4 reasons staff conflict sends patients to the practice down the street

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Unresolved staff conflict can do a lot of damage to your practice. Instead of focusing on improving efficiencies and offering top-notch patient care, team members spend their time gossiping and making snide comments. The work environment becomes filled with tension, which is something patients notice as soon as they walk through the door.

Conflict makes patients uneasy, and if it’s bad enough, even your most loyal patients will start thinking about making their next appointment at the practice down the street. That’s why it’s so important for you to step in when you notice trouble brewing. Rather than ignoring the situation and hoping it will go away on its own, like so many dentists do, sit down with the team members who are involved and work together to come up with a solution. If you don’t, the problem will just get worse, and you’ll notice a drop in patient retention numbers as well as practice production.

Not convinced you need to get involved? To change your mind, I’ve put together four reasons conflict costs you patients and, ultimately, money:

1. Conflict makes patients uncomfortable. Many patients are nervous about their dental appointment before they even arrive at the office, and the last thing they need is a tension-filled environment when they get there. Team members should focus on helping patients relax so they have an exceptional experience. If they’re dealing with conflict, that likely isn’t happening.

It gets even worse if patients overhear team members complaining about one another. Maybe your hygienist is venting because the dental assistant never shows up on time, or is upset because the doctor is behind schedule yet again, thanks to the incompetent Scheduling Coordinator. Patients don’t want to hear about these problems as they sit in the chair. It creates an awkward situation and does nothing to make patients feel a connection to your practice. In fact, it makes them want to get out of there as fast as possible. Not exactly the best way to foster patient loyalty.

Bottom line: If there’s tension, patients will notice—and it will negatively impact their appointment. They’ll feel uncomfortable and won’t want to come back, and that hurts practice productivity and revenues.

2. Customer service takes a back seat. You earn patient loyalty when you provide an exceptional experience every time patients visit your practice. That means focusing on customer service, which won’t happen if team members are wrapped up in workplace drama.

Conflict will make your team members miserable. They’ll no longer focus on putting patients at ease or making their experience memorable. They’ll just want to get through the day, and their unhappiness will show in every patient interaction. Patients will feel like they’re not a priority, which may prompt them to start looking for a practice that will put their needs first.

Don’t let staff conflict get in the way of providing the exceptional customer service your patients expect and deserve. When you notice a problem, address it immediately. Use the conflict as a way to make the practice better and your team stronger.

3. You’ll lose team members. It’s difficult for patients to feel connected to a practice if there are new team members every time they come in for an appointment, but employees aren’t going to stick around long if unresolved conflict is leading to a toxic work environment. Stop conflict before it gets out of control and your team members will be much happier. They’ll spend more time building a rapport with your patients and won’t feel the need to start looking for another job.

4. The quality of care patients receive will suffer. Conflict is a distraction, and even though your team members want to provide patients with the best care possible, they’ll fall short if office drama is on their minds. They’ll start just going through the motions as they stew over whatever is causing the friction. To avoid this, put an end to conflict as soon as possible so team members can focus on connecting with your patients and providing them with top-notch care.

Don’t let conflict damage your practice
While you can’t completely avoid it, you can take steps to squash conflict before it causes any harm. As much as you’d like to, ignoring it will only make it worse. As the practice CEO, it’s up to you to find a way to use conflict to make positive changes. If you let conflict boil out of control, it will only serve to damage your practice, costing you patients and eating into your bottom line.

Need more help? Consider my complimentary webinar on “Conquering Conflict”.  Go HERE.  Or…contact me and enroll in my Office Manager or Dentist CEO training program. This 2-day course deals with conflict behaviors in the workplace and can help you and your team members improve the way you respond to conflict. And when you do that, you’ll have a more efficient practice and happier team members who are focused on meeting common goals—and that leads to happier patients who stay loyal.  

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Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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