Conflict resolution means having to say you're sorry (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2008

Not many things can ruin our perfect day as fast and as completely as an unhappy client. It's not enough that they sit there and complain and argue, often leaving one of our loyal and usually happy team members in tears, but they insist on doing so smack in the middle of the reception area, during the busiest time of the day, right in front of our other clients! We've all had to deal with these gems, and for me it is one of the most unenjoyable parts of practice. Additionally, Murphy's Law often dictates that these vocal complainers will not be satisfied speaking to anyone but the practice manager or, as often happens in my case, the BOSS (which would be me)!

I've learned many things over the years, and one major lesson I've learned is how important communication is to the smooth, effective, running of a hospital. Without a doubt, most of the problems we have to deal with in practice, be they staff issues, patient care issues, or client issues, result from breakdowns in communication. Good communication is key! I'm sure this is no surprise!! As with any successful relationship, trust and open communication are paramount. To prevent these problems, make sure your clients truly understand your game plan, your post-visit instructions, estimated fees, etc. Make sure all your support staff is also very aware and familiar with your hospital cases and that they understand all of the doctor's orders. And, almost more important than trying to avoid these problems and communication breakdowns, is how you deal with them when they arise.

This brings up another important lesson I've learned--that conflict resolution, as we like to call it, is definitely an art—one that really needs to be mastered in order to restore peace and harmony into the practice. There are many aspects to effective conflict resolution that need to be learned, yet as with any skill, practice makes perfect. This becomes our proverbial "Catch 22," in that in order to practice this skill to get good at, means that we have to have a lot of fires to put out—in other words, having more unhappy clients than we'd ever dream of wanting to have. But, in reality, the longer you practice and the more clients you see, the more problems you will have, and, unfortunately, the more opportunity to master this "art." The ultimate goal is that by the time you finally master this art, you and your staff will be so well trained and in tune with each other that there will be no more communication breakdowns, and therefore no more unhappy clients to practice your mastered art on! (Yeah right—don't hold your breath!)