Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or MultiMedia Healthcare, LLC.
Garden Musings: “Every man is a darn fool for at least five minutes out of every day. Wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.” —Elliott Hubbard
In winter, I purchased perennials to showcase the purple flowers on my tree-like butterfly bush. And then it bloomed white. I decided I might be becoming like the patient who emphatically insists, “These are not the glasses I ordered! I distinctly remember they were…”
Unless my mischievous garden fairies have moved into your optical lab and changed spectacle lens design details or the model number or color of the frame, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt the patient is confused. What happens next either wins the practice a patient for life or opens the door for more nasty online reviews than I have blooms on my purple (oh yes, it is white) small flowering tree.
Sometimes, people take your ophthalmic practice's prescription and buy glasses online or at a discount outlet. They post that they are cheaper than your practice’s. Price is an issue when value has not been established. Rewarding confusion or complaints with fast, accurate and polite service is why the patient buys from you and not online. They want a living, breathing human who understands and forgives memory lapses.
Counter with kindness, empathy and solutions
One way to add value to irate patient encounters is to smoothly execute a VIP, hands-on way of treating the complaining patient. “Wait,” you say. “The upset patient isn’t my fault. They were wrong!”
I agree, the patient who forgets what he or she ordered is probably wrong. This is why it is a golden opportunity to do something a virtual selling site can never do!
Listen to how the confused patient feels. Not getting what is expected stirs up lots of emotions (surprise, frustration, anxiety) I want you to encourage him or her to be honest: “WOW, this is a surprise. Tell me what you remember about your order.”
Sometimes, in an effort to demonstrate no error was made by the practice, employees or doctors jump straight to the facts and empirical evidence. Stop and listen to understand. You are trying to form a relationship with the patient, not ace a test.
Letting the upset patient speak first demonstrates respect. It allows him or her to speak without feeling manipulated. Because you work in a service job, irate patients come with the territory. What the patient is upset about usually isn’t your fault. But they don’t care about that. They are just mad, and you represent the practice that is causing all the misery.
Whenever you encounter an angry or defensive patient you have a choice. Are you helpful or indifferent?