How ignoring patient complaints hurts your bottom line

2014 10 28 15 00 54 287 Mc Kenzie Sally 200

No one wants to deal with patient complaints, but ignoring them certainly won't do your practice any good. In fact, if you're not listening to what your patients have to say, it's likely costing your practice money.

Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

When a patient complains, don't look at it as an annoyance -- think of it as an opportunity to improve your practice and grow your bottom line. After all, if one patient isn't happy about something, chances are other patients feel the same way; they're just not taking the time to tell you about it. Listen to these complaints and use them to make positive change.

Still don't think you need to take patient complaints seriously? Here's how ignoring patient concerns is hurting your bottom line.

You're losing referrals

Referrals are a great way to grow your practice and your bottom line, but patients are only going to refer your practice if they're happy with the experience. If they bring up a concern and you brush them off, I can guarantee you they won't be singing your praises to family and friends -- and that costs your practice thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

“Let them know you're taking their concerns seriously, and thank them for bringing the problem to your attention.”

And remember, unhappy patients talk, too. If they don't feel like you value them as a patient or take their concerns seriously, they won't hesitate to tell family and friends to avoid your practice -- in person and via social media.

When patients complain, listen. Let them know you're taking their concerns seriously and thank them for bringing the problem to your attention. Apologize, then do your best to address their concern. This will show your patients you value them and care about their experience, making them much more likely to recommend your practice to others.

Once loyal patients don't come back

When you don't take patient concerns seriously you not only lose the opportunity for referrals, you also lose loyal patients. Your patients want to go to a dentist they can trust and who they know values their business. If you or your team members ignore their concerns, you're telling them you don't really care about their experience or their opinion -- and that, dear doctor, is a good way to send them to the practice down the street.

Remember, most unhappy patients won't tell you why they're unhappy. They'll just find a new dental home and leave you wondering why they never came back. The ones who take the time to voice their concerns are the loyal patients who already feel a connection to your practice. But when you don't take their concerns seriously, chances are they'll take those loyalties to another dentist. This hurts your patient retention numbers and your bottom line.

You're missing out on an opportunity for growth

When patients bring up their concerns, they're likely pointing out something you and your team members didn't even know was a problem. You should look at this as an opportunity to grow and make the improvements you need to help your practice meet its full potential.

For instance, are patients unhappy because they had to wait three weeks to get an appointment? Talk with your scheduling coordinator about ways to get these patients on the schedule sooner. Do patients complain about your lack of evening hours? Think about extending your hours one day a week, or even opening the practice for a few hours on Saturday morning.

I know patient complaints can be annoying, but it's time to start looking at them as the gift they are. Write down every complaint you receive and talk about how you can address them during team meetings. Think about sending patient surveys to get even more feedback. Most patient communication systems make it easy to send out these types of surveys. I suggest putting a team member in charge of patient surveys and using the feedback you get to improve practice efficiencies and grow your bottom line.

It's easier to roll your eyes and shrug your shoulders when a patient complains, but this type of attitude will only hurt your practice. It's time for you and your team members to start taking patient complaints seriously. Once you do, you'll not only have happier patients, you'll increase practice productivity, improve patient retention, and grow your bottom line.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, which offers educational and management products available at Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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