9 Ways to Improve Telephone Techniques
The phone rings. The office assistant finally answers, clearly annoyed by the disruption. Before even finding out what the caller needs, she asks him to call back in 15 minutes. He does, then she puts him on hold for another 10 minutes before finally asking how she can help. Problem is, the patient is long gone before she returns to the line, and is likely already on the phone with another practice.
This is no way to handle practice phone calls, unless of course you enjoy annoying potential and current patients and sending business to your competitors. When patients call your practice, they don’t want to be put on hold before they even get the chance to say hello, and they certainly don’t want to call back only to find out you still don’t have time for them. They want to talk with a friendly, helpful person who is happy to take their call and schedule their appointment or answer their question.
Unfortunately, many dental practices don’t recognize the importance of telephone techniques and the growth opportunities every phone call represents. Instead they see phone calls as a disruption and would prefer to handle them as quickly as possible so they can go about their day. This attitude is likely costing these practices thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year.
While this is frustrating, it doesn’t have to be your practice’s fate. With a little training, your team members can drastically improve their telephone techniques. Here are nine tips to help you get started.
1. Don’t look at phone calls as disruptions. When patients call, they can tell if they’re bothering the person who answers the phone. They hear the sighs and notice the long pauses. The distracted team member who just wants to get off the phone not only comes off as rude, their attitude screams “I don’t value your call or your business,” which is a great way to guarantee patients never call again.
Make sure your team members understand that properly answering phone calls directly relates to practice growth. They must focus on providing friendly, helpful customer service to every potential and current patient who calls.
2. Listen to the caller. No matter how busy your day is, you have to take the time to listen to patients when they call your practice. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk as you try to figure out how you’re going to get them off the phone. Instead, focus on what they’re telling you. Think about how you can help, and address any concerns or problems they might have. Take the opportunity to make a connection, and the patient on the other end of the phone will notice and appreciate those efforts.
3. Be patient. As tempting as it might be, don’t finish patients’ sentences for them. They’ll know you’re just trying to rush them off the phone. Give them the time they need to explain their situation, and then tell them how your practice can help. The phone call might take a little longer, but it will pay off in the long run.
4. Don’t put up road blocks. Never tell a patient “no” or “I can’t.” If a patient is looking for evening hours that you don’t offer, explain the flexible early morning hours you have available on Wednesdays and Fridays. Work with patients to find a solution to perceived barriers and get them on the schedule.
5. Speak clearly and effectively. Remember, speaking traits that are barely noticeable in person can be very pronounced over the phone. Train employees to speak clearly, professionally and enthusiastically. Team members should answer the phone as if they were welcoming the person face-to-face, and that means greeting callers with a smile.
6. Know the practice’s products and services. When patients call your practice, they often have questions about the services you provide. If the team member who picks up can’t answer those questions, patients will see that as a huge red flag. Make sure team members can confidently talk about popular services such as crowns, fillings, implants, partials, veneers, whitening, insurance and patient financing. Consider creating a frequently asked questions sheet that team members can refer to when speaking with patients.
7. Keep your cool. When an angry patient calls your practice, you can’t react emotionally or get defensive. Remember that it’s not personal. If you stay calm and focus on helping to solve the problem, whether the caller is in pain and needs emergency dental care or doesn’t understand the charges on a recent bill, these patients will likely cool down before the conversation is over. Give them plenty of time to explain the situation and then do what you can to help.
8. Develop scripts. Take the time to develop phone scripts for a variety of situations. This will help team members know exactly what to say to patients when they call, no matter the reason, without fumbling for the right words. But remember that patients want to have a normal conversation. Team members should deliver the scripts naturally, while giving patients a consistent message that spells out the facts clearly and concisely.
9. Keep your word. When you tell a patient that you or another team member will call back before noon with information they requested, call back before noon. If you forget and call back three days later, chances are another practice already provided the information.
