We’ve all dealt with angry patients and it’s always a challenge, whether it’s a face-to-face encounter, over the phone, or in a post written on Yelp or another online review site. Here are 10 tips to help you deal with these situations.
1 Stay Calm
Count to 10, take a deep breath (or several) and remain composed no matter what the patient says. If you become angry or defensive it will escalate the situation.
2 Listen Actively
- Let the patient share their concern without interrupting.
- Nod, make eye contact, and use verbal cues like, “I see,” “I hear what you’re saying,” and the like. You aren’t agreeing with their interpretation of the event that is upsetting them: you are listening to their side of things.
- Restate to be sure you understand what the patient is upset about: “What you’re saying is ________________, is that correct?”
3 Empathize with the Patient
Even if you do not agree with the patient, you can express acknowledgement of their feelings and frustration by saying things like, “I understand why you’re upset,” and again restating what the patient has said to you.
4 Apologize Without Accepting Fault
Even if the problem isn’t your fault, sincerely apologize for the inconvenience or frustration that the patient has experienced. “I’m sorry this has happened” is a way to apologize without accepting blame.
5 Avoid Blaming the Patient
Remember the old adage, “The customer is always right”? Even if they aren’t, place the focus on finding a solution instead of assigning blame.
6 Ask Questions
Asking open-ended (not “yes” and “no”) questions to find out the root cause of the patient’s issue. “What would you like to see happen?” is often a good one.
7 Offer Solutions
If possible, offer several options to help the patient feel that they have some control over the matter. If you cannot come to a mutually satisfying resolution, at least you have the knowledge that you did your best to satisfy the patient.
8 Own It If It’s Yours
If the problem was indeed created by you or a staff member, own up to it. Anyone can make a mistake and patients, like all customers, appreciate accountability.
9 Follow Up
Once you and the patient have resolved the patient’s issue, follow up later to confirm that they are satisfied. This shows the patient that you value their feedback and that you are committed to providing excellent service.
10 Learn from Experience
Think about the problem later on, after the dust has settled. Are there office issues that need to be addressed? System issues such as a technology problem? How can you prevent similar problems in the future?
The Bottom Line
Every patient is different. What works with one may not work with another. Some people are never satisfied and just need to vent, whether in-person or online. Commitment to identifying a resolution will take you a long way to successfully dealing with angry patients.