You just can’t please some people


 

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As Receptionists we all at times have “difficult” customers to deal with. It almost comes with the job. It’s how you handle the situation that is most important.

As a Medical Receptionist you have to take into consideration that patients might be difficult due to many different reasons. They could be feeling poorly, worried, anxious, they could have mental issues or they could be worrying about a loved one. Patients are very different to customers in so many different ways and medical Receptionist are always fully aware of this.

But, there is a limit to the rudeness that a Receptionist should expect to take. I witnessed a patient recently approach the reception desk. The receptionist was very pleasant and approached the patient with a smile saying “good morning” and “how can I help you” She certainly didn’t receive a good morning or a smile back, but instead a very angry and aggressive man demanding, yes demanding that she get a prescription done NOW for him for his heart tablets as he had “run out”.

He thrust his repeat prescription at her and told her to get it done. I could see the smile fixed on her face while politely said “let me see what I can do for you”. The Receptionist typed into the computer and explained to the patient that 3 of the 4 items on the repeat slip where not actually due for another 10 days. The patient flailed up  and started shouting at the Receptionist demanding she do the script for his heart tablets. He wanted them NOW.

The receptionist again explained that 3 out of the 4 that he had ticked on the repeat were not due and the computer therefore would not allow her to request them. He started shouting and telling her how useless she was. He continued shouting telling her that it didn’t matter about the “other items” but he needed his heart tablets.

The Receptionist quietly asked the patient which ones where the heart tablets as she explained that she wasn’t medically qualified to know which ones where the heart ones. He then snatched the slip out of her hand whilst stabbing his finger on the slip of paper shouting  “this one – it’s this one”.

The Receptionist then entered something onto the computer and said that she had requested the tablets and the doctor would sign the script electronically later on that morning and advised the patient that he could collect it from the pharmacy later on that afternoon.

You would have expected the patient to have given the Receptionist a “thank you” of some kind. No – that didn’t happen. The Receptionist had gone out of her way to ensure that the patient had not gone without his heart medication, ignoring the fact that the patient had not allowed the usual 48 hours for a repeat to be done and therefore putting his own health at risk and instead of a simple thank you as he turned to leave the surgery he shouted how useless everyone was at the surgery and how it had gone down hill recently.

I wondered to myself what it would have taken for this patient to actually have been happy  as I felt that the Receptionist handled the situation exceptionally well.

I looked at the Receptionist as the patient left the building, she looked deflated, and almost ready to burst into tears.

Yet had she had said one wrong word to this patient, let alone explain that he shouldn’t have left it until he had run out to request his repeat I suspect she would have been hung drawn and quartered. She was in a no win situation.

Another patient came into the surgery and the Receptionist smiled and carried on……….

So, for all you Receptionists that go over and above your call of duty to help difficult patients and keep smiling –  well done.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved
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The Threatened Receptionist


Working in general practice as a Receptionist, Supervisor and a Manager nothing ever surprises me anymore, and just when you think you have seen it all something else comes along to add to the endless stories that working in a surgery brings.

The highs and lows the funny and the sad you never get two days exactly the same.

This story was a new one to me, one that I haven’t come across.

I was chatting to a friend yesterday to works in a GP Surgery. She told me that there had been an incident in their admin office. Whilst she was talking to a patient she could hear raised voices at the end of the office. When my friend had finished her call she turned her attention to the receptionist who was obviously very upset by the call.

She presumed that the caller has been an “unhappy patient” – she was wrong.

The caller phoned the Surgery and asked for the receptionist by her first and surname. The caller was put through to her and she was not expecting what came next.

The receptionist explained the nature of the call and how it involved Facebook.

A couple of days previous the Receptionist had been on Facebook. She came across a random post that one of her friends had shared. She didn’t know the person but she left a comment, which she didn’t think was upsetting or rude but obviously the person that had posted the comment felt very strongly about the comment she had left and was not happy.

The person traced the Receptionist to her place of work. How? She had it on her Facebook Profile where she worked and that she was a Receptionist.

The Receptionist was worried, as the caller had her name, knew where she worked, and of course could easily be identified due to the fact that all the staff wears name badges, with their first and surname on and she had no idea what this caller looked like – it could be anyone that walked in through the Surgery doors.

The caller told her that she was going to come along to the surgery and give her a black eye. The Receptionist was obviously worried and upset as the caller sounded angry and threatening.

She worried that the caller might wait for her outside of the surgery and follow her home.

As a Manager how would you react to this? Would you see it as a problem you would have to sort out, or seeing it started outside of work would you not want to get involved?

We then have to question should staff be putting information on their Facebook to where they work and what they do? Have you a right as a manager to say staff cannot do this? Perhaps not, but it is something that could be discuss at a team meeting, to make people aware of the consequences when they do put where they work.

