No Excuses When It Comes To Client Service

There’s two very good reasons you shouldn’t make excuses if you mess something up with your client. Find out what they are.

So this is the last entry about my saga with my daughter’s dentist, and yet again, I learned something new about client service on THIS side of the exam table.

As you may recall, and I believe I blogged about, we had one experience where the nurse was reviewing all the details about an upcoming procedure on my daughter, which was fairly major stuff. (Truthfully, with my daughter’s Asperger’s and anxiety disorder, everything is major stuff.) The nurse ran through her “script” literally with no emotion whatsoever, barely pausing to breath, much less ask me if I had any questions or observe my body language to tell I was uncomfortable with the pace and process. Fortunately, my daughter had procedures at that dental practice before, and I knew enough about medicine to follow along, so I left without registering any complaint or discomfort.

Then the last time we visited that dentist, the hygienist escorted my daughter back out to me in the lobby (it took years before she felt comfortable going back there alone for routine cleanings), and nonchalantly mentioned that we are in good shape for braces. BRACES? No one had ever told me that she would for sure need BRACES! I was startled, and even said so to the hygienist, and she did nothing … no looking back at the record, no going back and consulting the dentist, nothing. I was not happy, and decided to have a second opinion done at my own dentist. Fortunately, Katie thinks she is “too grown up” to continue going to the “little kid” dentist, so it was perfect timing (it was also nice that we’ll get the braces for half the cost!).

So I called to cancel Katie’s next scheduled cleaning with her former dentist, and I offered to give them feedback on my experience, so they could learn and improve. While the receptionist said they didn’t have a manager, she was happy to take my complaints. I explained the two incidents above and told her that I completely understand how these things happen because I’ve managed veterinary practices. (Actually, I first told her that we are taking my daughter to “a different vet” before I realized what was out my mouth…and then assured her we are NOT taking my human daughter to a veterinarian!).

As I explained my story, and ended, she told me things that, frankly, I didn’t care to hear. She was nice enough, and I totally understood what she was saying, but I can tell you from the perspective of a client I was not happy. Here’s what she said:

  • The girls in the back are busy sometimes and perhaps just rushed through the instructions (in incident No. 1)
  • The girls in the back are short-handed, so probably didn’t read the record thoroughly (in incident No. 2)

While she said she was sorry, the excuses felt like, well, excuses…not an apology of what they did wrong. Instead they just validated their own position.

I learned two important lessons. First: Be very careful in choosing to give a client a reason why something has happened and led to their dissatisfaction. It will certainly feel like it was an excused incident, not perhaps worthy of just an apology.

Second: Don’t refer to the staff anywhere in the hospital as “the girls” … and I have certainly been guilty of this! I could blame my southern upbringing, but it just didn’t sit right with me on the client end of the phone.

It’s amazing what we can learn from our own lives outside of work that can make a huge impact on what we do at work, and how we treat our clients. Keep your eyes open!

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