The Patient is MAD. Now What?
Have you noticed that people are more irritated than usual these days? At the dry cleaners last week, a man was yelling at the clerk. He was furious because the creases on the sleeves of his dress shirt were slightly off. At a recent dental conference, one of the attendees was livid because the coffee had run dry. People are stressed and cranky these days. Whatever it is they are paying their hard-earned cash for, it better be right and it better be what they expect. If it’s not, you can bet the house that the complaints will follow.
Certainly, when you’re the one delivering the grievance, you feel completely justified in making your case. Whoever wronged you better make it right and now. But when the tables are turned and you’re on the receiving end of that anger or frustration, it takes a fair amount of self control and understanding to respond appropriately rather than react in anger.
A dental practice is not unlike any other business. People make mistakes, things go wrong, and you’re dealing with a temperamental public. So complaints can and do happen. Unfortunately, in most cases, neither the team nor the doctor is very well prepared to manage them.
Certainly, it’s no treat to be on the receiving end of a patient complaint but when someone takes the time to express a concern, vent a frustration, or alert you to a problem, that disgruntled patient is doing the practice a very big favor. They are also telling you that they actually care.
Although the numbers vary, studies indicate that only about 4% of customers complain and 91% of the other 96% just go away because they believe that complaining is a waste of their time and energy. The good news, however, is that the majority will not bail out immediately. And, lucky for you, most people do not want to leave their dentists on a whim, which provides practices with a window of opportunity that many other businesses don’t enjoy.
However, even though disgruntled patients aren’t going to fire you and your team on impulse, they are likely to detail their version of the negative experience to about seven to 10 other family, friends, and co-workers. Conversely, they will also happily share the news with others when their complaint is handled well.
When you are forced to stand toe-to-toe with a disgruntled patient, consider the person your ally not your enemy. Follow these steps:
Complaints can confirm weaknesses in your staffing and management systems that you may have long suspected needed to be addressed. Welcome them.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm. Working on-site with dentists since 1980, McKenzie Management provides knowledge, guidance and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.877.777.6151.
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