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How to Resolve a Complaint

The College is a resource for registrants to become informed and educated for the purpose of enhancing standards of practice.

The overwhelming majority of complaints received by the College are the result of a failure or breakdown in communications between the patient and the optometrist or the clinic staff. Resolving complaints before they escalate is often a matter of employing “best practices” in communicating with the patient who has a concern or complaint. Concerns and complaints often present indicators which may be useful, to the optometrist, for evaluating a clinic’s overall communication skills. The following is a complaint resolution method, employing four basic steps, which should be followed in order:


Ask the complainant to present their concerns in detail. Start with the facts. When all the facts have been recounted, encourage the complainant to present their perspective on the issue. Avoid interrupting or taking issue with anything the complainant says at this point; simply allow the story to be told.


Acknowledge the complainant’s perspective. “So, you feel that…” Build agreement at each step. When both the optometrist and the complainant agree on the complainant’s perspective, that is, why the complainant feels that they have a concern, consider validating the complainant’s perspective. “I understand why you feel the way you do about this matter. In similar circumstances I would feel the same.” This is not an acknowledgement of fact, it is an acknowledgement of perspective – the way the complainant feels about the issue as they understand it.


Build agreement on the verifiable facts with the complainant. “My record indicates that… Is that your understanding?” Be mindful that what one person says or thinks they say to another person may not be what that other person understands they said. As a professional, it is your responsibility to ensure that your patient understands what you, or your staff, say to them.

Fair Resolution

If errors were made, admit them and apologize. Ask the right question. “How can we fairly resolve this matter to your satisfaction?“