Now that you know how to improve your telephone techniques, it’s time to find out where your office stands. Consider my Recorded Telephone Evaluation to find out how you come across over the phone. You’ll likely be surprised by the results, but knowing your weaknesses will help you improve telephone communication, and that will only mean good things for your practice and your bottom line.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Adding Topical Fluoride Varnish to Hygiene Appointments
According to the ADA Center for Evidence Based Dentistry document, “Topical Fluoride for Caries Prevention” dated November, 2013, many more of our patients should be receiving fluoride treatments as part of their regular dental care. Fluoride varnish application is an inexpensive, quick, and readily accepted procedure for our patients, and it provides them with much needed protection against decay. In addition, no longer is professional topical fluoride just recommended for children and teens. Research is showing that almost all of our patients, adults and children, can benefit from this simple, easy treatment.
Some indications for use are:
The ADA has recently come out in support of fluoride varnish even in very young children. Instead of advising our patients to bring in their children at age 3, we should be telling parents to schedule appointments as soon as primary teeth emerge. Little ones should have their teeth wiped with gauze, and then fluoride varnish placed. All adults should be offered fluoride varnish as well. It is now considered to be a part of appropriate treatment as often as twice a year (or even more frequently as needed) for all ages.
How does fluoride varnish work?
Who needs it?
Adults at moderate to high risk of caries are also candidates for fluoride varnish, as are adults who have exposed root surfaces, sensitive teeth, white spots, demineralized areas or dry mouth.
All risk factors should be documented in the patient’s record, both for proper recordkeeping and to verify conditions when submitting a claim to insurance. Many insurance carriers cover fluoride varnish, even in adults, as long as there is adequate documentation. Adults at moderate to high risk will have had three or more restorations in the past five years, exposed roots, “white spots”, dry mouth, or inadequate home care.
Hygienists can recommend fluoride varnish at any time during a patient’s appointment. If a patient has had decay or exposed roots, fluoride may be suggested to help prevent further problems. If a patient mentions that they brush and floss but still seem to get decay, fluoride can be offered. Patients understand that fluoride is helpful and are typically very receptive to the procedure. Adding fluoride varnish at $37 to an 8-patient day amounts to $296 in additional office revenue. For a four-day week this amounts to $1,184, and a month’s additional revenue of $4,736. Even if only half of the month’s patients are treated, the practice would gain $2,368. It is good for the practice’s bottom line and for our patients’ health.
Tell patients to go to ADA .com to find out more. Even Wikipedia contains information supporting systemic and topical fluoride! Fluoride varnish can be an excellent addition to our hygiene appointments.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
When you think of a “great” leader, who comes to mind? You might picture someone who never lets his temper get out of control, no matter what problems he's facing. You might think of someone who has the complete trust of her staff, always speaks kindly, listens to her team, is easy to talk to and always makes careful, informed decisions.
These are qualities of someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence. Here we will look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders – and how you, as a leader, can improve yours.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. After all, who is more likely to succeed, a leader who shouts at his team when he's under stress, or a leader who stays cool and calmly assesses the situation?
According to Daniel Goleman, the “father” of EQ, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence. The more that you as a leader manage each of these areas, the higher your EQ will be. Let's look at each element to examine how you can grow as a leader.
To improve your self-awareness, try keeping a journal. When you write down your thoughts, you pull things into consciousness which might not typically reside there.
Know your values. Do you know what values are most important to you? Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise? Awareness of your "code of ethics" will help expedite your decision-making process
Hold yourself accountable. If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop. Own your part and face the consequences, whatever they are. You'll probably sleep better at night, and you'll quickly earn the respect of those around you.
Practice being calm. Are you “tightly wound” or always in a hurry? These ways of being are not congruent with self-regulation. It is important to develop the skills required to relax, even in the face of challenge.
Take the time to look at situations from other people's perspectives. Also notice your non-verbal signals when listening and empathizing. Do you cross your arms, move your feet back and forth, or bite your lip? These behaviors might not signal true empathy! Think about hearing and responding to the feelings.
5. Social Skills
Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They're rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are, but they're also not willing to make everyone else do the work. They set the example with their own behavior.
If you are not particularly strong in these areas, think about resources you might use to enhance those abilities. Leadership Coaching is always a good first step.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.com
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