Nobody is perfect and you will make mistakes.  We all do!

You might forget to return a phone call, or you may invoice a client for too much or too little. You might run late, or even fail to appear at an appointment, or you might make a math mistake on a medical bill review … or thousands of other errors, large and small.

There are three “must dos” when you learn you’ve messed up in some way, as follows:

  1. Apologize to anyone who is affected by your mistake: a client, a provider, a subcontractor, a hospital worker… Whoever you wronged needs to hear you take responsibility and the sincerity in your voice, so be specific. “I apologize for _____.”
    Whatever you do, don’t hedge your apology with words like “you think”, as in “I’m sorry you think I was being rude”  Using those hedges places blame back on them. But the person is your client, and you need to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Even if you believe it was a misperception, accepting responsibility will go a long way toward mending the problem.
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  2. Fix the mistake, to the extent it can be corrected.
  3. Learn from your mistake so that it never happens again. One of my favorite sayings is, “Insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results.”  Making a mistake a second time, especially if it has a direct and negative effect on your client or your practice, should never happen. Figuring out where the wrong turn was made will help you prevent the same sort of mistake in the future.

My final piece of wisdom here: do not take responsibility for anyone else’s mistakes, nor are you obligated to fix them. But to the extent your client might be well-served if you clean up someone else’s mess, well, then, that’s good customer service.  Just be very clear that it’s not your own mistake you are fixing.


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