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This Week’s Question: Dealing with the Unhappy Patient
For the most part, I have nice patients who are reasonable and pleasant to work with. Some of them have given me great reviews but I have these two bad reviews that will not go away.
Long story short, these patients had unrealistic expectations and, no matter what I tried to do to make them happy (or at least not unhappy), they preferred to bad mouth me online.
How can I make an unhappy patient happy before it gets to the point where they are complaining about me online?
Hello Dr. O,
Thank you for a great question. And, I am sorry for the position you are in.
Thanks to Reviews, YouTube, and social media, it is too easy today for an unhappy patient to blast you, your credibility and your reputation. A bad review takes the unhappy patient minutes to write but follows you around for years.
That makes it necessary to anticipate and continually improve upon all aspects of the patient experience with you because it’s not about just that one consultation, treatment or procedure they have with you.
It’s about setting up processes so that the prospective patient is so satisfied with their experience and result, they become a loyal patient who returns again and again and brings their friends with them.
But what do you do with the occasion unhappy patient? How do you make them happy?
Here are proven strategies to turn them around:
Show Them You Care
The majority of cosmetic patients rarely badmouth you IF they feel a connection with you. Most of them would actually be quite forgiving if they felt that you cared about them.
For example, the cosmetic patient has got to feel as important after they pay you as they felt before they paid you.
You never want them to feel dismissed by having someone else see them for their post op appointments and having only your staff call them to see how they’re doing. That means:
YOU make the follow-up call to
YOU see them for their post-op appointment
YOU give them your cell phone for emergencies
Even though you’re super busy, taking minutes out of your day/evening here can save you many hours and dollars down the road.
Hear them out.
Oftentimes, the patient just needs to vent – for whatever reason. If you let them, it can diffuse 80% of their anger so they calm down and are now in a rational state to talk and come up with solutions.
You don’t have to agree, dispute or negotiate what they are saying.
Keep your ego in check. Although the patient may be attacking your skills or integrity, keep your cool and remember the objective here is to neutralize the unhappy patient so they don’t damage your reputation.
Find Out What They Want
Now it’s time to find out what they want. Ask a simple question like, “Sara, I’m sorry you’re not happy with (me, staff, result). What is it you want me to do for you?”
Did you notice you are NOT admitting guilt here. You are simply acknowledging their feelings.
There’s a good chance it’s going to be easier to appease them than you thought. If it is something reasonable, why not give it to them and move on?
If the unhappy patient wants more than that, like a refund, it’s best to contact your lawyer to draw up an agreement to go with it so they agree not to talk about you online or offline.
More helpful insights about handling cosmetic patients are in my book, Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying.
How do you deal with unhappy patients?
She is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on cash practice building and trains staff to be converting rock stars.