What Really Happens when Patients Complain?
Just a few short weeks ago, the magnificent winter Olympics were in full swing. Here in the U.S. we tuned in to watch our favorites soar to amazing heights and race at incredible speeds. Several of the U.S. athletes were expected to medal in the games. One was Shani Davis who was favored to win the men’s 1,000 meter speed skating event, until he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t make it to the podium, landing a disappointing 8th place.
Athletes great and small have good days and bad days. But Davis wasn’t alone, others on the U.S. skating team weren’t delivering the times they wanted or that we, the spectators, expected. It wasn’t long before the fingers were pointing. The culprit, some asserted, was that high-tech racing suit they were wearing. The pundits pontificated, the news media salivated, and social media was all atwitter with the news that Under Armour’s “fastest speedskating suit in the world,” well, wasn’t.
Eventually, Under Armour was vindicated when the team switched suits and didn’t realize any better results, but for several days the company took it on the chin. After all, they hadn’t just let the team down, they’d let their country down – or so it was perceived. There they stood on the world stage. How did they handle it? Company officials never blamed the athletes. They didn’t gloat when the skaters didn’t race any better in the old suits. They never wallowed in the muck; they just took the heat. It was a lesson in leadership and grace under pressure. How many of us could do the same?
You’re fortunate that you don’t deliver care on the world stage, and the eyes watching when things don’t go exactly as planned are few. But when patients complain or are dissatisfied in some way with your practice, how often are the comments dismissed with a wave of the hand, a roll of the eyes, with misplaced blame, or a halfhearted apology?
When we don’t like what we hear or we are criticized, it’s easy to get defensive, point fingers, or disregard the message because we don’t like the messenger or we believe they are wrong or just don’t understand. It’s a lot tougher to stand there and take it graciously. It’s even harder to acknowledge that maybe this flame being thrown represents a much bigger fire, one that could seriously burn your profitability.
But you are the dentist. You are a perfectionist. You know that the care you deliver is excellent and you have a topnotch education, years of experience, and hundreds of hours of CE under your belt to prove it. Yet, therein lies the problem. Oftentimes doctors and their employees view the patient experience exclusively – as in it’s what they are delivering in the dental chair.
But when was the last time you considered that your “stage” goes well beyond the operatory, and your performance is judged when the patient tries to make an appointment but can’t get in for several weeks or months. How well you execute is measured when the patient is dodging potholes in your dimly-lit parking lot, or dealing with your financial coordinator’s condescending attitude, or calling in late to work because you’re running behind, again.
From the patient’s standpoint, your performance is measured in every interaction with your practice, and the repercussions can be staggering. Still don’t believe me? Consider a few statistics:
• 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey
Next week: Damage control 101.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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