#17 – Handles an upset client at the front desk

Occasionally, a client will be upset, perhaps angry over insurance or finances or frightened over needing a root canal. Another upset that can happen is for a patient to show up for an appointment that is not in our computer system. Your job is to recognize they have a problem, be caring and help them get to someone who can solve their problem.

When you identify someone who is upset, you should acknowledge them. If your patient starts to cry at the front desk, it is very appropriate for you to stand up, put your hand on their arm and say something like “I’m sorry you are upset, can I help you?”  Escort them to a private office.

If someone walks up to the front desk angry about a bill or an insurance situation, it is appropriate for you also to stand up and say, “Boy, you sure seem upset about this bill – can I help you?”

By acknowledging the way they feel – and by standing up to meet them where they are, you can then direct them to a private office to discuss their problem.  It’s very important that you remove them from the front desk.  These upsetting situations should be dealt with privately, out of the hearing of the clients in the reception room.  When you are dealing with an upset client, stay as positive as possible.  Say “yes” as often as you can – that you want to help, not that you are going to do what they want.

Once you have the client comfortably seated, have a secretary in Lev3 or above quickly get to your client.  If they are busy, the office manager can either work with your client or take someone’s place at the desk so they can help.

For the frightened patient who says they are afraid of having a root canal, talk to them about oral sedation and N2O options – hand them our brochures and help them to realize they have choices in how they can get their dentistry done.

For the angry patient upset about a bill, ask questions to see if you can help them – ask them to show you the paperwork they have (often patients will bring in insurance letters or our bills or letters) and ask them what they need. If they can calm down & allow you to help them, then sit down & look into the computer to figure out their questions. If they cannot calm down, you can say, “Tom, I understand that you are very upset over this bill. I am going to get our office manager to sit down with you and help you.”

For the patient that shows up without an appointment in the computer, the greeter will ask the patient to have a seat while they let the doctor know they are here. The greeter’s job is to confirm what kind of appointment the patient is expecting today. Then, the greeter will come over to a secretary to let them know that the patient does not have an appointment. The secretary’s job is to review the entire schedule (all doctors, hygienists, specialists) to see if another provider can work in this patient – if so, then talk to the provider, put the appointment in the computer & you’re all set. If the provider is a major change, then it is appropriate to let the patient know – “Susan, I just wanted to let you know that today for your cleaning you will be seeing Dr. Saleh.”  If there are no providers that can see this patient, then the secretary must go talk to the patient. “Susan, would you come with me? (walk them to a private office – not the consult room where other clients can see) Susan, I want to apologize – you came in today and we do not have your appointment in our computer. (give her some time to react). I am so sorry. I’ve checked with (name the providers in the schedule) to see if we could work you in right now and the best I can do is to offer you to come back at _______ (if you found an opening later in the day) or to offer you to come back another day that works for you. Expect some upset from your client – they are upset at the situation, not at you. Your job is just to help them decide how they want to handle the situation now that they’re here.

To pass this section, you must role play these situations with your dentist/ office manager.

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Office Manager                Date