Although you and your staff provide excellent customer service, patient complaints are inevitable from time to time. Because we provide products as well as services, the number of possible reasons for an imperfect patient experience is even greater for ECPs than for most other health care professionals. When a patient complains, lead by example and view the complaint as an opportunity rather than a burden.
Patients understand that things don’t always go as planned, however they want to know that their complaint is being taken seriously. When you and your staff show concern rather than being defensive, patients are generally very accepting. With proper finesse, a situation that could have resulted in the patient posting a negative review online and never returning to the practice can be converted to a positive experience, with the patient becoming an enthusiastic supporter of the practice.
To make this happen, see that everyone on your team responds to patient complaints with these 5 simple steps:
- LISTEN: Really listen to the complaint and then repeat the important details back to the patient so they know that you heard and understand them.
- APOLOGIZE WHEN APPROPRIATE: Not all complaints require an apology on the part of the practice, but always be sympathetic rather than defensive.
- THANK THEM: Make it a habit to thank the patient for bringing the problem to your attention. Explain to the patient that their concern will help the practice avoid similar circumstances in the future.
- PROVIDE A SOLUTION: Tell the patient exactly what you plan to do about the complaint and give them realistic expectations about the specifics of the resolution.
- FOLLOW UP: If the complaint cannot be resolved immediately, keep the patient informed during the steps necessary to solve it and also follow-up with them as appropriate afterward to confirm that the problem was resolved to their satisfaction.
Pro Tip: When a patient specifically asks to speak with the doctor about a problem, respond to them in person. Luckily, this situation doesn’t present that often. Even if the steps necessary to resolve the complaint require action on the part of someone other than the doctor, letting someone else make the initial response to the complaint – when they’ve asked to see the doctor – immediately makes the patient feel as if their complaint is not important.