Just Apologize and Make it Right
I took my children to a new dentist a few weeks ago. I asked if it was time to put sealant on my six-year-old's molars. The dentist took a second look and told me that would be a good idea. Before I made the appointment, I phoned my insurance to see what our liability would be. I was informed that she already had sealants in January 2008. (I have four children - those details are difficult to keep up with!)
I phoned the office and told them I was a bit concerned that the dentist couldn't tell there were sealants already there. I took Abigail back in for a second peek. He still couldn't see much sealant material, but said, "They feel slick." The way he said "slick" made it sound like a desirable characteristic.
I had to give him the third degree, but finally he relented, "If it were my child, I would have wanted a better job to have been done than that." Why do professionals have such a difficult time being truthful when a peer has performed inadequately?
I phoned the previous dentist. Now before I go on, let me say I left this dentist on good terms. They had done cleaning on all four children, sealants on three and tooth extractions on two. I had been pleased with the services. Gas prices drove me to look for a closer dental practice. I expected them to simply say, "Come on in and we'll take a look. We'll do what we need to in order to get it right."
I was disappointed. I spoke with the hygienist who'd performed the procedure. When I told her what was going on, she proceeded to hand me excuses. The two most notable:
"Sealants wear off in time" - Even if it is expected to wear off, six months into a five-year life expectancy screams inadequate application.
"What a child eats can affect the length of time it stays on" - I have two other children who have the same diet and to date their sealants have lasted a minimum of three years each.
I know first hand that medical professionals (any service provider for that matter) are imperfect humans. I understand when they make mistakes and I make every effort to be gracious. When I misstep, I appreciate people who are gracious to me. But I'm livid when people won't accept responsibility for their mistakes.
As clients go, I think I'm pretty average in my expectations. So as a client, I'd like to make this suggestion: When a client calls you with a complaint, don't make excuses. It really is not their concern why you made a mistake. Allow them to share their disappointment. Ask them what they would like to happen. Evaluate their complaint objectively and without charge. Then offer a remedy, free from excuses of why you erred. Just apologize for the inconvenience and make it right.
We've all had pleasant--and not so pleasant--experiences with clients (and as clients). Share your thoughts on the best way to handle complaints.