June 13, 2016
Inside: Difficult patients t
You can’t please everyone. That might be a tired cliche, but it’s still true. It’s especially true for retailers, and even truer for pharmacies. A long wait time. A failed prior authorization. An outdated prescription. A system or technician error. Simply a bad day. There’s no end to the things that can go wrong or be taken wrongly and turn a typical patient into a difficult patient.
How you respond to the inevitably disgruntled patient can either bolster or batter your bottom line.
Not only can dissatisfied patients cost you their own business, they could potentially cost you the business of their friends and family. If they choose to share their experience with others, especially online, their negative review could harm your pharmacy’s good reputation and the possibility for business with new patients.
When a patient is angry or disappointed, it can seem difficult or impossible to turn his negative experience into a positive one. By taking a few well-planned steps, you and your pharmacy employees can turn a negative experience into an example of excellent customer service.
Here’s a step-by-step guide you can use the next time you encounter a difficult patient.
Just as fire feeds on fire, anger thrives on anger. Keep your cool to cool the flame. A calm, collected attitude is like a fresh douse of water, while an irritable attitude is like kindling. Even if you’re burning inside, make sure to keep it hidden. Your body language and facial expressions can communicate as much as words.
But keeping calm is easier said than done. Try these tricks to stay cool in the moment:
The step of empathy makes a world of difference. You don’t know this patient’s story. It could be a single mother managing meds for her disabled child. It could be recently laid off husband. It could simply be someone who just got a driving ticket on the way in. In any case, imagining they’re struggling and putting yourself in their shoes will help your anger subside enough to listen.
This is the simplest and sometimes hardest step, especially if the patient is obnoxious or clearly in the wrong.
Even if you already understand the situation and even a solution, listen actively to what the patient says. Listening demonstrates you care.
Be aware of what signals your body language is portraying. Nodding your head, making eye contact, and keeping your arms down communicate complete and undivided attention.
When the patient finishes speaking, repeat back to them what you heard. This conflict strategy used by c-suite executives and ground-floor counselors alike does double duty: it verifies you understood them so you can address the real issue and it makes them feel heard, which makes them less hostile.
Once you’ve gathered all the information about the situation, the next step is to identify the problem and acknowledge any mistake you or your employees may have made.
Work with the angry patient to identify the issue and pinpoint what upset her. Was it the long wait that frustrated her? Or was it that she wasn’t informed there would be a long wait? Once you’ve determined the issue, acknowledge the mistake. Sometimes, simply recognizing that someone messed up can repair the relationship with your patient.
Don’t forget to apologize for any inconvenience it caused her, and thank her for her business. These small gestures will help repair the damaged relationship by letting the upset patient know you really do appreciate and care about keeping her happy.
Don’t let the issue go unresolved. Suggest ways to fix the problem that both solves the issue and satisfies the patient.
Being a problem-solver for your patients will not only show them that you value their business, but it can also strengthen your relationships with them. Once they know you can solve their problems, they might turn to you for help with other health care issues.
After you fix the problem, consider offering a small gesture of compensation, such as a discount off a front-end purchase. This can help smooth over any leftover hurt feelings and rebuild your credibility.
Once you’ve fixed the problem, examine your pharmacy’s procedures to create a solution that prevents the same mistake from occurring in the future.
For example, maybe that long line of patients is a sign you need to hire another staff member to make sure patients don’t have long wait times in the future. Or, if wait times for pharmacist consultations have ballooned, consider adding automation so that your staff has more time to focus on duties robotics can’t do.
Keep patients happy by providing them with an outstanding customer service experience every time they visit your pharmacy.