You'll never avoid client conflicts completely, but you can face confrontations with less stress if you focus on finding the treasure in the tribulation.
No one likes confrontation and conflict, so when emotions start to rise, it's natural to feel like avoiding the situation—or to come out swinging. Unfortunately, the most natural approach isn't always the best approach—especially when you're dealing with an upset client.
Seven steps to resolving conflict
Instead, you must learn to handle conflict calmly and confidently. How? By changing your mindset. Instead of dreading confrontations with clients, think of these difficult moments as opportunities for the practice to improve the level of service it offers.
Additional sources on conflict
Positive outcomes really
result from client conflict. Consider these benefits of confrontations with clients:
Understand conflicts main ingredient: anger As your team gains confidence working with angry clients, heated confrontations will occur less often, positive outcomes will become more frequent, and the prospect of handling conflict will impact your job satisfaction less.
For example, let's say Dr. Stewart prescribed an antibiotic for Mr. Stevenson's dog, Sunny, who was fighting a stubborn urinary tract infection. As instructed, Mr. Stevenson administered the antibiotic four times per day. On the third day of treatment, he grew angry and called the practice. Mr. Stevenson told Suzanne, the receptionist, that Sunny had been vomiting since the day after he began the medication. Mr. Stevenson then demanded a different medication.
With attentive listening and gentle questioning, Suzanne discovered that Mr. Stevenson was giving the antibiotic four times per day, but he wasn't spacing the doses six hours apart. Instead, he was giving all the medication within a 16-hour period, so it was upsetting Sunny's stomach. When he began administering the medication correctly, Sunny's gastric upset subsided and the treatment was successful.
You may never enjoy dealing with dissatisfied clients, but by practicing the strategies I suggest here, you'll learn to resolve conflicts more easily. And by taking the time to dig beneath the surface, you'll find countless opportunities to make a positive difference for clients, patients, and the practice.
Cecelia Soares, DVM, MS, MA, is a veterinary communication specialist, a consultant, a speaker, and a workshop leader based in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Editors' note: For more on preventing and resolving confrontations with clients, see "When clients flare" in the June/July 1998 issue of Firstline and "Disruptive client ahead" in the June/July 1997 issue.