Managing angry patients

September 1, 2010

Angry customers are a fact of life for any retailer, including optical dispensaries.

Angry customers are a fact of life for any retailer, including optical dispensaries. Whether their glasses aren't ready on time or the optometrist is running late for their scheduled eye exam, employees often face their wrath.

Laurie L. Sorrenson, OD, an optometrist who practices at Lakeline Vision Source in Austin, TX, has used this tactic for the past 5 years. She said part of it was based on a book called, "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless," by Jeffrey Gitomer.

"It seems kind of silly but those words are truly magical," said Dr. Sorrenson, who also teaches a practice management course for college seniors at the University of Houston. "It's empathetic and lets angry patients know that you think it's a worse situation than they do. That often helps them put the situation into perspective, calming them down."

She suggested incorporating this expression in your practice's culture. Introduce it during weekly staff meetings for 1 month, then every other week until it become ingrained in your culture. Dr. Sorrenson also addressed the topic every 2 months by discussing real-world examples of poor customer service scenarios she personally encountered.

"I always bring it up as a story, then ask, 'What should the person have said to me?'" she said. "Then the whole office shouts, 'That's horrible!'"