeons in practices all over the country for decades has taught me to challenge traditional Plastic Surgeon Think: that more choices will guarantee the patient will surely pick one. Not so. It just ain’t the way humans are wired.
I suggest plastic surgeons and staff put the book, The Paradox of Choice—Why More Is Less on their reading lists. Its author is Barry Schwartz, a social psychologist who outlines why the abundance of choices is wearing people out. He explains how too many choices and too many decisions take up too much time and energy. In patients, choice overload creates a fear of making the wrong choice—and to avoid that fear the patient does nothing, as Schwartz supports with research. His thesis is borne out by others like Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Armed with more knowledge about social psychology, a well-trained and savvy patient care coordinator will almost never deal out 4 or 5 quotes just because the doctor said so. Instead, she’ll ask key questions. For example, “Claire when you came in today, your priority was surgery for your eyes. Now, I know that you and Dr. Plethora have discussed a variety of other options. Would you like to begin with your eyes, the reason you came in, for starters?” The smart PCC lets the patient help drive the direction of the conversation. After the patient reacts to the cost and the downtime of her initial interest, other procedures can be added—or not.
In our experience, talking about more procedures rarely makes revenue appear in the patient’s wallet by magic. Respect that fact. If you help the patient see which one of two options best meets their stated criteria for investing and recovery, you’ll likely help the patient comfortably arrive at a decision – and therefore schedule with you.
So stop bombarding patients with too many quotes and start working toward your own self-interest. As the old saying goes, less is more.