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Turn those frowns upside-down
Believe it or not, complaints can bond pet owners to your practice-if you handle them effectively.
Complaints are a reality of practice. How you handle them can affect client goodwill and loyalty. Here are six tips to help your staff deal with complaints effectively and diplomatically:
1. Open the door to dialogue. Have your receptionist ask, "How did everything go today?" as clients are paying the bill. When asking this question, team members should make eye contact with the client and look genuinely interested.
2. Listen actively. Employees should listen without interrupting. If appropriate, they can take notes to show they're going to follow up. When team members deal with complaints over the phone, have them acknowledge the client's points verbally to show they're paying attention.
3. Agree before responding. When an employee says, "I can understand why you're upset," it lets clients know the practice is on their side.
4. Follow through. If there's an explanation for what happened, have team members offer it. If there isn't one, it's best to admit it. Employees should explain that the mistake was unintentional and that they truly regret what happened. "I'm sorry" doesn't cut it and makes some people angrier.
5. Empower your team. Discuss with team members which rules they can bend to resolve a situation in the client's favor. If there's no obvious solution, they should tell the client, "I feel terrible about what happened. What can we do to make it up to you?" And they should be prepared to do it.
6. Take the heat. Doctors, if you're responsible for the problem, call the client to apologize. It'll send the message that you care, and that's enough to satisfy most people.
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a speaker and writer based in Roslyn, N.Y. His newest book is 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).