When things go wrong: HOW wrong they go depends on your response to them

There are days when, despite your best intentions and careful planning, things just go to hell. This had certainly been one of those days. We’d had two potential new patients—a husband and wife—in our waiting room. They’d come to check us out, and, naturally, we wanted their experience with Same Day Dental to be just right. As is my custom, I personally greeted them in the reception area.

Mrs. New Patient went back for her exam first. I asked, “What can we do for you today?” and established a good rapport with her. The day was on track—right until we finished with her X-rays, that is. That’s about the time our computers simply crashed. Uh oh!

It had been Mr. New Patient’s turn to head back for his exam, but we couldn’t move forward until the computers were back up. While my office manager worked to fix the server, we were very transparent with the couple about our computer issue. Would they care to come back on a different day or wait out the trouble? They chose to wait.

Fortunately, I was able to begin some crown work on Mrs. New Patient. Meanwhile, we offered Mr. New Patient some bottled water while he waited for us to get our computers back up. He said he’d like a bottled water, and—strike two!—we realized that somehow we’d run out of bottled water. I went out to my car to see if I had any unopened extras in there. No luck. How had this happened? Now what?

Days like these happen to the best of us. How you and your employees choose to respond to them can tell you a lot about the health of your practice. Your reaction to crises of all sorts tells your patients something about you, too.

We could have panicked and switched into reactive mode, pointing fingers and hissing that restocking the water was So-and-So’s job! Instead, we all paused, took a breath, and made a short- and long-term plan. For the moment, we grabbed Mr. New Patient a cup of filtered water from the back. And we made a mental note to choose a better moment—our staff meeting—to come up with a permanent solution to the bottled water shortage.

About now the computers were back up, and I was able to complete Mr. New Patient’s exam and X-rays. We finished the crown work for Mrs. New Patient, and the couple went on their way. Even though we had been able to help them, I felt that we had really dropped the ball. This had not been the perfect patient experience that we strive to provide.

Still, there was a silver lining. Mr. and Mrs. New Patient gave us glowing online reviews, despite the trouble with the computers and our having run out of bottled water. Turns out, they appreciated the fact that the crown procedure was well-executed, that our office was well-organized, and that we were very honest with them about everything.

As Same Day Dental continues to grow and we add employees, we can’t afford to let bottled water shortages and similarly preventable issues pile up. Our staffers are good at staying calm and thinking on their feet. They’re also empowered to identify and solve all kinds of issues. In the case of the bottled water, they immediately began problem-solving.

I don’t think we’ll run out of bottled water anytime soon—but we might run out of cotton rolls! In other words? No matter how hard you try to avoid trouble, some crises are bound to pop up now and then. If you have the big picture under control, stay calm, and keep the patient experience in mind no matter what, those inevitable bad days won’t hurt your reputation or your practice nearly as much as they could.