How does one experience result in a service breakdown? I think sometimes the breakdown comes from both sides. As an example, I went to the clinic to make an appointment. I was in a good mood, smiling, happy it was Friday. The receptionist didn’t even look up. She kept her eyes on the clipboard on her desk and asked in a curt tone, “how can I help you?” I told her I needed to schedule a physical with my doctor for 5pm (the clinic closes at 7). She looked at me this time– still no smile– and said, “no, no, we don’t schedule physicals for that time. We only schedule them at 10, 1 and 3. My good mood was fading fast. I told her I work and can’t take time off. She didn’t care. She said I needed to figure out something and that it wasn’t her problem. Not her problem? I was now livid. I would have started screaming at her, but I stopped myself and stormed out. After enjoying a good mood, I became a difficult patient and this entire conversation resulted in a service breakdown. Why?
To best answer this question, you have to play devil’s advocate, observe the goings on of the other side, and learn things you might not already know about how your patients react, think, and feel. Usually, I focus on the dentists, but this time, I’m going to focus on you– the dental receptionist, the office manager– superheroes in the office, juggling patients, paperwork, and technology.
It is fair to say that customer service is not an easy position to be in. There is a lot of giving and take. You have to be patient and empathetic but also firm and assertive. You have to be a mind reader and a mind manipulator, but you’re also human. You feel anger, frustration, annoyance and irritation. You can become stressed and stretched too thin. And this is when service breakdowns like the one above can occur. Your stress and agitation overpower your want to provide excellent customer service. It may only be the one time, but once is enough. It is also when the ability to do your job correctly is suddenly questioned by the patients in reviews online and off. In this post, I’m going to take the most common negative reviews and break them down to find out what is really going on behind the scenes and how you can best tackle these issues to stop a service breakdown in its tracks.
“Too much upselling”
This seems to be a common theme among unsatisfied patients and I’d like to look at the concept of upselling for a moment. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, “Upselling is the act of trying to persuade a customer who is already buying something to buy more, or to buy something more expensive.” It is known as a common business technique and we have all used or come across it at one point or another. Cashiers with the company’s own credit card, car salespeople with a newer more expensive vehicle. Upselling isn’t bad, it’s all in how the strategy is being used that can considerably change its intention.
Keep the conversation patient-focused and informative. You’re not selling a product, you’re helping a patient. Utilize patient education to get your message across more thoroughly. Your intention is to provide patients with a treatment that will benefit their oral health, and in the long run, their health overall. It no longer sounds to them like too much upselling; it sounds like a concern.
It is highly unlikely that this is in any way true. But even I was angry enough to question the competence of the receptionist at the clinic. So where is this even coming from? First off, for me, it was an emotional response to being treated as though I didn’t matter. It came from miscommunication and a lack of empathy. Not being able to understand why I couldn’t make an appointment in the middle of the day and furthermore not caring or offering any kind of solution signals a lack of communication. It also made it impossible for either of us to compromise as we were both overcome with negative feelings. She was frustrated and I was angry.
The solution here to be the bigger person. I know that a difficult patient can trigger all kinds of negative emotions, but the best solution is to “kill with kindness”. Practicing empathy and effective communication skills can help you to understand what your patient is asking and even provide you and your patient with the opportunity to compromise on a level playing field. It is also important to practice transparency with your patients. Be completely honest with them about everything, including costs, up front so they don’t think they are suddenly being blindsided.
These two words emerge a lot in negative reviews and they can be fairly damaging. In my example with the clinic receptionist, she avoided eye contact almost the entire time, refused to smile once, and delivered the news to me with little to no room for compromise. When I left there, the first thing that came to mind, even before incompetent, was a bad attitude. Even if you don’t mean to and it just slips, out of stress or frustration, it can result in a negative review with these two boldfaced words as the headline.
Check your attitude at the door. If you are stressed or frustrated because your day is going sideways or you are extremely overwhelmed with tasks, it’s time to take a break and back away from the situation. If your patient comes in with a negative attitude, pull the rug out from under them by being nice, by listening as they rant, and by offering a solution that will benefit the patient and the practice.
Related article: Effective Ways to Eliminate a Negative Attitude from Your Practice
This word has been used quite a bit in negative reviews online and offline and if you’re wondering what it means in this context, most patients have defined it as being pushed into accepting certain treatments, certain costs, and extras without being given a choice. This does go hand-in-hand with too much upselling. So what’s going on here? Again, this all comes down to communication.
My dad has a keen ear when it comes to sales people and he knows when they are attempting to con him into getting something he doesn’t need and can’t afford. The problem with some salespeople is their pitch. They don’t sound like they are buying what they’re selling. Once my dad asked the salesperson pitching him if he would buy the product. The salesperson was so taken aback by the question that without words he revealed his answer. No. He didn’t believe in the product; he was just selling it.
I know your intentions are good, but just like my dad with the salesperson, patients can see through the facade to what’s really going on. Which is why this facade cannot exist. If you are sincerely concerned for the patient and want them to live a healthier and longer life, they will see that concern and that sincerity and respond positively to it. Use patient education and good communication skills. Listen and be empathetic and let the patient decide whether or not a treatment is right for them. Most likely, with your help, they will choose to take your word for it.
Consider this . . .
Now that you have taken a look behind the curtain of some of the more common negative reviews, it’s time to consider some important questions. At the start of this post, I told you a story about my not-so-great experience with a receptionist at the clinic. How would you have done things differently? What would you have said or done to change the conversation and the resolution? Do you have any stories to share about how you cleverly avoided a service breakdown? Let us know in the comments section below.