Angry patients seeking an outlet to vent will often head straight to an online review site to share their heated opinion. By capturing and addressing their negative feedback early, you get an opportunity to prevent this negative review from going online.
YAPI’s InstaReview™ feature allows unhappy patients the chance to “vent” before they make up their mind to write a negative online review. This review management feature collects patient feedback while they are still in your office. Patients who are happy with your practice are guided to leave their positive reviews on the sites that matter the most, including Yelp, Google and Facebook. Any negative feedback is sent directly to your practice’s internal platform.
If you receive any negative feedback, you now have the chance to ameliorate the situation. You can turn their experience around and gain a positive review instead of a bad one!
A Second Chance
Most patients will be appreciative when you make an effort to reach out. This alone can cause them to regard you more favorably. They might still be angry but understand you genuinely care about them.
On the other hand, if you don’t respond, there’s a good chance they will write on Yelp about your practice later. Ignoring negative feedback does not make it go away; it just makes the situation worse. Sandy Pardue, Senior Consultant and Lecturer with Classic Practice Resources, stresses that team members should “run directly to upset patients, not from them” in a blog article.
“Run directly to upset patients, not from them.” – Sandy Pardue
So quick! What do you do? It can be awkward to approach an angry patient. Having some guidelines in place will help you handle the situation in a respectable way.
How to Approach an Unhappy Patient
1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
It’s not possible to please everyone. No matter how well you take care of your patients, how much information you provide or how accurately you estimate insurance co-payments, someone will be unhappy. Some people are impossible to satisfy. Others might have a very good reason to be annoyed. Just do your best.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
You put your heart and soul into your work. It’s almost impossible not to take it personally when patients provide negative feedback but remember it’s often not about you at all. It’s about them!
3. Take a Deep Breath
Negative feedback can really sting, especially if it’s untrue. Before you reach out to the patient, take a deep breath and calm down. Be mindful of your body language and the tone of your voice. Regardless of the situation, you don’t want to come off as sounding defensive or angry.
4. Respond Quickly
Timing is everything. The faster a negative review is addressed, the more likely a negative situation can turn into a positive one. Even if you cannot resolve the problem, your quick response will show patients that you are genuinely concerned and want to help.
5. Not All Negative Feedback is Bad News
It may sound crazy but not all negative feedback is bad news. When someone takes the time to offer you their feedback, negative or positive, it shows that they are actively engaged with your practice. An actively engaged patient is better than someone who leaves unsatisfied and never returns. Many times these are the same patients who will become advocates of your practice once they learn that you care about their experience. Taking the time to figure out what went wrong and how you can make it right will make an impact.
6. Thank Patients for their Feedback
Whether the feedback is positive or negative, these patients are taking the time to relate their experience to you. On average, only 10% of patients share their experience with the practice. When they do, it gives you an opportunity to resolve their issues, improve your practice and gain a fiercely loyal patient for life.
7. Listen to Understand
As much as we like to claim that we welcome honest feedback, listening to harsh criticism can be hard. A lot of times we listen to respond. We think about what we’ll say next or jump in with comments. This makes the conversation challenging and unlikely to result in a good resolution. Instead, listen to understand. Don’t interrupt and suspend judgment. Really try to hear what your patient is trying to communicate.
8. Be Inquisitive
Ask open-ended questions such as:
- Can you tell me what happened?
- What would you like to see happen now?
- How can we turn this around for you?
Asking for specifics will help you understand what is driving their concerns.
9. Restate the Problem
Restating the problem back to the patient ensures that you clearly understood the complaint. It lets patients know they have been heard.
10. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, you can empathize with your patient. Think back to a time that you had a bad customer experience. Let them know you understand using the simple phrase, “I am sure this is very frustrating for you.”
A sincere apology often helps to diffuse the situation. Don’t try to allocate blame or make excuses. Don’t say “I am sorry you feel this way.” There is no “you” in apology. Instead, simply state what you are apologizing for.
Here is a sample dialogue you could begin:
Hi Mr. Roberts,
My name is Angie and I am the scheduling coordinator here. I just received your feedback regarding your last appointment. I am sorry this happened and I am so glad you reached out. We want to offer only the best care and service to all of our patients. I’d like to make this right. Can you tell me more about this situation?
12. Now, Solve the Problem
Offer a solution, even if it’s not your fault. It’s possible there is an easy solution to fix the problem. Maybe a patient complained that your office was too cold. You can approach her with a blanket in hand. Her body temperature and feelings toward your office will warm right up. Make a note in YAPI to always offer her a blanket during future visits. Even if she turns down the blanket, she’ll be impressed that you remembered.
In other situations, a solution may not be as clear. Use your best judgment when you suggest a remedy. It can be a good idea to ask your patient, “What would be an acceptable solution for you?” By asking them, you make them a partner in solving the problem. Most people are reasonable and will propose a remedy that works for everyone. Let them speak before you jump back in.
Whichever way you handle the situation, keep in mind that throwing money at the problem is sometimes appropriate but you can go further. Offer them personalized attention and follow-up to make sure that everything was resolved. It makes your patient feel valued and involved.
Learn From the Feedback
No matter how well we run our practices, it’s difficult to keep track of everything. There are always blind spots that prevent us from growing. Chances are that if one patient had a problem, others did as well. They just didn’t care enough to tell you. While negative feedback is hard to listen to, it can reveal missing links in our systems. Use the feedback you receive to improve and grow your practice.
Dr. Gina Dorfman completed her dental training at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry in 2000 and shortly after she started her own practice near Los Angeles. Her passion for creating systems and leveraging technology to streamline practice operations is what eventually led her to co-found YAPI. Today, among practicing dentistry, she is a published author, a motivational speaker, and a frequent contributor to the many articles found on our blog!