Professionalism: How to Manage an “Unhappy Patient” Encounter
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 9:00 AM
Mrs. Smith is late for her appointment. The front desk receptionist kindly points out to Mrs. Smith that her appointment was at 1 p.m., not 1:30 p.m. Mrs. Smith then becomes upset. The receptionist actively listens, sympathizes, and offers options to help solve Mrs. Smith’s problem.
“I am so very sorry this happened to you, Mrs. Smith! I have notes that we confirmed the appointment for 1 p.m., but there must have been a mix-up somewhere. I completely understand your frustration. Let me see what I can do to help.”
After reviewing the schedule, the front desk person identifies a possible solution: “I have some good news, Mrs. Smith. We had a cancellation at 2:15 p.m. If you like, I can put you in that time slot, so you can be seen today. If that doesn’t work, we can reschedule you for a different day. What would be best for you? Oh, and we do have coffee and cookies if you need a snack while you wait.”
After discussing the options with her driver, Mrs. Smith determines that she would rather stay and have her appointment at 2:15 p.m., since she already made the trip to the clinic.
Even with the best intentions, miscommunication can happen that leaves a patient unhappy. In these instances, customer service professionals have an opportunity to create a positive outcome by incorporating some of the following techniques into their interactions with patients.
Actively listen. Listen carefully to patients to understand the issue from their perspective. Repeat the problem back to confirm that you heard the concern correctly.
Sympathize. Once you have heard the patient, offer sympathy and understanding. Put yourself in the patient's shoes; see the situation from the patient's perspective.
Offer Options. When patients feel they have been heard (and understood), they are more open to discussing solutions. Do everything possible to provide alternatives. Patients want to feel that they have a choice. Choices make patients more open to an option that can benefit them and the practice.
Professionalism is Essential
Staff professionalism when providing solutions can help patients feel respected and appreciated. While not every scenario can go as smoothly as Mrs. Smith’s, patients will have a better response when met with active listening, sympathy, and options.
YOUR TURN: How do you turn a potentially problematic patient experience into a positive one? Please leave your response in the comment section below. Thank you.