By Sally McKenzie, contributing writer

January 3, 2019 -- Most dental teams don't want to deal with patient complaints. They listen politely as patients describe whatever problem they're having, but they never take any action. Instead, they shrug off the complaint and convince themselves the patient was just having a bad day

As we head into 2019, now is the time to start taking patient complaints seriously and use them to benefit your practice. Think about it. If one patient voices a concern, there are likely others who feel the same way -- they just didn't take the time to tell you. Instead of seeing patient complaints as a nuisance, you should start looking at them as a gift. They give you the opportunity to improve your practice and earn patient loyalty in the process.

4 ways

Believe it or not, patient complaints can help you grow your practice. Here are four ways you can use them to your advantage in 2019 and beyond:

1. You can improve your practice systems

Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

Issues that you're just not aware of are likely holding your practice back. Patient complaints bring these issues to your attention and enable you to fix broken systems.

Let's say, for example, patients routinely have to wait at least four weeks to see you when they try to schedule an appointment. This might prompt even your most loyal patients to call another practice to see if they can get in sooner. If a patient lets you know this is a problem, you can work with your scheduling coordinator to reduce that wait time, so you can start better meeting your patients' needs -- and keep them from scheduling an appointment at the practice down the street.

Broken systems are a practice killer. When patients point out problems, use it as an opportunity to improve struggling systems and the overall patient experience.

2. You'll likely end up with more referrals

Unhappy patients often don't come back, and they certainly don't refer. In some cases, they might even tell family and friends to avoid your practice, which doesn't exactly do much to help with practice growth.

When patients complain to you or any of your team members, listen to what they have to say and let them know you're working to address the issue. They'll appreciate you acknowledging their concern and taking the appropriate steps to find a solution -- making them more likely to stay loyal and even refer down the road.

Another benefit? Your practice will become more efficient. Team members will be happier to come to work each day, and this will show in the way they interact with patients. Problems that once held the practice back go away, leading to increased productivity and higher patient satisfaction. Bottom line: Your patients will be happier, and that means they'll be more likely to sing your praises to family and friends.

3. You'll earn loyalty and grow your patient base

“If one patient voices a concern, there are likely others who feel the same way.”

No one likes to be ignored. If you shrug off patient complaints, you miss out on opportunities for improvement and also upset your patients in the process, all but ensuring that they will start looking for a new dental home.

Let patients know you value their opinion and want to create an exceptional experience for them while they're in your office. Thank them for bringing issues to your attention, and let them know you'll start working on a solution right away. Then actually do it. This shows patients you value their business and want to provide them with the best care possible. And that, of course, leads to loyalty.

4. It brings the team together

Dealing with patient complaints can actually help make your team stronger. How? I suggest you and your team members write down every patient complaint you receive, then go over them during staff meetings. Everyone can then work together to find solutions to the issues brought up and come up with ways to improve the practice. This promotes collaboration among team members, not to mention does wonders for practice productivity and your bottom line.

To get the most out of patient complaints, I also suggest you actively seek them out. Task a team member with soliciting patient feedback via surveys that inquire about the patient experience and how they think the practice can do better. If you use the data to make positive change, you'll start seeing some amazing results. And it's pretty easy to get this valuable feedback. Surveys can be sent through most patient communication systems.

No one wants to hear about what they're doing wrong, but patient complaints offer insights into problems you didn't even know existed while also giving you the opportunity to make corrections. Chalking complaints up to someone having a bad day is a mistake. Use complaints to make improvements to your practice, and you'll grow your patient base and your bottom line in 2019.

Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or 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.

Copyright © 2019

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