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It happens; clients get angry from time to time. Every position in the practice has had to deal with an angry client at some point. Clients get mad for a variety of reasons, but we can keep in mind some basic concepts no matter the reason. First, the angry client wants to be heard.

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Dealing With Client Anger

It happens; clients get angry from time to time. Every position in the practice has had to deal with an angry client at some point. Clients get mad for a variety of reasons, but we can keep in mind some basic concepts no matter the reason.

First, the angry client wants to be heard. Clients who are angry want the time and space to speak their mind. They need someone to give them that opportunity, or their anger will only increase. However, you do not necessarily want them to be heard by everyone in the lobby, so the first plan of action is to isolate the incident. This is typically done by escorting the client into an empty examination room or another place such as a comfort room or office. If there is no empty private space, then at least take the client to the quietest corner in an empty hallway or to the most remote end of the front counter, where you can give the client undivided attention and minimize the range.

Then let them tell their side of the story. Come prepared both mentally and physically. Your attitude needs to be one of calm control and understanding. Do not approach the client all smiles and bubbly small talk or the client may think you aren’t prepared to take them seriously. Begin by introducing yourself and explaining your job in the practice. Maintain an upright and confident body language and give appropriate eye contact. Bring along paper and pen to take notes. This allows you to make note of the facts, and just as important, it gives you the opportunity to break your eye contact and disengage every so often from their assertive or angry body language. There is a concept called “emotional contagion” and you can unknowingly absorb the negative energy. Instead, you want them to lean more toward the stance you are taking and absorb your positive energy. This is only accomplished by maintaining confidence and a respectful attitude.

Once they’ve had the opportunity to vent, finish your notes while confirming you did hear the facts correctly. Paraphrase what they said, beginning with the phrase, “What I heard you say is … Is this correct?” This demonstrates that you were actively listening and you heard what they had to say. The notes also provide data for following up on the complaint. Your job at this point is to make sure you clearly understand the facts, and most importantly, ensure that the client feels heard.

When they are finished explaining their side of the story, it is NOT time for you to state yours because they simply don’t care at this point about your side. It’s best to tell them how and when the complaint will be addressed. Are you the practice manager and intend to investigate some of their comments and call back tomorrow? Are you a veterinarian who needs to talk with staff members to get more information, which may take a few days because of the different work shifts? Or are you in a position such as technician or receptionist where you’ll need to pass along the complaint to another person who will call ...

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