Recently, my mom had a negative experience at a dental office. She left feeling cheated and insulted. Needless to say, her plan is never to return to that office. Feeling horrible for her, I made plans the next week to visit the office with her and get a copy of her treatment plan and claim form. We arrived at the office and soon after, one of the ladies at the front desk started preparing the documents. While she did that, my mom started to tell her about her experience and why she was displeased.The dental assistant started off listening and then it disintegrated into defending. As the conversation progressed, I watched her make three mistakes dental offices should never make with an angry dental patient:
- Don’t cut off the patient while he or she is speaking.
When a patient is frustrated and telling you his or her concerns, one of the worse things you can do is cut him or her off. The patient wants to be respected and heard. The benefits of staying quiet and listening are:
- The patient feels heard.
- You learn the facts of the issue, according to the patient.
- You are in a better position to address the patient’s concerns.
- The patient feels a greater need to reciprocate and give you his or her undivided attention.
- Don’t say “Hello” to a friend in the middle of the patient explaining a concern.
While the patient is explaining concerns to you, it’s not a good idea to say hello to a co-worker or another patient at that exact time. Actually, it’s rude. If you must interrupt the patient, first, be sure it’s for a good reason. Be sure to explain to the patient that you have an urgent matter that needs your attention. Be careful to apologize and assure him or her that you do want to finish the conversation and come to a solution.
- Don’t call the patient a liar.
It may seem perfectly logical but using phrases like, “Ma’am, that’s impossible” or “There’s no way that could have happened,” is equivalent to saying that the patient is a liar. From the point you make this accusation, you might as well stop talking because the patient has stopped listening. These statements are making a judgment on the patient or on his or her mental faculty. Let your aim be to gather information, investigate the issue and then relay your findings to the patient.
Just like adversity shows what an individual is made of, how you handle an angry dental patient shows what your office is made of. It’s easy to give great customer service when a patient is happy. However, it requires serious people skills and training to deal with an angry patient in a professional and respectful manner. Having misunderstandings and disagreements are a part of life. Develop a game plan for handling these types of situations. For starters, be sure you don’t cut the patient off when he or she is speaking, say “Hello,” to a friend or inadvertently call the patient a liar. Ultimately, how you handle the patient is not a reflection of him or her but of you and your staff.