How to handle complaints effectively - Hamilton Fraser


As an aesthetic practitioner, complaints are likely to be one of the things you dread the most.

After all, your aim is to improve patients’ lives by helping them achieve their desired aesthetic appearance. So, when a patient makes a complaint, it can be very upsetting to hear and you may be tempted to take it personally and react defensively.

If a patient is unhappy with their treatment results, they need to be listened to and taken seriously. After all, the last thing you want is an unhappy customer. Here, we explain how to deal with the different types of complaints you might receive. We also offer advice to help you avoid them happening in the first place.

Types of complaint

Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are two main types of complaint that you should be aware of – ‘notable’ and ‘reportable’.

Notable complaints

A notable complaint is when a patient is dissatisfied with the result of a treatment. It could be that the treatment was not as successful as hoped or they felt that the aftercare was unsatisfactory. As a result they may request a refund or ‘free treatment’ to address it and remedy the problem.

Reportable complaints

A reportable complaint is when a patient makes a formal claim. This could be due to a bodily injury where a treatment has gone wrong, and you could receive a solicitor’s letter or request for compensation.

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Addressing notable complaints

When addressing a notable compliant from a client it is key to firstly acknowledge the patient’s concerns within 24 hours of hearing them. This isn’t a legal requirement, but will demonstrate that you take complaints seriously and are committed to resolving the issue with them. If the patient feels heard, they will be much less likely to escalate their complaint further and a suitable resolution can often be met by mutual agreement.

When you respond, provide an estimated timescale for resolution. If it becomes apparent you won’t be able to meet this deadline then be sure to let them know as soon as possible, providing a revised date. Next, follow these steps:

1.    Investigate

You should always conduct a thorough and honest investigation into the treatment and the complaint received. The full outcome of this investigation does not need to be disclosed to the complainant but you should use it to reflect upon once the complaint is resolved; this can help to avoid a similar mistake being made in the future.

2.    Summarise your findings

The summary should be objective and professional, and conclude with whether you believe the complaint is valid. Note: you must not admit liability, but show a sympathetic attitude towards their concerns. While receiving a complaint can sometimes feel like a personal attack against you, it is important not to be defensive and to remain objective throughout.

3.    Resolve

Conclude the complaint with a formal response to the patient outlining next steps, which will be dependent on the complaint that was made. Thank them for bringing their concerns to your attention. The conclusion of a complaint usually falls into one of three categories:

1.    Thank them for bringing their concerns to your attention but explain that, following a thorough investigation, you are unable to uphold the complaint and no further action is required

2.    You can explain that, as a gesture of goodwill, you will offer a free treatment to correct any side effects

3.    Offer a refund for the treatment cost as a gesture of goodwill.

Following these steps should help to bring the complaint to a swift resolution.

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Addressing reportable complaints

Reportable complaints are more serious and must be reported to your insurer straight away. The following documentation will be required by your insurer so it is a good idea to keep a note of what you would be required to produce in the event of a claim. This includes:

·         Solicitor’s letter or request for compensation

·         Full patient consultation and consent documentation

·         Treatment photographs

·         Any leaflets/booklets or electronic documents relating to the treatment that may have been provided to the patient

·         Training certificate for the practitioner(s) who have performed the treatment(s)

·         Any correspondence between you and the patient

·         Summary of how you feel the treatment went and whether you agree with the allegations. You need to be honest and open with your insurer so that they can determine the most efficient way to handle the claim on your behalf. If a mistake has been made during the course of the treatment you must tell your insurer – they will not penalise you.

Preventing a claim

Like everything, prevention is better than the cure. Here are our top tips to minimising the chances of a claim being made against you.

1.    Select patients carefully

Understanding your patient’s motivations will help you assess whether they are right for you. When discussing their expectations, be open and honest as to whether they are achievable. Document this in your consultation notes so there is evidence of this conversation. If there are any indications to suggest the patient isn’t suitable for treatment, then advise them that you cannot meet their expectations and decline treatment.

2.    Documentation and aftercare

Make sure you document everything and have time-stamped photographs. Provide the patient with aftercare information, either an electronic or physical copy, and ensure they fully understand it and can re-read the information at their leisure.

3.    Be contactable

If you are not available post-treatment then provide contact details for a colleague who patients can contact instead. They might panic if they develop a side effect post-treatment and cannot contact you, which could lead to a concern escalating.

4.    Complaints procedure

Having a clear and comprehensive complaints procedure in place helps you deal with any complaints efficiently and consistently should they arise.

Hamilton Fraser makes sure you are supported every step of the way during the claims process. We always work with you to resolve notable matters in order to prevent them escalating into a formal complaint and subsequent claim.

No matter how skilled or professional you are, complaints can happen. It’s wise to take steps to minimise the chances of them happening, but if they do occur, you must take them seriously, and investigate and resolve them as efficiently and effectively as possible.

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