Handling clients' complaints about the doctor


How do I respond to a client when they badmouth a doctor to me?

Q: How do I respond to a client when they badmouth a doctor to me?

"It's important to be tactful with the client and not be critical of the doctor—even if you'd like to be," says Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. "After all, you work for the doctor and the practice. Your role is to stay neutral and not speculate about the doctor's behavior."

Dr. Karen Felsted

How do you do that? If the client complains about the doctor's rudeness, Felsted suggests that you say something like this: "I'm so sorry he came across as short-tempered. I'm sure he didn't mean to. Are there any questions you have that I can answer?"

Phrasing your words this way instead of saying "he was short-tempered" allows you to empathize with the client without agreeing that the doctor behaved badly, she says. Plus, this type of comment keeps you in a impartial position and allows you to offer additional help.

Depending on the situation, you may consider speaking privately with the doctor later, she says. "If the client always complains about everything, and this is the first complaint you've received on this matter, you may let it go," she says. "But if you think the complaint was real, you might tell the doctor, 'Mrs. Johnson complained about her conversation with you today. She said you were rude, which surprised me, because I've never seen you act rude. I thought you would want to know how she thought you came across.'" Then you can tell him how you handled the conversation with the client, Felsted says.

In a case where clients regularly complain about a doctor's behavior, consider discussing the situation with not only the offending doctor, but also the other doctors. A fellow veterinarian may be able to influence the offending doctor.

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