Written By LouAnn Allen
Practice Administrator, Facial Surgery Group
“Just let a smile be your umbrella on a rainy, rainy day!” so goes the opening line of a show tune. In my 25+ years in oral surgery I have had my share of “rain on my parade patients” even on the sunniest of days! You know the ones. Patients who want to make an appointment, but it has to work with their schedule which just happens to be every day on your schedule that is already filled. Next, they can’t locate their calendar, insurance information or their ex-spouses’ information (because they aren’t on speaking terms). All the while, there is chaos in the background and the caller shouts into your ear at the kids or the dog. Then there is the patient who gets their statement and thinks yelling loudly will encourage you to write off their balance. If you are working in dentistry, you’ve heard these scenarios and ten others. You can either throw up your hands and mirror their behavior or accept the challenge to flip this situation around and create a positive outcome.
How do you accomplish such a task?
First and foremost, put a smile on your face, even if you are on the phone and they can’t see you. It really is hard to be grumpy to someone when you have a great big smile on their face. I’ve made it a habit to answer every call beaming from ear to ear. We never know who or what will greet us on the other end of the line. The same goes when I am summoned to a room to talk with a patient who “has a complaint”. Flashing a big smile and giving them a warm greeting melts the hearts of even the biggest grouch. It truly disarms them. Next, speak as calmly as you can. Unless they have a hearing problem, use soft, even tones. The person who is yelling or blustering around will naturally lower their tone too. I get a real sense of satisfaction from how often this works. Usually, by the time I hang up the phone or leave the room, the patient and I have found workable solutions. My super power is refusing to let the situation escalate. The individual has no idea that I have just taken complete control of the situation. In the end, this will be the very person that will refer 10 people your way because of the great customer service YOU gave them.
Smile! You’ve got this!!