A similar story to this happened when I first starting working as a Receptionist and one of my colleagues had an unusual surname, a patient that used visit the surgery on a regular basis took a liking to her. He asked out on a date a couple of times and each time she gently let him down.

The patient had mental health problems; because he knew her name he was able to get her address and number out of the telephone directory (this was before internet times). He then started stalking her, telephoning her at all hours of the day and night. The incident involved the police, many sleepless nights, which resulted in her moving out of her flat for a while. It was sorted, she changed her telephone to ex directory and everything calmed down.

At the time this incident affected the whole team. Name badges were questioned.

As a manager I always kept this story in my mind, and would only ever have first names on name badges for Receptionists who deal with the general public.

Does your staff give their full names whilst working?

Are first names sufficient on name badges for Receptionists? I think so.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Receptionists Dealing with Unhappy Patients/Customers


uiI am delighted to say that I have a lot of viewings on my blog on a daily basis. And I can see what searches that people are putting in that direct them to my site. It saddens me to see that a lot of searches are looking for solutions to deal with unhappy patients/customers. Some of the searches recently have included:

  • What to do in a difficult situation at Reception
  • Situation dealing with a difficult patient at Reception
  • Dealing with difficult patients
  • Receptionist’s bad attitude
  • Patients being rude to staff
  • Receptionists being rude to patients

And there are many more similar searches on a daily basis.

So from the searches it seems that there are patients that are sometimes unhappy with the service that they are getting from the Receptionist/Practice – but also receptionists searching on how to deal with unhappy/angry/aggressive/upset patients.

Rudeness or bad behaviour is no excuse but we know that it’s going to happen at some point when you are dealing with the general public – and more so when you are dealing with people who perhaps might have medical conditions that could heighten their concerns.

For the receptionist dealing with unhappy patients can be upsetting especially if they are made to feel that the complaint is directed at them personally. Often the patient might be right in their complaint and the receptionist might not be trained in dealing with the complaint in a satisfactory way which will only lead to more frustration on the patient’s part.

If you have an unhappy patient some tips on how to deal with it might just avoid the complaint going further, and for you the Receptionist being possibly left feeling that you were not in control of the situation and therefore not coming to a solution whereby the patient has left the surgery satisfied that their concerns have been dealt with.

Step 1.

Once you are aware the patient is unhappy prepare to deal with it. Remain calm, although it’s often hard when someone is being rude to you or perhaps shouting.

It is hard to maintain a good rage when you are faced with someone (the receptionist) remains polite, calm and reasonable. Don’t be “sickly-sweet” that often can come across as patronising – but be genuinely nice. By doing this it often will solve a bad situation very quickly.

Let the patient have their say – let them know that you are listening to what they are saying. Offer calming phrases like “I understand”, “That must be so frustrating” and “let me see what I can do to help you” These few short phrases can often solve a difficult situation at this point. The patient feels heard and understood.

Step 2

Be patient and empathetic – but, be firm. Know where to draw the line. If someone is being irate and perhaps aggressive and it’s clear that you are not getting anywhere with them you need to politely but firmly let them know this is unacceptable. If the person perhaps swears politely ask them not to swear (it’s amazing how many people do not realise they have even swore and will apologise for this) if they continue to swear you have every right to ask them again not to swear and if they still take no notice you should have the right to tell them if they do not conduct themselves in a more professional manner you will not be able to help them any further – if the patient is on the telephone you can tell them that if they continue to swear you will hang up.

Some people use anger as a way to get their own way simply by beating their opponents into submission. Make it clear that they will not achieve anything by doing this.

If you ever feel that you are not in control of the situation ask for assistance from another member of your team.

Step 3

DO NOT argue back. By holding your ground you are the better person, although you might feel angry at the way you are being spoken to. If you feel the situation is getting out of hand and you cannot deal with it any longer then walk away. Ask the patient to wait while you get someone from your team to help with their query. Do not be afraid to remove yourself from the situation if you feel that you are not in control. Dont let it get out of control.

If you are dealing with this on the telephone you could perhaps suggest that you will call them back and seek advice from another member of your team. If you feel that you are unable to deal with the return call ask someone else to phone the person back – but make sure you give them the details on what has gone on so far.

Give the caller an estimated time that you will call back – ie 10 minutes. Do not end the call with “someone will call you back”. And if you say someone will call back in 10 minutes make sure they do.

If you are at the front desk and feel that the situation is getting out of hand try to guide the person away from the desk. Perhaps ask them to one side of the Reception area. The last thing you want is for someone to cause a scene in front of other patients including young children. Even away from the telephones as the last thing you want is people hearing such on the end of a telephone.

