Managing Patient Complaints and Controlling Your Dental Practice’s Valuable Reputation
Let’s start with a scenario. You’re out to dinner at the newest, hottest restaurant in town. When you’re greeted by the hostess, she mixes up your reservation and you end up waiting 45 minutes for your table and are never offered an apology or even a drink while you wait. You eventually sit down, but the waiter is unfriendly and your food takes forever to arrive, and when it finally does it is undercooked and poorly prepared. At the end of the meal, your bill comes but the waiter accidentally charges you double for your appetizer and you spend an extra ten minutes sorting out the tab. After everything is settled, you get up and head home in a huff.
Now what would you likely do after a dining experience like this? You probably would want to express your frustrations by telling your friends and family about the poor service, the bad meal, and the overall disappointing impression the restaurant left on you. As a result, the restaurant’s reputation would be irreversibly damaged around the community and by word of mouth alone; the restaurant would likely lose numerous potential customers.
So what does this scenario have anything to do with dentistry and dental office business practices? The point we are illustrating is how important it is to control your reputation and encourage feedback (positive or negative!) from your patients. It is also critical to provide an obvious and easily accessible place for your patients to voice their concerns, offer suggestions, or submit a complaint about their dental experience.
And while patient complaints and poor experiences are likely few and far between at your practice, the last thing you want is to have an unsatisfied patient (like the restaurant customer) leave your office and have no other outlet then friends and family (potential clients!) to voice their frustrations. You want these patients to come to you first so that you can address their concerns, correct the situation, and learn from your mistakes. After all, in a business like dentistry where reputation is everything, you can’t afford to have patients tarnishing your image by complaining to the same people that make up your client base.
So how can dentists control their reputation?
We suggest having a clear spot in your office, preferably around your front desk or reception area where patients can drop a note and leave feedback about their experience. We also encourage dentists to have a place on their website where patients can go to offer suggestions, ask questions about their bill, discuss a past visit etc. A friendly reminder on your billing statements that patients should contact you first if they have any questions or concerns regarding their experience is always a great way to encourage feedback as well.
This way your patients will feel more comfortable offering their feedback (especially if it is negative) by not having to voice their concerns to you face to face and will be less inclined to vent to their friends and family about a poor experience. We also believe that by having an open line of communication with your patients, patients will ultimately have a more positive experience, and you will build a happier, more loyal client base as a result. And as is well known in debt collection, the happy customer is the one that pays. For example, if a patient has fallen on hard times and is struggling to keep up with expenses they will inevitably have to choose which bills to pay first. And it is only human nature to want to rectify relationships which are currently most valuable to them. Don’t give them an easy excuse to move YOUR bill to the bottom of the pile – such as a recent bad experience which could have easily been prevented. Dental offices need to do everything they can to ensure a positive patient experience.
So while we hope that your office is not getting flooded with patient complaints, we do hope that you are providing a place to for patients to do so if they feel so inclined. Patient feedback, again both positive and negative, is a great way to improve your business practices and create a more positive patient experience. And like we said, in dentistry reputation is everything – so make sure you’re taking control of yours today.
YOUR TURN: What do you think? Do you agree that if patients are encouraged to come to you first that they will be less likely to complain to others in the community and consequently damage your reputation? What else can dentists do to control their public image? We want to hear from you!
No Legal Advice Intended: This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I.C. System, Inc. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal issues.