Speaking the Truth

After a two-week, multi-leg trip on the road, I’ll be one happy girl to sleep in my own bed tonight. It was a good trip, all in all: A 2-day private speaker’s workshop for a large accounting firm in Dallas, a 2-day private Transformational Training workshop for a large DSO in Wisconsin and a visit with my 2nd cousin and my two grown boys for a few days in between.

The most stressful part was not the small, normal travel snafu’s along the way. It was major computer issues in the middle of my trainer’s workshop. I’m used to audio visual equipment that won’t sync with my laptop or not being able to get the sound patch to play but this was different. My computer was shutting down repeatedly on its own, often displaying an error message and automatically rebooting.

Fearing the worst about my 3-year-old Microsoft Surface as well as hoping to resolve the issue so that I could play the six video clips that tee up my content for the second day of the workshop, I made a call to a local Best Buy on my last break.

I would be finished around 5:00 pm and had dinner with my client at 6:00. The young man who answered the call at Best Buy told me that they could look at my computer at 5:40 and would need just a few minutes to determine what was going on. When I explained that I would need it for a presentation tomorrow and then would be flying home the following day… he assured me that if they thought they could fix it, I could pick it up any time before 9:00 pm that night. Perfect!

As soon as we were done, I jumped in my car and raced over. It was a little hard to find and took me about 25 minutes, but I pulled into the parking lot at 5:40 on the dot. Feeling hopeful, I grabbed my laptop and ran into the store and right over to the Geek Squad counter.

I was greeted, if you could call it that, by a bored looking, slow moving young man with bangs hanging in his eyes and his shirt untucked, typing away on a computer. “Excuse me,” I said. Without looking up from what he was doing, he said abruptly, “What can we do for you?”

“My name is Katherine Belt and I have an appointment at 5:40 to look at my laptop.” For the second time, I explained my dilemma.

He slid an overused, laminated grid of options over to me and pointed to a line that read: Virus and Malware Clean…. $179. He then pointed to one above it that read: One-year Geek Squad Protection… $199. “This is the better deal. You get the ‘clean’ and for only $30 more, you get all these other things…” He began listing off items I cared nothing about and I stopped him.

“How do you know it’s a virus or malware?”

“I don’t. It’s just most likely. The annual protection program is the best deal for you.”

I didn’t want the annual protection program, but I did want my computer fixed.

“And you can look at it tonight and I can pick it up before 9:00, right?”

For the first time since I had arrived, he actually looked up at me. “Oh, no. There’s no way.”

What? I thought maybe he hadn’t understood so I began to recount my plight. He interrupted and repeated himself. Ma’am, I’m sorry but there’s no way you’ll have this tonight. It will take up to 72 hours.”

I argued… “But the gentleman on the telephone assured me that you could at least look at it and try to fix it tonight…” Right then, my laptop decided it would help me out and flipped to a blue screen with the same error message I had been getting, saying it was going to reboot. He glanced at the message on the screen and said, “Ah, yes. Well, like I said… 72 hours.”

I was exhausted from being on the road. My feet hurt from standing and presenting all day. My anxiety was high just thinking about how I would need to adjust my presentation for the following day. I felt my frustration rising. I asked if I could speak to the manager or at least to the person who had answered the phone… The one who had told me to drive 30 minutes and got my hopes up about finding a solution about this pinch I was in.

Then the young Geek said something that tipped the scales for me. “We always tell people that we can look at their computer, but no one will be here to do that until 8:00 in the morning and we already have several on the schedule tomorrow.”

So, he had lied then. The associate on the phone had been trained to tell me to bring it in, even if he knew that there would be no one there after 5:00. I was angry and frustrated. Not because Best Buy couldn’t fix my computer immediately but because they had not truthfully answered my question. A classic bait and switch.

I went back out to my car and, though I wanted to cry, I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face, and drove to the restaurant. I assured my client that the very best presentations I had ever delivered were when my slide show went down.

After dinner when I returned to my room, I decided to Google the error message. Sure enough, there was a video on what it was (a faulty driver) and how to remedy it. I followed the instructions and voila! It appeared to fix the problem.

I still had a few glitches the next day but, after talking to my regular IT pro back at home, I’m confident my laptop will be good as new on Monday morning when he logs into it. But the whole experience reminded me of a dilemma many dental and healthcare professionals face regularly… Patients calling with a question for which the simplest and most direct answer is a “no.” For example, “Are you on my insurance plan?” or “Do you take my insurance?” Easy if you do but what if you don’t?

Many consultants recommend scripting that advises administrators to evade the truth, if not tell an out-and-out lie. While I agree that answering a question like this with a definitive “no” will guarantee that the patient will not schedule, I also believe that playing the “bait and switch” card is no way to build a loyal patient base and a strong community reputation. It might win the short game but not the long one.

Instead, the coaches at LionSpeak recommend that you tell the truth with a positive spin. For example, instead of answering, “No, I’m sorry, we’re not a provider on your plan.” Try this: “Mrs. Belt, we are considered what is called a non-preferred provider (or unrestricted or out-of-network). We help lots of patients with the exact same insurance and know it very well. Here’s how it works in our practice…” Now, your patient knows the truth and exactly how it will work in your practice and can decide if this approach will work for them.

If the young man had told me the truth, I would not have gone to Best Buy that night. But I also would not have this nagging lack of trust for their national brand. I might have been much more willing to use their services locally. I might have referred other folks to them in the future. But they have eroded my trust and once that’s gone … it’s gone.

This week, discuss with your team how you can be truthful with challenging questions like these and craft answers that build trust and convert patients for the right reasons.


“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.
Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
Don Miguel Ruiz