Managing Talkative Callers
I am training a new scheduling coordinator and she spends way too much time getting to why the patient is calling and making the appointment. She is really nice, but her time management skills are very poor and I am doing her job while she is “chatting” on the phone. What should I do?
Betty, Office Manager
You say that you are training a new scheduling coordinator. Perhaps you are assuming she knows that she needs to wrap up the call quickly so that she can direct her energies to other calls coming in. It is time to train your new person to take control of the call and to direct the patient into an appointment time while still maintaining a friendly and warm demeanor. It can be challenging to control the situation when you have a “talkative” patient, but here are some tools to use to keep control of the caller.
Ask closed questions as often as you can to keep the responses short, such as:
The closed question requires usually one word to answer, thus moving the conversation along. Ask open questions when the answer requires detail such as:
Control the space between questions so that the caller has little time to interrupt you. You can do this without rushing the patient and still maintain courtesy. In the time between the sentences, use shorter pauses and then immediately ask your next question or make your next statement.
Do not invite unnecessary conversation, as this is like an invitation to the talkative caller to take control of the call. Often the talkative caller will engage in non-business conversations such as:”You sound like you have a southern accent, are you from the south?” To keep the conversation on track and steer the patient back to business, reduce the response and redirect back to making the appointment, such as: “No, I am not from the south. I have an opening tomorrow at 2:00 PM, will that work for you, Tom?”
Sometimes in trying to get information, patients will begin to tell you their life history in the dental office. Of course we are interested, but again, once you have enough information to make the appointment you will need to redirect the caller back to the appointment, such as: “Mr. Brown, we look forward to hearing more when you come in for your appointment, I have an opening Tuesday, June 3rd at 3:00 PM, will that time work for you?”
Learning to recognize a caller’s behavior takes excellent listening skills, and knowing what to do with these callers takes some skill and experience. Often a detail-oriented caller can be hard to manage, just as a talkative caller can be. The difference is that the detail-oriented caller is focusing on accuracy. S/he wants a detailed response in order to make a decision about making an appointment in your office. The detailed caller wants to know the how, why, what, when and who of the situation.
For instance, Mr. Brown wants to know about implants: “Yes, I am looking for a very experienced dentist in implant crowns. I want to know where he went to school, how long he has been placing implant crowns, if he has references and what his implant crowns cost?” This type of call usually takes a while to complete and if you are not prepared, it is not wise to “wing it.” A recommended response would be: “Thank you for calling Mr. Brown. In order for me to collect the information that you are requesting, I will have to do some research and give you a call back. Can you be reached after 4:00PM today?’’
When analytical callers have to make a decision, they want a lot of information - and the information needs to be accurate. They appreciate the fact that you are willing to research before you give them an answer.
No two callers are the same, but the skill of a well trained business coordinator or scheduling coordinator will be able to spot this and keep control of the conversation and direct the caller into an appointment smoothly, quickly and with a smile on her/his face.
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