Handling Dental Patient Complaints With Gratitude
Handling dental patient complaints with gratitude is tough to do. I don’t think anyone enjoys criticism. But, it is important to learn to manage this well at the dental front office. Patients may come to you on the front lines first. A patient might even ask you to keep something to yourself. They might want to tell you something about the doctor, an assistant, or hygienist. They tell you they are not complaining. But they are.
Take a deep breath. The world will keep on spinning. The sun will live to rise another day. Prepare yourself to listen. And prepare to listen well. Try to keep personal judgement and feelings aside. This is not the time to get all defensive No. This is the time to just breathe.
And be grateful. Be grateful that your patient feels safe enough to talk with you. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to help turn a bad experience into the best experience ever! Today you have a chance to help someone smile! That’s what we do in dentistry. We help people smile. In more ways than one!
Then help find a solution. It’s a privilege and an honor. Try to accept that this is your time to shine. Truly, if you can make everything better for your patient, you shine! You shine to your patient, your dentist, and your team. Try not to complain yourself to the rest of the team. Take the higher ground. Take the middle ground. No one is wrong today. Let’s just make things right.
Apologize Without Saying “I’m Sorry”
Apologize to your patient for their experience. And if this is done without saying, “I’m sorry”, all the better. Try to keep an apology in the form of gratitude. If their complaint to you is that the dental hygienist was “rough”. A simple “Thank you for telling me,” is the best way to proceed.
Do not take sides. Empathize with what your patient’s experience was. Your tone is important. Provide comfort and reassurance without any hint of agreement or doubt. The first goal is to make a connection with your patient. However, you also want to support the team.
Be careful not to say too much. Say as little as possible. Keep your voice calm. Allow your patient to do most of the talking. They really do want to be heard. Provide that forum they need right now.
Dig a little deeper. Let’s say, the hygienist your patient saw today’s name is Anna. You might ask, “Have you seen Anna before today?” And then, check your patient’s chart to see for yourself. Let your patient see you are looking. “It looks like this was your first appointment with her.”
Ask your patient how they would like to proceed. “What would you like us to do? Could I schedule you with Kim at your next appointment. It looks like you’ve seen her many times before.”
Often times, more of the story comes to light with additional questions. Your patient might say, “Yes. I told Anna I would schedule my appointment out here with you. I don’t want to hurt her feelings or get anyone in trouble. But, I don’t want to see her again. I always see Kim. Where is Kim?”
Learning From Dental Patient Complaints
There is always something to learn from the complaint. Our patient was used to seeing one particular hygienist. Seeing someone new today really threw her off. Then, we have to decide what we want to do from this point. There is a reason for this change. Kim, our hygienist, has changed her schedule. She has cut back on her days and hours. Anna has been seeing many of her patients.
We may need to listen more. And thank our patient a second time. “Thank you for talking with me about this. Kim has changed her schedule. Anna has been seeing her patients. I know you are used to Kim and feel more comfortable with her. Are you able to see Kim on a different day? She’s really cut back on the times she is available here.”
Bring your patient into part of the solution. Now the ball is back in our patient’s court. They can help decide how they would like to move forward. The patient may decide to stay with Kim.
Document the conversation, complaint and resolution. Make a note in the patient chart of any complaint or issues they present. Documentation supports the office if anything else should come up. If there are any written letters of complaint, be sure they are scanned into the patient’s chart too. Also, document the resolution reached.
Discuss Patient Complaints With Your Dentist
Another important piece of handling dental patient complaints, is informing the dentist. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the moment. But it is important to keep your dentist in the loop of what’s going on.
One way to do this is by printing any documentation or chart notes. The documentation of what took place can then be left in your doc’s inbox or on their desk. They can review it when they have time and ask you any related questions they have.
Some patient complaints need the dentist’s involvement. If a patient calls with treatment complaints, you want the dentist involved. Again, say as little as possible. Listen. Take notes. Don’t apologize for anything. But do thank your patient for calling today. They are looking for a resolution with the office.
Gather information and ask questions. Allow your patient the freedom to share whatever they want to share. Write down every detail. Then be sure to get the best phone number to reach them at. Before turning this into a chart note, put all of the information together and ask your doc for some time to talk about a patient’s concerns. Then, review with your doc and let them decide what happens next.
Follow-Up With Your Patient
Want to take your customer service up a notch? Once the situation has been settled, wait a day. Then call your patient. Choose to do this at a quiet time when you are least likely to be interrupted. Here’s your script:
“Mrs. Jones. This is April @ Dr. Brown’s dental office. I won’t keep you. I wanted to call you and thank you again for talking to me about your appointment with Anna. It means a lot to me that you did that. We want you to be happy here.”
Let your patient praise you and your office! You’ve just made a friend for life!
Avoid Complaints All Together!
There is an art to customer service. And the best customer service comes through training. Sometimes we learn through our mistakes. But better yet is when we learn without those mistakes. I’ve got an e-book that you and your team will love! The Dental Reception Manual is a great read for the entire team.
The entire dental team meets and greets patients all day. And we want every single patient interaction to be remarkable. Download this informative and easy to read e-book today. Distribute and share at your next team meeting. And raise the bar for you and your dental practice. Here’s how you can get yours now!