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Pissed Off Patients


Dear Sharyn

Occasionally, we have patients who are unhappy with us – usually because we have miscalculated their insurance benefits or because we can’t get them an appointment on the day and time they want. I can hear my front desk employee get flustered when this happens. She usually ends up arguing with the patient. I don’t know how to guide her. What do you suggest?

D.V., OH

Dear D.V.,

The first mistake we make when someone is upset with us is we tell them why they shouldn’t be upset.  We overwhelm them with facts, logic and our good intentions as reasons why the other person shouldn’t feel the way they do. Predictably, this only inflames the other person. However, your team can use a verbal structure called the Sad/Glad formula to defuse complaints and improve patient relationships.

Sad/Glad Formula

  1.  I can see how frustrating/confusing it is to get an unexpected bill.
  2. I’m so sad/sorry you’ve had this experience with us.
  3. So, I can understand the full picture, is there anything else we’ve done that’s disappointed you?
  4. I’m glad you’ve shared all this with me, I appreciate it. Here is what I can do to help.

Note a few interesting things about this verbiage. It begins with compassion about how the patient may feel.  The apology statement is that you regret that the patient is unhappy.  The question asking if there is anything else that has upset the patient alerts you to any other customer service issues that has affected this patient. The “glad” statement shows you want to improve and enables the patient to be more open to hearing your logic and facts.  

Using this formula can help patients be more open to your logic and create an agreement for the future.

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Inspired Us to Dream Bigger, and it Works

“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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