by Jenn Janicki
I recently had the displeasure of deciding to change my accounting firm. I’ve worked with this individual and her team for more than 8 years, but realized I really wasn’t getting the direction and support I wanted. Something was missing.
As I geared myself up to “break up” with my accountant, I actually dreaded the conversation. I respected her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But I didn’t get the chance, I shared with her secretary the reason for my call with a promise of a return call. None came.
I requested copies of my software files. I received a PDF of years of tax returns (not what I requested), a month later, with not even a bye, good luck or kiss my fanny. My new accountant was now going to have to hand key years of returns that became apparent I needed amended at unnecessary expense.
So our relationship ended without feeling anything but animosity. Her firm made my life more difficult. She showed no respect for our long standing business relationship. I now just wanted to make sure my clients and friends didn’t do business with someone who mistreated even their past clients.
It’s easy to see the parallels to dentistry, how to avoid this natural response when a patient decides to leave your practice. Take my accountant as an anecdotal lesson and do everything EXACTLY the opposite.
1) Be warm, caring and honor your past relationship.
Whomever takes the call regarding a request for patient records, especially from a patient, express regret that your team did not meet their needs. “John, I’m so sorry to hear that you will be leaving our care. We really enjoyed having your family these past years.” If an office calls requesting records, IMMEDIATELY contact the patient with the same message.
2) Engage and ask a question.
“We certainly take it personally when we don’t meet our patients expectations. Is there something specific you could share with us, that convinced you to change practices?” This is a learning piece for you and your team. Sure, sometimes it can be their insurance changed or something beyond your control, but when they have a complaint or share something you didn’t do, this is the time for you to listen. Don’t argue, ignore, disregard or try to “change their mind”. Simply thank them for sharing and make certain your doctor knows the reason for the change.
3) Be helpful.
Let your patient know you will do whatever you can to transition them to their new office. Give them dates and specifics of last cleaning, exam and X-rays. DO NOT CHARGE to forward X-rays. This only leaves a bad taste in your patients mouth (no pun intended). They already paid you ONCE for records. To charge them again could be mistaken for pettiness.
4) Leave the door open.
Let your patient know they will always be welcome back with open arms. “John, we hate to see you go but please know we would always warmly welcome your family back if it doesn’t work out at your new office. We wish you only the best.”
5) Follow up with personal card.
Show you care with a simple card or letter from the doctor. “Dear John, I wanted to let you know how sorry I was to hear that you are leaving the practice. If I can be of assistance in your future care in any way, please don’t hesitate to let me know. You are always welcome!” Sincerely – Dr. ________.
In the age of online reviews, remember, the last interaction your patient has with you is what will be remembered, talked about and rated. Make it positive and set yourself apart even if the unfortunate circumstance occurs that your patient breaks up with you. Make it easy and you’ll be surprised how many will come back because they weren’t treated as well in their new office as they were when they initially left yours.
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