6 Steps for Dealing with Patient Complaints

Patient complaints are opportunities to improve service. Here’s how to effectively deal with complaints in your radiology department.

During a recent employee review, we were discussing the importance of patient complaints for improving imaging operations. I emphasized the fact that complaints are golden. Those customers who share their concerns with us are those who share with us opportunities to improve our service. Silence is never golden in a customer service industry and the absence of complaints does not mean there is an absence of dissatisfaction.    

I have listened to and dealt with my share of patient concerns. In dealing with customer complaints I have found this six step process to be very effective.

1. Listen. As simple as it sounds, it is your first step in dealing with the complaint effectively.   Customers often just want to vent their frustrations. While listening, it is very important to control your emotions. Do not become defensive. Concentrate only on listening. Your goal is service recovery and customer retention.

2. Repeat. Summarize what the customer said so they know you were listening.

3. Apologize. I am often amazed by how powerful this one word is.   After saying, “I apologize,” it’s amazing how quickly a conversation often defuses. This one word is what the customer is listening for.

4. Acknowledge. This is where you demonstrate to the customer that you understand the existence, truth and facts of their complaint. In this step you are sending the message to the customer that you are in receipt of their information.

5. Explain. Tell the customer what you are going to do and when are you going to get back to them. For example in reference to a bill: “I am going to review the bill in detail and I will call you Thursday afternoon to discuss with you.” Make sure you give yourself adequate time to investigate any complaint, and it is of paramount importance you call the patient back on the day you told them you would. There also will be times when the customer does not want a return phone call; they just want you to look into the matter.
6. Thank the customer. I always thank the customer for taking the time out of their busy day to talk with me and for bringing this matter to my attention.  

When taking complaints also remember these important items:

• Don’t take it personally.
• Remain calm-listen carefully.
• Focus on the problem, not the person.
• Reward yourself after dealing with a difficult matter.