Often a person making a complaint liked to have an audience – don’t let that happen.

Step 4

Try to respect the person making the complaint. This is easier said than done when someone is in front of you or on the telephone throwing a temper tantrum. But by talking down to someone or arguing back to someone who is already upset will only upset them more and make the situation even worse.

Step 5

Try to remember that people act in various different ways when they are upset, worried or in pain. It is not an excuse by any means but it does happen. Try to put yourself in the person’s shoes – if it were happening to you how would you like the situation to be dealt with? Deal with the situation to the best of your ability, apologise to the person that they are upset, and often when the problem has been solved they will more often than not apologise for their outburst.

And of course sometimes the patients are right in their concerns or complaint, not their outburst but they might have a complaint that is justified. This does have to be dealt with regardless to their outburst.

My advice if you deal with such an incident that you make some record of it once the patient has walked away or ended the call. This is to safeguard yourself that you have done everything in your power to solve the situation. I suggest that you put this in writing if in the event the complaint goes any further. Always cover yourself as a Receptionist wherever possible.

I suggest the following The Incident Report Form http://wp.me/p1zPRQ-6o

Treat people as you would like to be treated and you cannot go far wrong.

 

How To Avoid Workplace Anger/Violence (part 2)


Are Patients Waiting Too Long?

Research has shown that long waiting times can lead to angry/violent behaviour. So keep your patients informed, give a reason for the delay and apologise when necessary – please do not ignore the waiting patients (see blog: When The Doctor/Nurse is running late. http://t.co/Tlnpi4OD )

Does Your Patients Feel They Have A Method Of Complaint?

Provide a well-advertised complaints procedure in your Practice Leaflet. Quite often a Receptionist can deal with a complaint before it goes to Management level.

Always offer the patient a complaints form. Ensure that all your Reception team knows where the complaints forms are kept. No complaint should go to the Practice Manager without being offered a complaints form first.

Most people when offered a complaints form will decline, and even when they do except a complaints form will probably not return the completed form. But it is important that they have that choice to make.

Are You Or Your Staff Helpful and Courteous?

An abrupt or indifferent receptionist and lack of information can often lead to frayed tempers.

Do You Think Your Receptionist Makes Things Worse?

First rule; do not get yourself into an argument. An argument may cause anger to escalate into aggression and perhaps violence. Have you as a team discussed ways to prevent or defuse such situations? Ensure that all staff have clear guidelines – this will help them deal with such a situation.

Is the Waiting Room a Calm and Comfortable Place?

Consider ways of reducing boredom, up to date magazines. Toys for the in the play area. Posters and Notices on the wall. Plenty of seating. Make it comfortable.

A local A&E Department recently spent a large amount of money re designing and updating their A&E Department and found that this reduced the vandalism by a considerable amount. Both patients and staff found it a more relaxing environment to be in.

Can Your Staff Recognise The Warning Signs?

Staff need to be aware of this at all times. If dealing with a patient who is known to be hostile, make sure you are in a position to summon help or make an escape if necessary. Bring it to the attention of others if necessary.

Does your Practice have panic buttons? Ensure that all Locums and new staff are aware of where they are situated.

Are You Aware Of Stranger Danger?

Be extra cautious if an unknown temporary resident is fitted in at the end of surgery. Warn the doctor/nurse that the last patient is a temporary patient. It has been known that a few patients are looking for drugs will book a late appointment and not complete the temporary residents form out correctly which means that the Practice has no relevant information on the patient. This is not to say that every temporary resident is like this – but there are the odd few out there.

Is Information Shared?

Everyone working in the practice needs to know which patients might pose a risk. This will apply to doctors working at another surgery for the out of hours. Especially inform all other surgeries if you have a temporary resident causing any problems. If you have a violent patient you should inform your local PCT/Health Authority.

Can The Waiting Room Be Seen and Controlled By the Receptionist?

Try to ensure that there are no nooks and crannies where people are sitting out of sight. If someone is getting agitated or poorly the Receptionist should be able to notice the signs and deal with it appropriately.

Are You Providing Weapons?

Do you equip your surgery and waiting room with items that can easily be used as weapons or missiles?

  • Paper opener
  • China Cups
  • Heavy objects such as stapler, paperweights
  • Metal toys in the children’s area
  • Sharp objects

Always ensure that potential items are out of reach.

What Should You Do If the Patient Becomes Aggressive?

  • KEEP CALM
  • Avoid direct confrontation and try to defuse the situation. Listen and show you are listening to their point of view – do not argue.

Can You Defend Yourself?

  • Avoid physical contact.
  • Call on others for support
  • Quite often if there is more than one person in front of the aggressive person they will calm down a lot quicker. If you hear a patient getting aggressive at the front desk, just go over to the receptionist dealing with the patient and just stand and observe, do not say anything, often this is enough to calm the person down.
  • If the Receptionist cannot deal with the situation then you might need to step in and take over.

