Even those at the very top of their game will be faced with challenging patients at some point in their career, especially in service-based industries.
As an aesthetic practitioner you’re dealing with people who are looking for a physical change, often because of a deep-seated psychological reason.
It may be a job to you but it’s personal to them and if they aren’t left with the results they imagined, or find these changes don’t lead to an upturn in their lives then they will be left upset and/or angry.
These emotions can manifest as anger, frustration or distress and may well be directed at you.
As part of our Botox training courses we not only teach you the fundamentals of how to carry out the procedures, we provide advice and ongoing support when you leave us and start practising.
Every business owner in every sector will face a complaint at least once in their career but what can you do to reduce the risk? And, if it does occur, what can you do to smooth the situation without causing more stress and anxiety?
Prevention rather than cure
It’s a cliché but it’s true. Start as you mean to go on and establish an open and honest relationship at the very first consultation. Establish concerns and expectations which are clearly communicated by both you and your patient.
Listen intently to what procedure they are looking for and understand why they want it in the first place. Understanding their goals, expectations, and psychological needs are an essential part of patient care and achieving client satisfaction.
Once you know what their position is then you can discuss safety and how realistic their expectations are. Having an honest upfront conversation at this stage removes any ambiguity or misunderstanding before any work is done and should leave your patient confident in your skills and also happy with what can be done with as low a risk as possible.
If the client still has unrealistic demands or you think there is cause for concern then you can always choose not to treat them.
If you’re getting red flags then it could be in your – and their – best interests to decline treating them, it can be more prudent than firefighting later.
Use colleagues, peers or mentors as a resource to seek a second opinion, although ultimately the path you decide to take will be yours to contend with.
Even by following this advice, you might find yourself faced with a complaint so what do you do if that happens?
1 – EARLY INTERVENTION
As soon as you become aware of the complaint your gut instinct will be to jump on the defensive and barge straight in which can add fuel to the flames.
Early intervention is essential but take a moment to evaluate the situation and then respond in a calm and measured way. Private interactions are always preferable so, where possible, engage in a private arena.
An unhappy client can go on to defame you, make formal complaints or even proceed with legal proceedings so engaging with them as soon as you are able to do will decrease this possibility, it can also be less stressful, less time consuming and less expensive in the long run.
Ask the patient to explain, clearly, their concern and ask what they believe could resolve the issue.
If you feel their concerns are justified and agree their proposed resolution is reasonable then agree a way to move forward. Choose your language carefully to avoid any misunderstandings and create and keep documentation to back up the path you choose to take.
If you decide the complaint is unfounded then you can refer back to notes from your consultations as well as using your pre and post-treatment photos to illustrate your points.
Remember that an apology doesn’t need to be an acceptance of responsibility. It can be offered for the patient’s unmet expectations and the emotions they are experiencing without indicating culpability.
2 – EMPLOY EMPATHY
Whether you believe the client’s complaint is justified or not, their feelings will be very real to them which is why you need to deal with the situation with a great deal of empathy.
Try to see the situation from their point of view and refer back to any consultation notes that may flag up any underlying issues from their home or health perspective.
In order to look past what the patient is saying you need to remove your ego from the situation. Of they are complaining about a Botox or filler treatment then they are likely to be feeling scared, upset and vulnerable and, by deploying empathetic reasoning you can put yourself in their shoes and understand what they are going through.
The use of empathy can lead to genuine rapport establishment in complaint resolution.
3 – KEEP ON COMMUNICATING
Ask the client how they would like you to communicate with them – some people are happier speaking on the phone while others would prefer to meet face to face.
Remember to keep a record of meetings and send follow up emails to maintain a paper trail should the situation escalate.
If you’re meeting the client in person then remain calm and use appropriate and open body language. Listen attentively, avoiding interruption, and clarifying their statements so you don’t get any crossed wires.
As healthcare professionals you will be used to asking questions to get the most out of a client, this can also be applied to the complaints process.
Speaking to the client in person is always preferable as it helps them to feel they are being listened to and you will get a better understanding as to how they are actually feeling.
4 – DON’T GUESS – ASK
Listening to what your client is concerned about and understanding why they feel like they do isn’t enough. Anyone who makes a complaint wants a resolution which could be a simple apology, a refund, corrective procedures or compensation.
It’s just as important to understand how they want the situation to end so you can manage the process in the best way possible and create a tailored solution that works for both you and the client.
Once you have a full understanding of their concerns, feelings and their expectations for resolution you can explain your perspective on the situation.
Doing this in a calm and measured way, after you’ve listened to the client’s point of view, shows that not only did you understand them, but took it on board, which shows you truly care which can go a long way in building trust and agreeing on a mutually beneficial outcome.
After this, re-address the impact it had on them before you give them the solution it will allow the affected person to reflect and realise, we have taken time to give them the best outcome.
5 – SET DEADLINES AND STICK TO THEM
Ideally you would come to an agreement at the first time of asking, however if you’re not happy with their demands or you need to consider how you want to deal with the complaint then don’t feel rushed.
Explain that you would like some time to evaluate everything that they have said so you can come up with a plan that either meets their expectations or is a compromise that you are both happy with.
It’s important to set clear deadlines for each step in the process and stick to it. If you say you will call them on a certain date then do it, missing deadlines will only add to the patient’s upset and anger.
Setting a date and time for a response also gives them a piece information they can hold onto and have an expectation on when they will be getting their solution.
LEARN AND MOVE ON
A little bonus tip for you…it’s very rare for anyone in any industry to make it to the top without receiving a complaint, justified or not so don’t beat yourself up over it.
Once the case is settled, sit back and consider what did you well in handling the situation and what, if anything, you can do to avoid it happening again.
Complaints can be a defining moment for your Botox and filler business and if it isn’t dealt with correctly then you can get a bad reputation.
Handle it well and people can see that you care about your clients.
We understand how tough it is and it’s hard not to take it personally, but underneath all of the bravado, remember there’s a person who’s essentially just asking you to help them and there’s a lot to learn from such encounters.