Do's and don'ts for customer service: Turn complaints into quality improvements

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No matter how hard you and your team try, you will sometimes disappoint patients. Complaints may be unfair, the problems may have been beyond your control, and patients' may show disrespect toward you or a staff member, but your reaction must nevertheless be controlled. Think of any criticism as a clue to how you can improve the quality of service you provide, and try not to take it personally.


Respond immediately and sincerely. Train your staff to respond to any complaint in a thorough and professional manner. This should include asking for an explanation of the problem, taking notes about it, and bringing you into the conversation as soon as possible. Genuine concern about what happened should be demonstrated at all times, and the patient should be assured that the issue will be addressed.


Don't forget to thank those who've complained for helping you make improvements. Whether there's a real problem or just a perception of one, make whatever changes are needed to alleviate it. Then contact the patient personally by phone, email, or letter to apologize again for the problem, express your thanks for calling attention to it, and explain exactly what you have done to solve it. In this way, a dissatisfied patient will usually be converted into a strong advocate for your practice.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the chairman and CEO of practice management consulting firm Levin Group. You can connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn more strategies and share ideas. Also, check out Dr. Levin's free practice management videos at

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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