In any industry that works with the general public, complaints are bound to happen. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” This thought could not be more true when it comes to taking care of complaints. The way you react to the complaint shows your patients that you care about them and that you listen to what they have to say.
Customer Service Matters in the Medical Industry
For years, patients have been asked to make appointments, only for them to have to wait. Many health care offices have problems with their phone systems, so patients have difficulty talking to a provider. Patients are also regularly confused by billing and insurance. With all of these issues and more, medical offices should expect to hear from their patients.
When patients are heard and respected, they are more likely to return to your office. Happy patients often tell their friends and family about good experiences, even if they involve a doctor’s visits. When they are unhappy, they will go elsewhere for care, taking their insurance money with them. If you become overwhelmed with handling your customer complaints, you should consider hiring a medical answering service.
When patients are happy, employees are also glad. No work environment is completely stress-free, but when patients enter the office in a good mood and leave feeling the same way, the job can feel stress-free. Employee turnover drops, so the costs of recruiting, hiring, and training drops, too.
How to Respond to Complaints
Most complaints focus on a few issues: time and money. If patients feel they wait too long or do not get enough time with the doctor, they will complain. If they do not understand the cost of services or how insurance works, they will complain, too. Your response to the complaints shows your patients what you think of them and your medical office.
Listen with Empathy
Most complaints happen over the phone. So, your reaction to the call should be professional and empathetic. The first thing you can do is listen. Stop what you are doing and give the patient your full attention. Listen and restate what you have heard, so you are firm to get the story correct. It can be helpful to take notes. Do not blame anyone or try to solve the problem.
As you are listening, reply with empathetic comments that show your care. You can apologize for the experience, and that you understand how the patient feels. Most importantly, stay neutral and show you heard the patient.
Ask for More Information and Repeat the Issue
After the patient makes the initial complaint, ask for more information. Explain that you want to understand the situation to learn from it and to come up with a solution. When you ask for more information, you show the patient that their concern matters to you.
After you have heard the situation and the extra information, take the time to repeat the problem back to the patient. It shows them that you listened and that you want to make things better.
If you can solve the problem, do so. Otherwise, let the patient know that you have to speak to the office manager, physician, billing expert, or whoever else can fix the problem. Ask the patient if it is okay if you call them back, and set up call time. Your patient will appreciate you agreeing on a time, and then following through on the appointment.
If you are unable to solve the problem over the phone, explain that you need some time to find the best solution. Explain that you need to talk to the doctors or nurses or the manager to be sure that the patient is satisfied. Ask if that is okay with the patient, then be sure to follow through on the situation.
Thank the Patient
Let the patient know that you appreciate them calling to inform you of the problem. Your office cannot grow without learning about weaknesses. Let the patient know that you care about their experiences and how you care about patient satisfaction.
After the phone call, record the information for the entire staff. It is important that the employees at the office know what happened and how you dealt with it. It can be useful to have a meeting to talk about what happened and hold a brainstorming session to figure out how to keep patients happy. Employees like being involved in making decisions about their workplaces.
What to Do While Listening to the Complaint
When you are listening to the complaint, there are several things you should and should not do. These show that you are listening and learning, rather than negatively reacting.
- Do not take the complaint personally
- Listen calmly
- Listen to the problem
- Don’t take out your frustration on the patient
- Do not get angry at your colleagues
- Do not hurry to make a decision
Handling customer complaints in health care is an unfortunate part of any company. But if you keep calm and recognize that the problem is not your fault, dealing with them becomes easy.