Like any courteous patient, you arrive for your 11:00 a.m. appointment 15 minutes in advance and take a seat next to a stack of this month’s magazines and directly across from the waiting room TV displaying the local news station.
By the middle of your first magazine, you glance uneasily at the clock, which now reads 11:15. Fifteen more minutes pass and you’re still seated in the same spot, on your second magazine and growing more frustrated by the minute.
At 11:45, the door opens and the nurse yells your name. This is the first time you’ve been acknowledged since signing in at 10:45. You gather your things, try to hide your frustration and walk over to the nurse thinking, “It’s about time.”
Sound familiar? At one time or another, we’ve all experienced a similar situation and left vowing never to return. As business and/or practice owners, we never want patients to experience this.
Even with the best planning, things will inevitably happen which cause you to run behind schedule. How you handle the situation with your patients determines your success or failure in their eyes.
Here is a simple patient principle that’s foundational to your success: People get antsy when they start to feel invisible.
NO ONE likes to feel invisible, and we must not create an opportunity for a delayed patient to think, “They don’t even know or care that they are making me wait.” How? Simply acknowledge the fact that you know you are behind and the patient’s wait has not gone unnoticed. If this is done promptly, you are well on your way to delivering exemplary service.
The following actions can prevent a great deal of patient frustration if taken the moment you begin running behind schedule:
- Verbally acknowledge each and every patient.
- Be honest. Explain to your patients that you are running a bit behind schedule and offer a reasonable estimate of their wait time. (this is especially important if the cause of a delay is another patient. You would want the doctor taking extra time with you if necessary, right?)
- Provide options. Ask your patient if it is more convenient for you to reschedule them or if they wish to wait.
- If he or she chooses to wait, offer coffee, water or something else to make the wait more enjoyable.
- If the patient chooses to reschedule, offer a similar gift as condolences for their troubles. Maybe there’s a restaurant next door, and you can give the patient a gift card to have lunch on you for the inconvenience. Starbucks cards are always a welcome gift, and they don’t have to be expensive.
- Provide them updates if the time delay increases or decreases.
So no more invisible patients! Following these proactive steps when delayed will go miles toward creating positive ambassadors for your practice at a very minimal cost of your time and money. It’s better to give a $10 gift card now than live with the headache of frustrated patients and poor Google reviews in the future.
Think of a time you’ve had a situation where you got behind and had to deal with angry patients. What did you do? Did it work or did it blow up in your face? What other ways have you found to best deal with unhappy patients? Share in the comments below!