Developing an Incredible Telephone Personality
Dress for success is a catch phrase referring to the classy business suit of black or navy blue with matching shoes and accessories worn by the polished business administrator. Much time and energy is spent preparing to exude the professional business appearance with the goal of making a positive impression on the boss, staff and patients that come to the practice.
Few people take as much pride in developing their telephone image. Because dentistry is a service industry, people will spend more time listening to you than looking at you - therefore time and effort must be spent developing a professional telephone personality. Keeping a smile in your voice despite what is happening around you is a must have skill for the Business Assistant and does not come naturally to anyone under stress.
When face-to-face in a conversation, nonverbal cues are apparent and the volume and tone of the voice can be adjusted based on what you are reading in the face and body language. If your voice is loud, a person may back away or frown causing you to lower your voice and speak slower. If you are loud on the phone, a person will hold the receiver farther away from the ear and you will not be able to detect that the person is uncomfortable with the loudness of your voice.
Excellent listening skills are necessary to communicate effectively on the telephone, and this too does not come to you naturally and must be practiced with discipline. The minute the phone is answered, 100% attention must be given to the caller. This is a challenge in a busy practice. But being effective on the telephone requires more than just a smile in your voice. The following are also essential:
Your speaking voice reflects your personality and immediately sends a message to the caller as to whether a successful telephone contact has been made. The elements of a good speaking voice are: loudness, pitch, rate and quality.
Loudness refers to the volume of your voice. When stressed, most people raise their voices and sound like they are yelling or upset. If the background noise in the office is loud then the business administrator will speak louder, making the caller uncomfortable. That is why it is recommended that staff members not congregate at the desk for chit chat sessions and that treatment presentations are delivered in a consultation room or the operatory and not at the desk where incoming phone calls are received. If people ask you to repeat because they can’t hear you, most likely your voice is too soft or has dropped to a monotone. A too soft voice can communicate lack of confidence.
Pitch is the tone of your voice. Changing this quality is challenging because it is like breaking a well developed habit. A low, gravelly voice or a high, squeaky voice are hard on the listener and can be changed with a voice coach and practice.
Rate of speech can determine how well another person understands what you are saying. The rate needs to be at a pace that does not detract from the message that you are trying to communicate. If you are delivering information that is vital for the patient to understand about a treatment plan and this is new information, the rate needs to be slowed so that the patient can grasp and understand what is being said.
Quality of your voice is affected by a combination of psychological and physical factors. If you are feeling ill or experiencing depression, patients can detect this in your voice. Patients don’t know if your voice is telling them that this job makes you unhappy or if you are just having a bad day. Either one of these can have a negative effect on how the patient perceives the practice. It often takes extra effort to inject enthusiasm, interest, naturalness and expressiveness in your voice. With proper coaching and training this can be easily achieved.
The Advanced Training Front Office or Office Manager Course through McKenzie Management offers the opportunity for you to script and role play scenarios to test your telephone skills and get the training and support necessary to improve your telephone personality and attract more patients to your practice.
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