8.17.12 Issue #545 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Phone Follies Frustrate Callers
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Well, it's happened again. Just when I think practices are getting the message, I hear it all over again, and it appears to be getting worse, not better. I returned a phone call to a dentist who had contacted me with some questions about a few issues in his practice. Within seconds, I knew that this was a practice in trouble. Let me explain. 

I placed the phone call and the business employee answered it on the second ring. My first thought was, good job. The phone didn’t ring several times before a human picked it up or worse yet, go into voicemail. Unfortunately, my positive encounter was pretty much over at that point. The employee rips through the perfunctory greeting as if her lips are trying to post a “best time” in the phone answering sprint competition.

I can barely understand what she said, but I am pretty sure that I heard something that sounded like, “Drs. Lord and God.” Now, I have some pretty good connections in the industry, but they are not THAT good. I hesitated for a second or two trying to register what I thought she just said. The name of the practice is “Drs. Loren and Goff.”  So I politely ask “Is this Dr. Frank Loren’s office?” “Yeeesss,” she says in a low, slow, sarcastic voice. Evidently, she wanted to ensure that I clearly understood her response to what she obviously considered to be a “stupid” question. 

I asked to speak to Dr. Loren as he was expecting my call. “He’s not available right now,” she snapped. There was no explanation and no offer to take a message. In fact, I had to ask her if I could leave a message for the doctor. “Just a minute I have to find a pen,” she said, clearly annoyed by my request. I have to say that this employee’s tone of voice and attitude were so rude and disrespectful that even I was taken aback, and I have encountered a multitude of rude and disrespectful employees over the years. If I had been a patient, I would have happily hung up and never called again.

I wish I could tell you that this was an isolated incident in a new, inexperienced practice, but it’s not. We find that many doctors do not monitor how employees handle the fundamentals of phone communication. Moreover, far too many practice owners fail to consider the fact that training is absolutely critical - now more than ever - for frontline employees. The employee’s handling of basic telephone communication in Dr. Loren’s practice is likely to be a significant contributor to why this practice has what the doctor terms “a few issues.”

Certainly, juggling the many demands that come with working the business side of the practice can be extremely demanding. Patients need to be checked in and checked out, they need appointments scheduled and cancelled, they have financial matters that have to be addressed, and of course, the phone is always ringing. Thus, the pressure can be significant. Some people simply cannot handle that level of stress. They do not have the temperament for it and worst of all, they often are just tossed into these positions with very little training.

First let’s review what this employee should have said when she picked up the phone. “Thank you for calling Drs. Loren and Goff. This is Barb, how may I direct your call?” Her tone of voice should be friendly and her speech unhurried. From there, I would have explained that I was calling for Dr. Loren. At that point, the employee should have said the following. “Ms. McKenzie, he is with a patient at the moment, may I take your number so that he can return your call shortly?” Or if she was in the middle of checking out a patient, she could have said, “Ms. McKenzie, I am taking care of a patient, may I place you on hold for just a moment?”

Callers expect your staff to be polite and courteous. But if you have the wrong people on the frontlines of your practice, or if they don't have the proper training, common courtesy is an afterthought for them. And it's not long before your practice becomes an afterthought to patients. Yes, we can provide your team with online telephone training in three, 30 minute sessions. Look HERE

Next week, test your telephone effectiveness.

For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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