Techniques to Defuse Irate Patients In Your Optometric Practice

Posted by Jeff Rezabek on Tue, Jun 16, 2020 @ 10:06 AM

Most of the time, your patients are a delight to work with. However, issues can arise that turn confrontational and pit you and your optometric practice against your patient; threatening the bond that you spent years building. Although optometrists may be accustomed to making tough calls, sometimes its your optician or front desk associates that are on the frontlines. Make sure your whole team is on the same page when it comes to resolving conflicts.

Whether there’s conflict in your optical dispensary or the exam lane, work towards resolving the situation with these techniques to help your entire staff keep your patients happy.

Conflict Resolution Techniques For Your Optometric Practice

Verbal Communication TechniquesTips for resolving conflicts in your optometric practice.

When a patient comes to your practice with an issue regarding their vision, you use verbal communication to identify symptoms, uncover a diagnosis, and establish a treatment plan. But, when a patient walks into your optometric practice in anger, do you use the same communication techniques to resolve the situation before your relationship with the patient is impacted?

Resolving conflict in your practice relies on strategic communication and active listening. Try these verbal conflict resolution techniques in your optometric practice.

  • Find agreement: Getting the patient to say “yes” early and often will set a positive pattern, can identify the cause of the problem, and can resolve the conflict. To get the patient to say yes, clarify the issue by asking “The issue you’re having is with <INSERT COMPLAINT>>, correct?”
  • Show empathy: Level-setting with the patient by apologizing shows that you respect the patient and their situation. Showing sympathy for the situation can help you maintain your relationship with the patient without admitting blame or promising action.
  • Work towards resolution: Work with the patient to resolve the situation by asking first what the patient would like to happen. If the patient’s request is within reason and something you’re willing to do, let them know that you agree. However, if it’s something you can’t do, recommend an alternative that will get you closer to the patient's request.

Nonverbal Techniques

Verbal techniques can help resolve a tense conversation with a frustrated patient, however positive body language is a vital ingredient to defusing the confrontation. When you react to a difficult patient with negative body language, you indicate to the patient that you are being defensive and show signs that you don’t agree or aren’t listening to the patient’s concerns. With positive body language, you can show the patient that you are open to hearing their perspective and are on their side.

When you find yourself face-to-face with an unhappy patient, remember to use these positive nonverbal techniques:

  • Smile
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Relax your shoulders and keep arms uncrossed
  • Use welcoming hand gestures
  • Speak with a casual tone of voice

Want more tips on improving your optometric practice? Subscribe to the VisionWeb blog to keep up with the latest tips, tools, and strategies to grow your practice.


Originally published: December 2017

Tags: Resources, Customer Service

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