This article explains some proven strategies for successful complaints handling across different areas of orthodontic practice, while stressing the need to recognise and understand the subtleties often encountered when managing complaints about orthodontic care and treatment, and the importance of taking them into account. It will also suggest some ‘upstream’ strategies for making complaints less likely.
CPD/Clinical relevance: This paper aims to give orthodontic practitioners clinical insight into complaints handling procedures across private and NHS practice.
The basic principles of managing dissatisfaction with effective complaint handling are well recognised and applicable across a wide variety of fields. Transactions that primarily regard goods and those that pertain to the provision of services differ in terms of the levels of human interaction they involve, as well as the subjectivity of subsequent complaints. By their very nature, many healthcare complaints are highly personal and subjective, and can therefore introduce some specific considerations. Dental complaints can be highly nuanced, with complaints relating to orthodontic treatment often having even more specific characteristics.
Most negligence claims, disciplinary or regulatory investigations start out as a simple complaint. While these can be hurtful, stressful and demoralising, we should not lose sight of the opportunities that complaints represent. Many problems can be sorted out in relative privacy before other parties become involved, such as lawyers, the GDC, or other external agencies (including social media), while you still have some control of events. Paradoxically, it is well recognised that the successful management of dissatisfaction and complaints can actually enhance and strengthen the relationship between the organisation and the customer (a process known as ‘service recovery’).1 We can often learn valuable lessons from complaints and they can be a tool for improvement and development.
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