Many times when a patient has a complaint - whether it’s about the front desk, an assistant, the doctor, or hygienist - the patient will only share the complaint with a person on staff whom they have rapport and trust. This is, if you are fortunate enough to have the patient come to a team member with their complaint, rather than use the many other mediums available in this day and age. Handling complaints before they are put on an online review page is imperative.
Team members are often not given direction or training on how to handle patient complaints. Many times we don’t even see it coming, as the person who the complaint is shared with may not have been privy to the information or incident that took place until the patient is face-to-face with them. Are your team members like “deer in headlights” when a patient has an issue? No matter how big or small it may seem to anybody on the team, it is obviously a big issue to the patient who has taken the time to voice his or her concerns.
The complaint may have been a miscommunication. Perhaps the patient was not listening or had a skewed perception at the time of the incident. The problem may not actually be the fault of your team at all - but to do nothing at all or become defensive is the worst thing you or your team can do.
Every day, patients walk through your practice doors to have dentistry performed by you and your team. Each and every one of these patients has a different level of dental education, and some may not be comfortable telling your staff when they have an issue. There are many procedures a patient may think are a big ordeal, when really they are very routine occurrences. Let’s take a look at one scenario that may happen. How and what is said during this communication may be the difference between retaining a patient and having a patient move on to another practice.
Tom comes into your practice and is very happy with the new patient exam. He has a hygiene appointment with Mary and then starts to have his restorative procedures done. Six months later Tom returns for his hygiene appointment. At the beginning of the appointment Mary asks Tom, like she always does, “What problems or concerns about your teeth do you have?” Initially Tom says nothing. Then, because the hygienist has gone through the charts, she specifically asks about the fillings that were last done and how they are feeling.
The patient may answer, “They are doing great and I would never know that I had anything done!” This would be the perfect time for Mary to ask for a referral by commenting, “That’s great! Would you please share with your friends, family, and coworkers how happy you are with our service?” On the other hand, if Tom says he is having pain in the upper right where the doctor did a filling, the hygienist should direct her attention to this area first, inform the patient of what she sees, and inform him that she is going to have the doctor come in and take a look.
Even if the hygienist does not see anything wrong, she should still have the doctor come in and take a look. She may even inform Tom: “I don’t see anything wrong, I looked at the x-ray and the filling is not that big. However, it is a composite and sometimes they remain sensitive for a longer amount of time. There may also be a high spot that needs to be adjusted, sometimes when you are numb it is hard to determine if there is a tiny area that may need to be adjusted. Let me have the doctor come in and take a look.”
This allows Tom to see that the doctor stands by his/her work and wants the patient to be happy and comfortable. Since the hygienist already told the patient what may be wrong, even though she did not see anything, if the doctor decides there is something wrong and it is one of the above mentioned problems it builds the patient’s trust that much more.
If Mary had handled this differently, maybe because she didn’t want to get behind schedule by having the doctor come in or just didn’t know what to do, the patient may be leaving your practice. As we all know, actions speaks louder than words. Training your team on all aspects of handling patient experiences, both positive and negative, will make a big difference in your patient retention.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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