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5 Tips for Handling Patient Complaints

Patients will complain.  If you’ve been in business for more than 6 months and you don’t think you need to read this article, think again.
You can’t make 100% of the people who come through your door happy.  You can try but you will fail, it’s human nature to complain.  More often than not the complainer has any number of other things in their life going badly.  Unfortunately the very minor issue they are having with your office was the one that just “broke” the camels back.
Here are 5 things you can do to successfully handle complaining patients:
1.  Eliminate the audience.
When the complaining begins attempt to move the patient into an exam room.  The last thing you need is an unpleasant scene and a captive audience (aka a waiting room full of patients).  Train your staff to say, “Mr. Jones, please follow me so we can discuss this without being interrupted.”
2.  Now listen to their story without interrupting.
Usually a complainer without an audience will begin to fizzle at the end of their story.  Maybe they just needed to vent.  If you interrupt because you’re sure you know the solution you’re going to fuel the fire.  They’re angry and they want you to hear the entire reason why…listen to it.
3.  Validate the issue don’t pooh-pooh it away.
It doesn’t really matter if the complaint makes sense to you or is even a valid complaint.  You have to respond as if it is.
4.  Now it’s your turn.
Begin by using their name, respectfully (Mrs., Mr.).  Using a patient’s name when they’re angry can help to ease the tension.  Indicate that you “feel their pain”.  Tell the patient, “I understand why you’re upset. I would be upset too.”
5.  Solve the problem.
If the problem is reasonable and rational and you can solve the problem, offer the solution.  The tricky problem is the irrational and unreasonable complaint (yes, you aren’t the only one with an occasional oddball patient).  The best response to these complainers is to ask them a question, “What can I do to make you happy?)  9 times out of 10 they won’t have an answer because they really just wanted to vent and will respond accordingly, “Well I guess nothing, I was just upset.”  Either way the situation is diffused and the problem is resolved.