3 tips for tackling negative online reviews of your dental practice
And what dentists can do to prevent them from happening in the future
When was the last time you were faced with a disgruntled patient? Last week? Last month? Every dentist in every office across the country has faced a difficult patient situation at one point, and while it may be awkward or even uncomfortable to face, it falls on the dentist – as the top clinician, the business owner and the CEO of the practice – to try and resolve the situation as peacefully and positively as possible.
The good news is this: according to a 2016 study 96 percent of patient complaints result from customer-service issues rather than from clinical error1. Complaints are often subjective, not objective, and if a patient doesn’t have an existing relationship with the dentist and his or her team, it’s more likely that distrust lies at the heart of the matter, not any major clinical misstep.
While there is no way to completely avoid disgruntled patients, there are steps dentists can take to help maintain a positive, patient-centric practice atmosphere.
Surprise and delight
While most patients don’t look forward to going to the dentist, it’s certainly possible to change their perceptions, and here’s how: exceed their expectations at every opportunity. Keep appointments running on time. Utilize technology both in the chair and at the front desk. Offer affordable payment options. Maintain a clean office and a friendly staff.
Enhancing each patient’s experience builds a relationship based on respect, trust and loyalty, so that if something should happen to go wrong one time, the patient will know that the instance is the exception, not the norm, making them all the more likely to forgive the situation.
Inform before you perform
Patients are nervous enough to walk through the front door of the practice and even more so when undergoing extensive treatment. Consider how they then feel if they hear from another dentist the work was unnecessary, or when their insurance denies coverage? Unfortunately, situations like these happen often and that’s why it’s important to build that doctor-patient relationship at every opportunity, including financial discussions.
Take patients into a separate private room to discuss delicate money matters. Outline the costs. Offer alternatives to insurance. And listen to what the patients has to say to help alleviate concerns and ensure a smooth course of care both pre- and post-treatment.
Surround yourself with the right people
One of the major components of running a patient-centric practice is to hire the right staff, and having strong leadership skills are crucial in helping dentists determine whether the right or wrong people are on the team, and how to act accordingly for the overall health of the practice.
Dentists are skilled clinicians, but not all dentists are skilled communicators – and that’s okay. Hire the right people to help fill in those gaps. Look for hygienists who are charismatic as well as efficient. Hire front desk staff who exude a welcoming, friendly vibe. The office manager and financial coordinator need to be strong and authoritative without being confrontational.
Clinical skills can be learned; personality traits are inherent. Make sure every one on the team has the skills and personality to build relationships, answer questions and address concerns to help diffuse – or avoid – any potential negative situations.
Continue to page two to learn how to deal with dissatisfied patients...