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.
Opportunity to Shine
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.
Handling Dental Patient Complaints On Neutral Ground
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.
We Learn From 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.”
Handing Dental Patient Complaints With Patient Involvement
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.
Avoiding Dental Patient Complaints
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.
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