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John Marvin

If a Horrible Patient is the Worst Thing That Happens to You This Week, Remember You’re in Good Shape

Keep these things in mind the next time you are faced with an unreasonable patient or customer.




If a Horrible Patient is the Worst Thing That Happens to You This Week, Remember You’re in Good Shape

“IF THIS is the worst thing that happens to me this week, I’m in good shape.” That is something a good friend would say anytime he came across some minor disappointment. Actually, it works well with any type of disappointment or frustration; just take a breath and say it to yourself.

Recently, while sitting in an airport lounge waiting on a delayed flight, my frustration began to boil over. I was told my TSO Pre-Check status wasn’t recognized at that terminal, then as I arrived at the gate I found out the plane was delayed again. I started imagining all sorts of ills that could result from this unwanted delay.

Roy Spence, the author of It’s Not What You Sell, it’s What You Stand For, told me his father had a great bit of advice: “Be kind; everyone you meet is carrying a burden or dealing with something you know nothing about.” I work hard to keep this in mind.

If you don’t like people, you probably shouldn’t be in this industry. Each day we have the privilege of helping people to see — and therefore enjoy — their life better. However, they can be frustrating.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you are faced with an unreasonable patient or customer.

Stop and take 30 seconds to say to yourself: “Slow down, listen, try to understand.” This simple but effective exercise will take the focus off yourself and place it on the person you are trying to help. These occasions have a tendency to escalate as the position of each party begins to harden. The more you or the customer feel wronged, the more you defend your position and the harder you become to reason with.


Is it worth the emotional cost? Usually, it’s the little things that drive us crazy. The more we dwell on them the larger they loom in our minds. Keeping in mind the words of my friend’s father, “Be kind…” Really, if this IS the worst thing that happens to you today, aren’t you going to be OK? When a customer returns with a problem, convinced it’s not their fault, what does it hurt to agree and help them solve their problem? They will be happy, feel vindicated and brag to everyone they know about the service they received.

One of the interesting aspects of my job is reviewing customer complaints. It’s very educational. When you’ve read hundreds of them, you learn the most common causes of dissatisfaction.

Frankly, I think you learn much more from complaints than from five-star reviews. It’s always a customer service issue. People don’t complain that their exam wasn’t correct, or that they couldn’t see out of their glasses. They complain about how the optician responded to the fact that they couldn’t see out of their glasses.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. You can email him at


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