Being at the front end of a practice has its charm … being able to meet and greet all the wonderful clientele of your practice who appreciate your services a whole bunch.
There are occasional moments though when things can be a bit rough, and ducking under the desk might seem like a viable option when confronted by an irate person. However, since that option doesn’t usually make them go away, let’s look at what you CAN do. This applies to angry phone calls as well.
The first thing to wrap your head around is that this person has an upset. You don’t even know with whom yet or why, and they have bottled it up and it is now overflowing onto you because you’re handy. Chances are that their upset has nothing to do with you personally. So don’t take it personally. Maybe this is how they deal with everything in their life.
Another thing to understand is that when someone is angry, they are not always coherent or accurate in their details. There is often a tendency to blow things out of proportion or be irrational. Arguing with them is definitely not going to solve the matter either.
Here are some suggestions:
- Right off the bat, get interested in finding out how to help the person. Realize that they DO need help with something and you could be the one to get them that help. Listening in a very interested way is often all that the angry person needs.
- After you have let them say their piece (while you listen interestedly), acknowledge them very thoroughly so they know they’ve been heard. For example, “Gosh, so sorry to hear that!” or “Wow, I totally understand what you are saying!” Just doing that much may at that point calm them down, just knowing you are really listening to them and are not going to attack back.
- At this point, if it is at all possible, take the person to a quiet space away from reception to sit down and discuss the matter fully. This is not always possible if you are the only person at the front though. If it is a phone call you are dealing with, it might be a good option to show how much you want to resolve the matter by inviting them to come to the office for an in-person meeting to discuss the situation.
- Collect all the details you can from the person. Don’t be defensive or justify why it happened or make excuses. When a person is angry, that’s like inviting a wolf to a steak dinner. It will fuel the fire. Just calmly collect the information you need so you can determine what can be done about the situation.
- Thank them very much for informing you of the difficulty or situation. Do not commit the practice owner to anything at this point. Let the person know that you will go over this with the owner (or appropriate person) and get back to them quickly (the faster, the better).
By the way, if the person is on the phone and being extremely abusive no matter what you say, you can let them know that if they continue to be abusive, you will hang up on them. And if they continue, hang up.
The front desk staff sometimes has to smooth ruffled feathers on bills and fees, especially when it comes time to pay and the patient or client wasn’t fully informed before the treatment. They can be a little shocked or surprised. Apply the same techniques as above.
Remember, listening in a caring and interested way often handles most of the upset and brings it into a calmer realm where it can be logically worked out.
Hope this information is not needed too often, but here it is if you do!