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    How to Deal with Your Worst Customers

    All pharmacists have faced a bad situation with a customer. Here are some tactics for  turning it around—and what to do when you can’t.


    Telling the patient when (and where) they can go

    Some patients simply cannot be made happy, Kreckel pointed out. These are the regular customers who complain and find problems each time they come in. “You can’t fix some of these people.” With some continually complaining patients, Kreckel tells his staff that he is the only one who should deal with them. He described himself as having a thick skin and an ability to deal with difficult people. 

    But there have been two or three times when Kreckel has told a customer to take their business elsewhere, he said. “I am kind of a tough guy, but when she becomes so much more difficult and abusive or slanders my name or reputation, she is gone.”

    A customer who is persistently demanding and rude may need to be told to go elsewhere, said Butler. “Just politely let him or her know that we are certainly trying to do all that we can, but if you would feel more comfortable going elsewhere, I think that might be a better option, just for the both of us,” she said. “I’ve often said, “I am going to give you respect and I expect the same from you.’”

    Related article: Pharmacists and phone etiquette

    Karl G. WililamsKarl G. WilliamsA pharmacist can tell a patient to bring their prescriptions elsewhere, as long as the patient is not abandoned, said Karl G. Williams, Professor and Associate Dean at the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. He is a spokesperson for the American Pharmacists Association.

    The concept of patient abandonment is especially important because of the nature of chronic disease and the need to take medications consistently. “While we can’t abandon patients, we don’t have to be a door mat for the patient, either,” Williams said. A pharmacist can fire the patient if the patient’s behavior is interfering with the therapeutic relationship, but the patient has to have some place to go for their prescriptions, he noted.

    But before that happens, the pharmacist should be trying to engage in a constructive dialog with the patient that is aimed at stopping verbally abusive behavior, Williams said. “Conflict resolutions skills are crucial and can really turn the situation around.” Sometimes warning a person that their behavior is not acceptable can act as a wake-up call, he added. 

    What if there is no improvement? “If it is manageable, if you can still care for that patient even with the odd or sometimes abusive behavior, you probably should.”

    Up next: Should you ever call 911?

    Valerie DeBenedette
    Valerie DeBenedette is Managing Editor of Drug Topics.


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