People who are most effective in dealing with aggression understand something about the psychology of people. They understand why make people tick and recognise that human beings have basic animal instincts, which often come to the fore when they feel threatened or feel frightened or angry.

The options that our animal instincts provide are either FLIGHT or FIGHT.

Many things may affect which option we choose but some things which will increase the likelihood of choosing FIGHT are:

  • Feeling our personal space is being invaded
  • Feel physically threatened
  • Feel that our exit path is blocked.

One of the most effective ways of diffusing this natural response is to deliberately signal that you are not going to respond in an aggressive way. This may not be easy when you are probably feeling threatened yourself, but the following actions will help to signal non-aggression to others.

Give the other person space – If you increase the distance between you and the aggressor it will lessen the feeling that their personal space is being invaded and reduce the feeling of physical threat and open up their exit path. It also gives you a greater range of options should the situation suddenly change.

Relax your own posture – you can reduce your own aggressive signs by dropping your shoulders, adopting an open stance and allowing your arms to drop. Such action will probably feel unnatural given the situation but it will quickly reduce the aggressor’s feeling of being intimidated.

Avoid sudden movements – remember that heightened emotion will make an individual jumpy and ready to defend, and that quick or sudden movement might trigger an instinctive reaction.

Reduce eye contact – Sustained eye contact is a very aggressive signal in these types of encounters. You should avoid gazing intently into the aggressor’s eyes.

The above four behaviours will reduce the potential for aggressive situations to turn into violent confrontation. However, they do not, on their own, resolve the encounters successfully. Successfully resolution can be achieved by:

  • CALMING the individual and then building
  • RAPPORT with him/her to finally achieve
  • CONTROL over the situation

This sequence is very specific. Successful control of a situation cannot be achieved by trying to achieve rapport with a person who is still very wound up by the incident itself. You must calm the person down before he or she will be receptive to your attempts to build a rapport.

CALMING

A common mistake, which is made at this stage, is trying to deal with the reason why the person is being aggressive. In fact you should try to deal with the emotions that the person is bringing into the situation. Trying to deal with the reasons why before you calm the emotions will only service to increase the tensions and set off an escalation of the incident.

It is vital that you as the person seeking to control the situation are fully in control of your own emotions and reactions. This is not easy because you are not immune to the situation and you may be feeling fear, excitement or anger. But your ability to control your own emotions, particularly your anger will have a vital impact.

Many incidents involving aggressive people take place in public places where the aggressor has an “audience” and it will help the situation a lot if you make the encounter a one to one situation where the aggressor will not be able to “play to the audience”. Most of all, do not put the aggressor in a situation where he or she will be seen as losing face to the audience.

In the early part of this stage, what you say in your efforts to calm the individual is probably less important than how you actually say it. How well you communicate non-verbally will be very important in sending calming messages to your aggressor.

There are several non-verbal behaviours which can help to signal non-aggression and encourage the aggressor to calm down

  • Move slowly – sudden, quick or unpredictable movements can sign aggression particularly to someone who is already tense and feeling threatened.
  • Allow space – respect the aggressor’s “personal space”. Moving into a person’s personal space is very intimidating and almost threatening.
  • Reduce aggressive signals – finger pointing, sustained eye contact, arms folded, hands on hips are all gestures which heighten tension rather than reduce it.
  • Deliberately adopt  “friendly” gestures – extending your arms with the palm of your hands outwards, dropping your shoulders, gentle voice tone, an open interview stance and your head to one side rather than full on – these will help to signal to the aggressor that you do not seek to be aggressive.

When you have managed to calm the aggressor to a point when you feel they are able to listen to you, then you can move into the next stage of building rapport.

RAPPORT

This is really about winning the aggressor’s trust. If you are to gain effective control of the situation then it is crucial that the aggressor feels that he or she can trust you. This will involve showing empathy towards the aggressor.

This means letting the person know that you can appreciate his or her view of the world and the particular situation they are in. This is distinct from sympathy and agreeing that their view is the right one. Showing empathy can be achieved by simply reflecting back to the person what they have said.

Be careful not to use emotive words or phrases which emphasises failure of loss of face like:

“That was a pretty stupid way of carrying on wasn’t it?”

Show the individual that you are a person too. This may involve giving a little bit of yourself away to encourage the aggressor to talk and to be more open.

By this stage you should be dealing with a much more rational person who is amenable to reason and is listening to what you are saying. If you are not – then you need to continue with the “calming” skills until the person is able to be more rational.

 

Remember: Patients are not always right but they ARE important. Show them they are important by the way you treat them.