No one likes to see a patient complaint. Unfortunately, you can be the most compassionate dentist with an exemplary team and follow procedures to a T, and still get a few complaints. Our advice: use them as opportunities.
The complaint may have a kernel of truth or completely baseless; the important takeaway is this: handle with care: about 94 percent of people use online reviews to choose a business; you do not want a complaint to snowball into a bad review. That can quickly lead to a loss of revenue. That is why it is critical to respond to them.
When complaints are brought to your attention, you and your team may feel frustrated, discouraged or annoyed. That is normal. It can also be easy to feel cavalier about a complaint you see as minor. After all, some complaints are objective: the office décor, wait times, or insurance issues that are completely out of your hands.
Handle All Complaints with Respect
Even concerns that feel trivial or unfair to you should be handled respectfully. That means making the patient feel heard; letting them know that you take the complaint seriously; and promising to look into it. Here are the steps you should take:
Acknowledge and thank your patient for bringing their concerns to you, without judgment: “I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what you experienced.”
Affirm by repeating the complaint back to the patient: “So you’re saying you had to wait 40 minutes for your appointment and no one checked on you. I’m sorry to hear that.”
Commit to taking action to correct the situation, if warranted. “Sometimes things get backed up. I’ll talk to the front desk team to make sure they are letting you know if there’s a delay.”
Thank them again: “I do thank you for taking the time to let me know what happened. We appreciate that you put your trust in our practice and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you are satisfied.”
Follow through on your commitment, you will earn loyalty from that patient. A complaint is an opportunity for you to cement a patient’s trust.
Keep Building Patient Loyalty
Patient loyalty is a fragile thing, so it is essential to maintain it. Loyalty can translate into fewer rescheduled or cancelled appointments, increased case acceptance, and even referrals to friends, family, and social media connections. Over time, handing one complaint correctly can lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in revenue. It is also the right thing to do.
However, if patients leave your office feeling that their concerns were not heard, they are unlikely to refer others to you, or worse, complain on online reputation sites and social media.