No matter how well-run a practice is, there will eventually be an unsatisfied patient. Maybe a staff member made a simple mistake, or there was a communication breakdown. Whatever the reason, patient complaints must be handled with care.
When a patient is unhappy with their experience, their concerns should be addressed in a way that lets them know that you will do everything in your power to amend the problem and prevent it from happening again.
At all of our businesses, we have a process in place that is designed to handle unmet expectations and patient complaints.
First, what NOT to do
Many practices largely ignore negative feedback. This is the last thing you want to do. Avoiding issues that arise does nothing for your business or the unsatisfied patient. In the long run, a non-responsive approach will result in a bad reputation and a lot of lost business. I know owning up to mistakes can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary.
The Recovery Process
Whenever a patient expresses discontent, we follow steps to resolve the issue. Every employee is trained on this process, and each incident is documented to ensure staff accountability and kept as a resource for future training. The basic steps are as follows:
- A genuine apology goes a long way. The first step to resolving any customer issue is to let them know that you are sorry they are having this experience.
- Sense of urgency. Putting something off doesn’t make it seem very important, does it? By resolving a customer complaint quickly, you show them that their feedback matters.
- In the end, we are all human. Show empathy for the person and their experience. This is not a problem that you have to deal with. This is a person you are interacting with that happens to have a problem you are responsible for addressing.
- Symbolic expression. Do something for the patient to make it up to them. This could involve a refund or credit but doesn’t always.
- Follow up. Once you’ve worked with the patient to amend their complaint, follow up to make sure you did enough. This gives you another chance to make things right and lets the person know that you care about them and their feedback.
Learn from your mistakes
Once you’ve dealt with complaints individually, it’s time to look at the big picture. While each complaint is different, you may find that some problems stem from one thing. This data is valuable because it tells you exactly what elements of your business need improvement.
Whatever shows up multiple times as a source of patient dissatisfaction should be examined. Once you’ve gotten to the root of the issue, you can make revisions where necessary and reevaluate what’s working in the coming months. Responding to negative feedback in this manner benefits those directly affected and gives you insight into how your practice can improve.
For more information, pick up a copy of One Patient at a Time, our guide to creating a successful, patient-centered practice.