De-Escalating Client Conflicts

Learn how to effectively resolve situations with upset clients.

We all aim for perfection when it comes to client and patient experience but avoiding client conflict entirely is nearly impossible. In a changing world where curbside service and new protocols are at play, things don’t always go according to plan. Communication and empathy are key in resolving situations in which a client is less than satisfied with their experience at your hospital.  

Communicate Expectations 

The majority of conflicts can be avoided by communicating expectations to your client from the get-go. When you know that there will be a delay in services due to an emergency or scheduling conflict, it’s always best practice to call the client to inform them of the changes so that they can prepare accordingly before they have the chance to reach out to the hospital with questions. Keeping a client in the know is fundamental in avoiding future conflicts. 

Listen and Empathize 

De-escalating a conflict scenario begins with listening to the client. Many times, an unsatisfied client just wants to recount the situation and freely express how they feel about the outcome. Allow the client to tell their story without interruptions and let them know that you understand the way they are feeling. Even when a client is being difficult, it is important that they feel you are an advocate for them and ultimately, their pet. 

 Apologize and Reflect 

Clients want to know that you value their relationship and oftentimes an apology will go a long way in resolving the issue. Most of the time, the team has done everything in their power to produce the best possible outcome, but sometimes mistakes are made! When your team makes an earnest mistake, humbly take ownership of the issue and apologize to the client. Let the client know that your team will learn from the experience and take measures to ensure that the problem won’t happen again in the future.  

Introduce the Hospital Manager 

If a client begins pushing back, make sure you introduce the hospital manager as a mediator to handle the situation. Normally, it should be communicated to the client that it may take up to 24 hours for the manager to reach out, but in more pressing scenarios, usher the client to a private area, such as a free exam room, while the team informs the hospital manager. 

Addressing Abusive Clients 

Every once in a while, an especially unsatisfied client can cause havoc at the hospital, impacting you and even your team members. Though it’s not easy, “firing” a client can sometimes be the best approach to minimizing verbal abuse. Keep conversations short and protect yourself and your team from negativity. When team members express genuine hurt from an abusive client, let them know you have their best interest in mind and in some cases, communicate the mistreatment to the client. Trust your team and always have their back.  

Listening, apologizing, and reflecting will go a long way in resolving conflicts with clients when things don’t go as perfectly planned.