Sunday, August 19, 2012

How do deal with an angry customer!!

Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy.

Lately, I have been working a lot with medical practices on how they can improve the service they provide their patients. While most of the examples I will share in this column are pulled from this work, the concepts are applicable to each and every business. 

Among all these practices, issues with angry patients seem to be a common thread, which is not entirely surprising when you consider that patients come in feeling poorly and it does not take much to set them off. Whether it is too much paperwork or a long wait time, there are a number of factors that can increase a patient’s frustration and incite their anger.

When I first began working with these practices, I had no idea how extensive this problem was but, as I spoke with the frontline staff, they named angry patients as the number one problem they face time and time again.

Whether it is a patient or another kind of customer, the best and most effective tactic for dealing with an angry person is to show empathy for their situation. Saying “These are just the required forms and you need to fill them out in order to see the doctor,” just will not do it. A better approach would be for the receptionist (the “director of first impressions”) to say, “I am so sorry to ask you to fill out this paperwork again, but it will ensure our records are correct so we can get you the best possible care.” The second statement shows empathy and offers a logical explanation for why the data needs to be collected again.

Even though we can empathize with a customer’s frustration, it is never acceptable for them to raise their voice or use profanity. If this should happen, your staff needs to tell the customer that kind of behavior is unacceptable and warn them that if it continues, they will be asked to leave. For obvious reasons, you will also want to steer these angry customers away from your other customers and talk with them one-on-one.

Unmet expectations, in general, are the cause of most angry patient situations. However, a lot of the anger can be mitigated by wording responses in such a way that you communicate warmth and caring.

For example, one of the most common inciters among these medical practices is a co-pay that is higher than the patient expected. In a case like this, the front office personnel could say, “I am so sorry that you were expecting a lower payment. Do you have another means of paying today or would you like for us to bill you? Which would you prefer?” A response like this puts the power back in the patients’ hands.

I would say the best direction you can give your staff about how to deal with an angry customer is to call in the manager and allow them to handle the issue. Front office staff should not be saddled with always having to take the abuse from angry customers. These frequent beatings destroy their morale and their desire to come to work each morning.

As a final caution, avoid arguing with an angry customer at all costs. This just tends to make the person even angrier.

Now go out and make sure your staff is trained in handling angry customers. Frequent and continuous role-playing activities are a good way to ensure they are able to respond appropriately in the moment.

You can do this.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Are you too busy?

Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.
~Tim Kreider
A recent column in the New York Times really caught my attention. The column was entitled “The Busy Trap,” and in it, author Tim Kreider talked about how so many people are too busy and they feel guilty if they are not doing something work-related all the time.
I am mentoring a very talented executive and we were recently discussing the vacation he was mandated to take. I asked him to take just four hours every day of his vacation and unplug completely from work. He replied that he could not commit to that because if he did not have this to do, he would not know what to do.  This executive had fallen into the “busy hole” and had no way of climbing out.
However, after much discussion and cajoling I finally got him to agree to try this four-hour plan. In the beginning it was excruciatingly painful for him, but as the vacation progressed, he began to look forward to the time he had to be with his family away from work concerns. He shared with me later that by the end of the week, he felt so great during these four-hour breaks that he wanted to continue the process of getting out of the “busy hole.”
When I think about my earlier years and ask other people if they were as busy 30 years ago as they are today, they all emphatically say, “No!” They were a lot calmer, and life just seemed to move much more slowly in the 1980’s. Why? My theory is that it has a lot to do with the ease of communications we have today.
In the early 80’s most people did not have personal computers, and if they did, there was no Internet.  Now that we have become so “connected,” we stay tethered to our businesses and friends almost 24 hours a day.  When I forget my phone at home, I feel almost naked and have to rush back to get it.
It is unhealthy for entrepreneurs and managers to be accessible 24/7. The stress stays with them all day and night and they have no opportunity to unwind. We all need time to just be, and with this never-ending flow of communications, so many of us do not get a chance to enjoy the moment.
I, myself, am a recovering busy addict. I now leave my phone and computer off after 6 p.m. – which, I will admit, is still tough. However, I have been sleeping much better and I know this daily break is what I really need.
I also try to take more trips where I can make myself inaccessible to calls, texts and e-mails. No matter what I do while away, I feel so much calmer when I return because I have allowed myself to unplug from these sources of stress.
Now go out and make sure you take some time every day to step away from phones, texts and e-mails. I promise that once you get used to this new habit you will feel so much better and even more productive.
You can do this.                                

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Honesty is so Important!

Honesty is so important

I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you're trying to accomplish and what you're willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.

Lee Iacocca

  There is a story about a retiring CEO who was unsure of whom his replacement would be. He called a meeting of his top aids and said that he was going to give the position to the executive who could get the greatest results from a seed he would give them today but measure the outcomes in six months.

   One of the senior management team was Bill who just could not get this seed to grow at all though he tried so hard with different fertilizers, alternative lighting patterns and all kinds of potting soil. He just did not know what he was going to do.

  On the morning before the presentation of the results of this test, Bill was talking to his wife about what should he do. She recommended that honesty was the most important attribute for a chief executive and for him to show the pot with no growth from this seed. Bill was so reluctant to do this.

  Bill decided to follow his wife’s advice and went to this meeting with his empty pot.  When he saw the others results, he felt like a failure. Their plants were lush with growth and all were at least 4 feet high. He was so embarrassed not to have any results and many times he thought about just leaving the meeting rather than being embarrassed in front of the entire staff.

   At the meeting the CEO asked each of his team to show him the results and to tell him how they had achieved such amazing results. Of course Bill hung back and was the last to show the CEO his pot but then went up and said I tried just about everything I could think of, but I just could not get the seed to grow.

  With this statement the CEO made the announcement that he decided whom his replacement was going to be. He said Bill was going to be the next CEO as he was only person that was honest about the seeds. He went on to explain that he had boiled the seeds before hand so that there was no way for them to grow at all and Bill was only one who was honest.

   While this is only a story it clearly shows the value of honesty. Without honesty there is no trust as trust is predicated on honesty.  Honesty just should be the foundation of every enterprise.

  As a CEO or manager you have to be incredibly honest to gain the respect of your staff and to insure that they will be honest to you. I once asked some of my staff if they had to choose me to be honest or nice, but not both, towards them, what would they choose? They all appreciated my being nice but they really valued my honesty and did not want to give that at all up.

   Being a leader, you have a higher responsibility about honesty. You are the role model and unless you can demonstrate this quality on a consistent basis, you just are not going to get your staff to be honest with you.

  Now go out and make a commitment to be as honest as you can be to everyone whom you have contact with. I promise you that your life will be much better and your organization will operate with higher levels of efficiency.

  You can do this!