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  07.01.05 Issue #173

Messages On Hold
Dear Sally,

How long do you think is appropriate for our patients to be “on hold“ before one of my team members gets back to them? I just keep seeing that flashing red light on the phone for what seems like an eternity!

Dr. New York

Dear Doctor,

It is a fact that patient's are put on hold and sometimes longer than we would want. Patient's are checking out, checking in, phones are ringing and clinical staff want to know if their patient has arrived. Unclear job descriptions also causes confusion so the right hand doesn't know “who's on first base.”

Studies show that after only 17 seconds, callers on hold become annoyed. However, the patient is far more understanding if the Business Coordinator explains why the patient is being asked to hold and provides the estimated time required. Never put a caller on-hold without asking for their permission, and then waiting for their response. “Mrs. Jones, may I put you on hold while I check on that?” Putting patients on hold without their consent is a guarantee that you will instantly make a very poor impression. Knowing beforehand how long they can expect to wait reduces the chance of annoyance, particularly among long distance and cellular phone callers.

Another option to prevent frustration is to offer the caller the option of either holding or hanging up and having their call returned within a brief, specific time period. However, it is inevitable that patients will be put on hold.

Educating the patient is essential in reinforcing the importance of professional dental care as well as informing patients about other services the practice provides. No matter what size your practice, it's likely that, at least occasionally, patients must be placed on hold. Use this time to educate your patients with specially developed informative messages that enlighten the patient about services you provide.

“Messages on Hold” allows you to choose specific messages for your needs such as promoting veneers, or porcelain inlays, or the importance of sealants for young children. You should have the flexibility to change your message when you want, i.e., when you introduce new techniques into the practice, for example.

The equipment should not be cumbersome and easily plugged into your phone system. With silence on hold, 60% hang up in less than a minute . Don't let that happen to your patients. Take the opportunity to enhance your image. Effectively utilize the time callers wait on hold to motivate and educate, transforming an otherwise wasted opportunity into a positive experience for the listener.

Kind regards,


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