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Let’s face it: Mistakes happen.
There’s no such thing as a foolproof system, unfortunately. You can put in all the safeguards you can think of to prevent mistakes, and they still occur. And, since you’re the leader of your practice, your staff’s mistakes ultimately fall on you.
There’s no sense in beating yourself up about them. But when they happen, you can either try to deflect, deny and defend, or…
You can take responsibility, offer a solution and gain respect.
Obviously, there are different levels of mistakes and some of them can’t be rectified by email. But when they can be, here are eight ways you can write emails that will gain you more in the apology than you lost in the mistake:
- Don’t apologize for nothing. Make sure that the person or group to whom you are sending the email was confused, inconvenienced or harmed in some way. Not following this step can cause more harm than good.
- Send the apology as soon as you become aware of the mistake. The longer you wait, the smaller the impact of the follow-up. And, some people will mistake that for reluctance or stonewalling on your part.
- The subject line should use some form of the words “apology” or “sorry.” That way there’s no question why you are sending the email.
- Be real. Unless you are in some kind of legal trouble for the error, the apology should sound just like you were saying it to the recipient – heartfelt and authentic.
- Don’t offer to make up for the mistake if you don’t plan to do so. Making an offer and then not following through only compounds your loss of credibility.
- Don’t make excuses. Say that you are working to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Some people will tell you to explain how the mistake happened. This is incorrect. Most people don’t care HOW it happened. All they care about is that it won’t happen again. And, if the matter is something relatively minor but clinical, trying to explain it may just cause more confusion, which is the last thing you want.
- Keep your email short. The more you ramble on, the fewer people will read all the way to the end. And the less you give people to “read into,” the more likely they are to take your apology just as it’s written.
- Be self-effacing. Taking it on the chin and acknowledging your fallibility endears you to patients because it shows you know you’re not perfect. Ultimately, people like to know that you are a real person.
Acknowledging your mistakes shows you are human just like everyone else. Accepting responsibility and stating that you’re taking steps to avoid a repeat shows that you are the kind of dentist that people can like and trust.
That’s the kind of public image that helps build dental practices by word of mouth referrals.
So, don’t stress over a mistake. Take action to acknowledge, apologize, and correct the reason the mistake happened.