10.06.06 - Issue # 239 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

From Taskmaster to Telephone Toastmaster
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Sara is a taskmaster. She is on the ball and cranks through her daily responsibilities as if she were shooting ducks in a barrel. One-by-one each chore goes down, nothing gives her more satisfaction that marking those items off her “to do” list, particularly those annoying phone calls she has to make to patients.

Sara is on the frontline. She is the first point of contact that many patients have with the practice. Her business personality type offers numerous strengths, but warm, fuzzy, friendly telephone demeanor would not be among them. It is common in dental practices to have a task-oriented person communicating with patients on the phone. They are very proficient and can handle calls efficiently, however, they typically don’t do much for the practice-patient relationship. And in their zeal to get things done can come across as hurried and rude.  But that doesn’t mean you have to compromise efficiency for warmth.

In many cases, making the employee aware of the tone they are conveying to patients can significantly improve their approach. And most importantly, providing necessary training and phone communication scripts will ensure that every telephone contact with patients is both effective and positive. Consider a few steps you can implement today to improve telephone communication right away.

Practice and prepare. Most people would never deliver an important presentation without careful preparation and practice. Patient phone calls should be viewed as equally significant. What’s more, preparation ensures that those on the frontlines can anticipate and manage objections, cancellations, and many other patient scheduling challenges that arise during routine phone contact. The goal is to politely educate the patient to take the desired action. But to educate someone you must be prepared with the information in hand, and that it is readily available in the prepared presentation or telephone script. 

The employee should know the prepared presentation so well that it comes across as a completely natural conversation. The planned presentation enables the staff member to spell out the facts for the patient clearly and concisely. She’s not speaking off the top of her head, so there is no chance for error or omission. And the presentation is smooth and efficient, not riddled with fillers, such as um, uh, ya know, or incomplete thoughts. In addition, others handling phone communications also rely on the same scripts; therefore, consistent messages are relayed to patients in each phone interaction.

Customize the call. It’s important to tailor the conversation specifically for the patient you are calling. Consider the information you have available on this patient:

  • Do they prefer a specific hygienist?
  • Do they prefer a specific time of day?
  • How do they want to be addressed – by their first name, Mr., Ms., Mrs.?
  • Is the patient 10 years old or 30? You wouldn’t call and ask for Aaron the 7-year-old to schedule an appointment. Make sure you know this before you dial the number.
  • Does the patient have insurance?
  • Do they need to be pre-medicated?

Can you discuss personal or family accomplishments with the patient, such as:

  • Did they run a marathon this year?
  • Was their child recently recognized for a special accomplishment?
  • Did they just take a family vacation?

Consider including a reference to a recent contact that the office had with the patient. For example, “What did you think of the material that we sent to you regarding the new whitening technique that Dr. Carey is now providing? Did you have any questions about that?”

Choose words and phrases that express conviction, such as:

  • Definitely - “We definitely need to reevaluate that upper right side.”
  • Absolutely - “I absolutely agree with you.”
  • Let me recommend – “Let me recommend that Mary, our hygienist, provide you with information on the whitening techniques now available.”
  • Certainly – “Certainly, I will tell doctor about your concern with that crown.”
  • I assure you – “I assure you that you will be out by 4 o’clock.”

The greater personal connection you can establish with the patient on both professional and personal levels, the more committed they will be to your practice. Remember, you’re not just making phone calls, you are building patient relationships.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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