The last thing patients with complaints want to hear you say is: “You’re wrong.” What they want to hear is that you understand them, appreciate them and agree with them on the importance of the value they have cited in their complaint, according to educator and Bloomberg Businessweek columnist Ron Kaufman.
The author of Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet, Kaufman has consulted on customer service in many of the world’s largest and most respected organizations, including Singapore Airlines, Nokia Siemens Networks, Citibank, Microsoft and Xerox.
Here are five quick scripts for responding to customer complaints, provided by Kaufman and adapted to medical practice scenarios:
Complaint: rude service
When your patient says: “Your staff was rude and totally unprofessional.”
You say: “You are right to expect courteous, respectful and professional staff.”
Complaint: too many rules
When your patient says: “Your policies are rigid. Your practice is so bureaucratic.”
You say: “I agree that we should be as flexible and user-friendly as possible. Your suggestions can really help.”
Complaint: services overpriced
When your patient says: “This isn’t anything like what I was promised. And your price is way too high!”
You say: “I am on your side in this situation. You have a right to be satisfied with whatever service you receive from us. You deserve good value for your money. Let’s review and see if there’s a better option for you.”
Complaint: services too slow
When your patient says: “I’ve been waiting forever. Why did it take you so long?”
You say: “We understand that in today’s world speed counts. You deserve fast, friendly service.”
Complaint: bad website
When your patient says: “Your website is terrible. I couldn’t find the information I needed.”
You say: “You are right to want an informative, user-friendly website. What information couldn’t you find? Your suggestions on how to improve the site are a big help.”
Notice how your responses make the customer feel right. Don’t argue over the facts: rude staff, stiff policies or insufficient service. Kaufman emphasizes that you and your patient should actively agree on the importance of what they value most.
Counter to the popular saying, the customer is not always right. But, according to Kaufman, customers are always important, and you can make them feel much better by agreeing with them on the importance of the service dimensions they identify and value.