Why patient complaints are good for your practice
No one on your team wants to hear patients complain about the office. These complaints tend to bring team members down, and quite frankly can be a bit irritating. So instead of taking concerns seriously, team members tell themselves the patient complaining is just cranky, and doesn’t know anything about running a dental office anyway.
If this is how your team handles patient complaints, it’s hurting your practice. Think about it. If one patient has taken the time to bring up a concern, chances are other patients are experiencing the same problem—they just didn’t bother to tell you about it. Instead of ignoring them, I suggest you look at patient complaints as what they really are: an opportunity to improve.
That’s right, I’m telling you patient complaints are actually a good thing. Don’t believe me? Here are three ways patient complaints can benefit your practice:
You can fix problems you didn’t know existed. Dental offices are pretty busy places. While everyone does their best to stay on top of issues that come up with practice systems, it certainly isn’t easy. So when someone from the outside tells you about a problem, you should take the opportunity to address it.
Maybe no one realized patients routinely had to wait three weeks or more to get an appointment, and that when their appointment day finally arrived, they had to wait upwards of 30 minutes before being called back. Both issues are signs of inefficient systems, and are problems that might prompt patients to start looking for a new dental home.
When patients tell you they’re not happy about something, listen to what they’re saying and try to determine why it’s an issue. Then, develop a plan to make positive change. You’ll find your practice runs much smoother, leading to improved production numbers and a more robust bottom line.
You’ll earn patient loyalty. Patients don’t like to be ignored. If they tell you about a problem they’re experiencing, they expect you to take them seriously. If you just nod your head and smile and forget about the conversation as soon as they leave, don’t expect these patients to remain loyal to your office.
Instead of trying to end these conversations as soon as possible, find out as much as you can about the problem. Thank patients for bringing up the issue and assure them you’ll work to find a solution. This shows patients you value their input and want them to have a positive experience while visiting your practice. They’ll appreciate the effort, making them more likely to stay loyal.
Patients will refer your office more often. Referrals from happy patients represent one of the best ways to grow your practice. But if patients leave your office feeling irritated, there isn’t much chance they’re going to sing your praises to family and friends. In fact, if they’re upset enough, they might even take to social media to tell their network about the lousy experience they had.
If you really listen to patients and act on the concerns they bring up, they’ll be much more likely to leave your office happy. They’ll notice the changes the next time they come in, and will appreciate the fact you took them seriously. Your practice will be more efficient and patients will have a better experience—and that can lead to an increase in referrals. Not only do practice efficiencies improve, you’ll start to see more new patients as well.
Seek out patient complaints
Patients aren’t going to tell you every time they’re upset—which means you’re missing out on opportunities for growth. I suggest you actually seek out complaints. How? Send surveys. Ask patients about their experience and what they would improve—and then use that information to make positive changes. You can easily set this up through most patient communication systems. Trust me, the effort is well worth the valuable information you’ll receive.
How to take action
What should you do when you receive a complaint? After thanking the patient for bringing up the concern, write it down. That way, you’ll remember exactly what was said. Set aside time to talk about patient complains during team meetings. Everyone can then work together to develop a plan to address complaints.
As tempting as it is, you really shouldn’t ignore patient complaints. Instead, use them to make improvements to your practice. Your patients will be happy you did, and you’ll see a boost in both practice production and your bottom line.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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