You Can Boost Patient Satisfaction – Even When Things Go Wrong

by Kristin Baird, RN, BSN, MHA on Feb 16, 2016

We all like to think that each patient encounter will be a great service experience. But let’s face it; things can and do go wrong.

When my mom was first diagnosed with lung cancer, she had been hospitalized for tests including a biopsy, which collapsed her lung. She needed a CT scan during her inpatient stay and no one noticed her hearing aid or advised her to remove it. Unfortunately, the CT scan severely damaged the hearing aid—rendering it useless.


Kristin Baird (left) is pictured with her mom, who had a bad service experience during a CT scan. 

Having a new cancer diagnosis is not the best time to lose your hearing. For my mom, it was devastating because she wanted more information and had countless questions to be answered which required face-to-face conversations and hearing. It also severely limited my ability to talk to my mom on the phone since she couldn’t hear.

As a former health-care executive and the CEO of Baird Group, a patient-experience consulting firm, I know the importance of spotting issues and recovering quickly, sincerely and effectively. There is an art and science to good service recovery; it requires having both the personal skills and the system in place to make sure no one drops the ball.

In Baird Group’s “A+ Service Recovery Training,” we teach the 4 A’s of service recovery: Anticipate, Acknowledge, Apologize and Amend. In this case, my mom said that the staff felt bad about it and told her we could send a bill for repairs. To me, that was the bare minimum and there were several missed opportunities.

  • Anticipate – If anyone would have anticipated the issue and told my mom to remove the hearing aid, they could have spared us the whole debacle. Also, they could have anticipated that since the hearing aid was now fried and she could no longer hear, any further discussion about repairs should be addressed with someone who could hear.
  • Acknowledge – They did acknowledge the problem to my mother, but could have gone one more step and called me to let me know what had happened. I could hear, so it would have been best to include me.
  • Apologize – They did apologize and I do believe they were genuinely sorry about the damage. But they talked to my mom, not me.
  • Amend – This is where you try to make things right. They offered to pay for the repairs during a conversation with my mom, but again, didn’t include me. The offer wasn’t made in front of me, nor was it followed up with information about who to call and where to send the bill. It’s nice to offer to make things right, but words must be followed with action.

When patients have positive experiences and you build rapport, they become much more forgiving when service missteps occur. All the positive touchpoints add up and can serve as a little “service savings account.” If things go wrong, you’ll need those service points to help turn things around.

I will be talking about this very topic and invite you to participate in an educational webinar hosted by Cassling entitled7 Customer Service Habits that Boost Patient Satisfaction." Join us on February 23rd at 12 p.m. and find out the seven habits that can help you build a great patient experience.  

Meet the Author

Kristin Baird is a nationally recognized thought leader in improving the patient experience. Having been in the trenches of healthcare as a nurse and hospital executive, Baird speaks the language of someone who’s “been there, done that.” She works with individuals and groups from the frontline, medical staff, and C-suite, guiding them through culture changes with measurable results in patient satisfaction and employee engagement. Baird is a frequent speaker for Cassling’s Investing In You educational seminars and webinars. Learn more and sign up at