Helpful or Not?!
Today I called several hotels looking for information for a trip that I want to take during the month of September. I dislike calling “800” numbers for general reservations, and prefer calling the sites directly. General reservation phone services are often handling hundreds of hotels around the country and do not know answers to my specific questions. I like to talk with someone who works at the front desk, and I can typically get a good feel for the general atmosphere of a place from the way my call is handled. This usually applies through the entire gambit of accommodations, from a five star resort to a mom and pop motel.
My calls today were informative. The person at the first hotel answered the phone professionally with the location name, but it stopped there. I like to know who I am talking with, so I asked for her name. She told me but said it so quickly I had to ask her to repeat it. With some exasperation, she did so. I asked if a room was available on my specific date and after a brief wait on my part she said, “No, we are sold out that day.” Period. End of conversation.
She might have said, “I’m sorry but we are completely full that day for the room type you requested, however I do have an upgrade room available. Would you like to hear about that room and rate?” Or, “I’m sorry we are full that day, but I can recommend such-and-such hotel two blocks away. They take reservations for us when we are booked. Would you like to hear about their rooms and rates?”
After she told me that the hotel was full, I said thank you and hung up. I crossed their name off my list, and I won’t be calling them again. My assumption is they are so busy they don’t care about potential customers. At least I can extrapolate that they don’t care how potential customers are treated on the phone. It is true the dates I was calling about are typically very busy for hotels everywhere, but because of the way I was treated today, I won’t call them back on a less busy occasion. There are lots of hotels after all.
Our patients often make the same discovery. If they don’t like the way their phone call is answered, they may just hang up and call the next dentist on their list. Why would a new patient want to come to an office with an unhelpful front desk coordinator? After all, there are plenty of other dental offices.
As a hygienist, phone answering is seldom on my list of duties, but I help out if the occasion arises. I take pains to be as helpful as I can. Often I don’t know the answer to what the patient is asking, but I do my best to find out. If I can’t, I take their number and make sure they are called back. I know that our patients need quick and correct answers, provided with a courteous attitude. The lovely front desk professionals at my office are adept at this and much more. All of us in the office take to heart that old adage, “patients make paydays possible.”
I also know that most patients have no problem letting me know if they do not like the attitude of someone dealing with the “front office” side of things. I worked as a hygiene temp for awhile during my career, and had many patients tell me, “I really like Dr. Dentist! But I just can’t stand that Ms. Front Desk. She is so unpleasant and rude!” It is a testament to the dentist that the patient likes him and continues to return despite the rude behavior at the front, but do we really want our patients to have to run a gauntlet of unpleasantness when visiting the office?
So, what can we do to make sure patients are being treated politely and helpfully?
We know our patients are being treated as less-than-important in many aspects of their lives. Endless phone menus when calling customer service, being made to repeat over and over names and account numbers each time a call is transferred, being cut off after holding for a “customer service representative” and being told by the recording that their call “is very important” while they wait and wait. Making sure that our patients are treated with courtesy is a great practice builder and should not be ignored. It costs nothing, but has the potential for a substantial pay-off.
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 email@example.com.
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