4.16.10 Issue #423 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Who’s Really Answering Your Phone?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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I never cease to be amazed at how people can look at the same thing and have completely different interpretations. The disconnect can be dramatic, much like the classic optical illusion, in which at first you see either a young woman or an old hag. The lines on the sketch are the same, yet the interpretation of the picture can be completely different. Similarly, in challenging situations we may perceive that we convey a positive and helpful demeanor - but the person on the other side of the issue may interpret our behavior completely differently.

This point was illustrated recently by a company that sought to educate staff on the difference between how employees believed they handled customer service, and what customers actually experienced. Each was asked to describe the best customer experience and explain what made it excellent. Every employee recognized good customer service, and each wanted to believe that they delivered it in their office. But when secretly recorded telephone calls were played of the employees talking to customers on the phone, the room was filled with people who, for the first time, were getting a completely different picture than the one they originally perceived and it wasn’t pretty. However, it demonstrated that even though these individuals understood the value of good customer service, they weren’t necessarily prepared to deliver it.

A similar scenario is common in dental practices across the country. Those handling telephone inquiries from patients often believe that they are being helpful, pleasant, and conscientious, but the reality is far different. Truth be told, most front office staff view the telephone as a source of frustration and interruption. It’s annoying, and oftentimes that irritation comes through loud and clear to the caller. They are not trained to represent the doctor or the office effectively on the phone. Consequently, it’s costing dental practices a fortune in lost patients and lost production.

Consider the following facts that apply to virtually any business providing a service, including dental services:

  • 7 out of 10 customers/patients decide to not use a business/practice after their first call because the telephone was not answered within 2 rings or they received an unwelcoming greeting from the person answering.
  • It takes 3-6 seconds to impress a customer/patient.
  • It costs 5 times more to obtain a new customer/patient than to keep an existing one.

Do you know how your team members come across on the telephone? If not, find out. While you’re at it, invest in a 90 minute training program that will turn your business staff into a five star, top-notch telephone team without ever having to leave the office. McKenzie Management’s Telephone Skills Training Program addresses the longstanding challenge faced by business staff: maximizing the telephone lines to boost new patients and practice production.

The training process is straightforward and time efficient. The doctor completes a brief questionnaire providing a quick summary of the type of practice and any current policies regarding scheduling of new patients and emergencies. Then the practice schedules time with a McKenzie Management trainer for the three 30-minute sessions – no out of office travel, no overnight expenses required. All the practice needs is a quiet area, a computer with Internet access, and a telephone. From there, the employees log into the training website.  And with a McKenzie Management Telephone Skills trainer on the phone, they are guided through the training sessions.

The lessons take place over a three week period to give the business staff an opportunity to implement one aspect of the training before introducing the next. As an added bonus, employees will have the opportunity to learn firsthand how they come across to patients over the telephone. During the training period the practice will receive two additional mystery patient calls to help employees and the doctor assess their progress. After each session, the doctor will receive a feedback form with results of the session, including topics covered, support materials provided to the staff, and recommendations for improvement.

Once employees complete the training they will have the skills to expertly handle patient objections. They will understand how to guide patients to appropriate appointment times. They will be well prepared to make a truly professional first impression with new patients. And they will learn how to better manage those stressful times when the phone is ringing, the patients are standing at the desk, and the clinical staff is making demands.

In most cases, simply educating staff on effective telephone communication can significantly improve their approach and eliminate the disconnect between how employees perceive they are handling these critical calls and the reality patients experience.

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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