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Dialing For Dollars

A Diligent Flight Instructor Should Work The Phones

A funny thing happened to me on New Year's Day. Right in the middle of the bowl games, I got a telephone call from my dentist's office. They wanted to remind me that I had an appointment the next afternoon.

Think about that. Someone at my dentist's office left home, hearth, and television on a cold major holiday, drove to the office, and called everyone who had an appointment the next day. Obviously, the dentist paid her to do that.

The big question is why?

I can assure you that my dentist is not a spendthrift. He is, in fact, one of the thriftiest people I have ever met (notice I did not say cheap - he might read this). Yet he did pay that employee to make those calls on a holiday. I promise you he did not do it for philanthropic reasons. If he paid for the calls, there was one reason and one reason only: He knew the calls would make a profit. (By the way, I have never, ever missed an appointment with him. On the other hand, his office has always called to remind me.)

Now, right about here, many CFIs have lost interest in this column. "Those calls," they might say, "were sales calls. I am not a salesperson, nor do I want to be. I am a pilot." Well, to you, I say read on.

Those CFIs miss the point.

The calls were not - repeat, not - sales calls. Indeed, those calls were made because they are more profitable than sales calls. My dentist knows that finding a new customer is selling, and it is very expensive. He also knows that each new customer is worth less to him - on average - than each old customer. I, for example, have been spending money with him every year for more than 20 years, so he has every reason to believe that I will stay with him in the future. He has my files on hand, so I am less trouble than a new customer. I trust him, so he doesn't have to waste his time building up his credibility as he would with a new customer. He knows that I will pay my bills, which can be iffy with a new customer.

In short, he knows that getting a new customer requires a lot of selling just to get a customer who is worth less than the old customer. My dentist doesn't want to do that kind of selling. He knows it is far more profitable to use his resources to retain long-time customers and make sure that they keep their appointments. It is far more profitable to keep me from canceling or forgetting my appointment than it is to find a new customer to fill that time slot.

Besides, he says, "I don't like selling." Most CFIs tell me that they feel the same way.

I submit to you that every CFI who doesn't like to sell should contact every student before every scheduled appointment, for all of the same reasons that my dentist does it.

Your reminder doesn't have to be a phone call. Flight students tend toward high tech, and they usually have e-mail. You can prepare a standard fill-in-the-blanks e-mail, and then have the computer send it at the proper predetermined time.

The reminders will cut down on cancellations and no-shows and allow you to spend more time flying and less time on business. Isn't that what you want?

As my dentist would say, it just makes sense.

By Ralph Hood

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