Kristen Doezie, RN, MSN, Psy-M, is an aesthetic injector who is passionate about helping her patients feel beautiful from the inside out as well as educating her peers so that they can have rewarding careers in aesthetics. Not only does Kristen have an extensive medical background, but she also has her Masters in Psychology, which shows through in the empathetic and supportive nature of her practice.
While positive energy and uplifting patient outcomes are a cornerstone of Kristen’s practice, she equally values her approach to the opposite side of that coin. As with any career, every rising injector has their fair share of mistakes, learning moments, and less-than-ideal customers. Whatever the cause, knowing how to deal with an unhappy client can be the difference between a negative review on Yelp and a 30-year customer.
Kristen shares her top 5 tips for dealing with unhappy customers:
1. Recognize red flags from the beginning
- The best, most proactive way to deal with unhappy clients is before you ever even treat them. Take time to engage with your patient. Ask questions about previous treatments and why they weren't happy with other providers. This gives you valuable insight to see if your values as a provider will be in alignment with their expectations. Here are some red flags to watch out for:
- Has been to multiple providers and is never happy with the treatment.
- Has a minimal amount of treatment and expects it to last longer than the indicated result (I usually get 10 units and it lasts a year, and I never bruise...).
- Recent life-altering events that could result in a fragile mental state or unrealistic expectations.
- They are hiding the treatment from friends and family.
- They are showing symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
- Not compliant with pre/post-care instructions.
- None of these are deal-breakers in and of themselves, but it is good to assess where your patient is at psychologically before you ever touch them with a needle. Sometimes, it may be necessary to refer them to another provider instead of treating them - and that's ok! It will end up saving you a lot of headaches in the end.
- EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE... I remember when I first started injecting, I had multiple calls each week with patients concerned that they had bruising and swelling after injections. At first, I was irritated that my staff was having to field these calls, but when I took time to reflect I realized that I hadn't been educating them on what to expect during the healing phase. If I would have taken more time to teach them what was normal there would have been fewer phone calls and less concern overall.
- I also am very clear with my patients on what is a reasonable expectation for results of their treatment. This includes the amount, cost, healing, treatment timeline, and pre-existing asymmetry. When patients have clear expectations there is less chance that they will be unhappy. If you point something out ahead of time, it is education. If you tell them the same thing after, it can feel like an excuse. You are also taking time to build their trust. Patients should also know that they aren't just paying for a product- they are paying for your time, skills, and expertise.
3. Active Listening
- It can be really easy to assume that when a patient is unhappy that they are looking for a refund, or that they are just a "problem patient". When we take the time to understand the patient’s concerns and listen to what they are upset about, we get so much more insight. Do they have a concern about the end result? Are they upset about what friends have said to them? Sometimes they just need to be reminded of the plan and even see their before and after photos to see that there really is a difference. Watch your body language to make sure you are providing an open and safe dynamic for them to share how they feel.
4. Apology languages
- We can usually mitigate a lot of unhappy clients through education, recognizing red flags, and setting boundaries, but there are times when patients have legitimate concerns and we need to take steps to make sure that they feel the issue is resolved. If you go into the appointment assuming what the patient needs and how to resolve the complaint, you might miss the mark and the patient will leave feeling unheard and possibly even more upset.
- Most of us have heard of love languages, but apology languages are just as important. By interjecting each of these into your conversation with the client you can almost guarantee that your client will be able to receive and accept your apology.
- Here is an example...Let's say a patient is unhappy because their appointment time got mixed up.
- Expressing regret: I apologize, that must have been extremely inconvenient for you...
- Accepting responsibility: "I take full responsibility for that..."
- Making restitution: "I would appreciate the opportunity to make this right for you, how can I do that?"
- Genuinely repenting: "Here are the ways that we will prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future..."
- Requesting forgiveness: "Thank you so much for having this conversation with me, will you please forgive me for the misunderstanding?"
5. Do you own inner work
- This is the most important and difficult piece of the puzzle. If you are discussing a patient concern and you feel yourself becoming defensive or upset, that can be a totally normal response! The more we start to dive into how difficult interactions trigger different emotions in us, we can start to notice patterns and use that for information in our own process.
- When I first started injecting, if I had a patient that was upset about their treatment I would immediately get defensive. I would do the bare minimum communication in the exam room because I was so uncomfortable and then go cry in the bathroom because I felt like a failure.
- Now, years later, I still feel that drop in my stomach feeling when I hear a patient is not happy, but I am able to take a breath, ground myself and rely on the tools I have learned over the years to help my client and myself come to the best outcome possible.
The melding of medicine and customer service can sometimes be tricky, but by implementing some of the tools above, my hope is that you will go into your interactions with patients much more confidently and wholeheartedly.