How Poor Phone Communication is Costing You Money
Mrs. Jones just called your practice, hoping to find her new dental home. She has three children and keeps a very tight schedule during the work week. She tells your office assistant, Sarah, she prefers a practice that not only has Saturday morning hours, but that also allows her to bring in all three kids at once. Sarah sighs, and tells Mrs. Jones you no longer offer Saturday morning hours and that even if you did, she’d have to wait months to get an appointment for her entire family. She then thanks Mrs. Jones for her call, hangs up and goes back to the important task that pesky phone call just interrupted.
If this is how calls are handled in your practice, you have a huge problem. Instead of telling Mrs. Jones about your flexible early morning and weekend hours, and assuring her you’ll be able to see her entire family on a day that’s convenient for them, Sarah has pretty much guaranteed Mrs. Jones and her family will never step foot in your practice.
Yes, in just a few short minutes your well-intentioned office assistant cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Not only will Mrs. Jones not be calling your practice her new dental home, neither will any family or friends she might have referred to you. And if that’s how Sarah handled this call, you can bet Mrs. Jones isn’t the only potential new patient she has discouraged from making an appointment.
Don’t get me wrong. Sarah isn’t sabotaging the practice on purpose. She just hasn’t been properly trained to handle these phone calls, and doesn’t understand how important it is to connect with patients over the phone.
When the phone rings, your team members shouldn’t view it as a disruption to their day, or a nuisance that keeps them from getting real work done. They should see it as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service, whether they’re talking to a busy patient who only has a few minutes to schedule an appointment or an angry patient who is upset about a billing error.
Remember, the person who answers the phone represents your practice and should be armed with written scripts for various situations. He or she should be professional and courteous, and speak in a clear, friendly voice. And, unlike Sarah, team members who answer the phone should provide solutions to the problems and concerns that potential and current patients have. These calls are an opportunity to grow your practice, not to set up roadblocks. Never tell a patient “no” or you “can’t.” If you do, the patient will find a practice that can.
Poor telephone skills not only cost you new patients, they also hurt your relationship with current patients. When patients call to schedule treatment, they don’t want to be rushed off the phone by a seemingly rude team member who has better things to do, or put on hold for 15 minutes because the person who answered the phone is simply too busy to take their call. They want to schedule an appointment or find a solution to a problem.
If they don’t receive a warm greeting and exceptional customer service when they call your office, even loyal patients might start looking for a practice that actually wants to talk to them, leaving you with falling patient retention and production numbers.
While it’s important to use proper techniques when answering practice phones, team members need the same skills when they’re reaching out to recall patients or following up after case presentations. Calling these patients won’t do much good if the team member dialing the number isn’t armed with the proper script or information about the patient and what’s keeping them from going through with treatment. These are sales calls, and without proper training your team members will have a difficult time getting patients on the schedule.
Patients are buying the benefits of your services, not the services themselves. During follow up calls, your Treatment Coordinator should address concerns and talk to patients about the benefits of recommended treatment. Use words that encourage patients to schedule treatment, such as definitely, absolutely, let me recommend and I assure you. Like anyone else in the practice answering or making phone calls, the Treatment Coordinator should be trained to smile while speaking, and to talk clearly and professionally so patients can focus on the message instead of trying to understand what the person on the other end of the phone is trying to say.
Proper telephone techniques are critical to your practice’s success, and if your team members don’t use them it’s costing you big. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I can help you turn it around. I offer telephone assessments designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a dental team’s phone skills, enabling you to determine what you need to change to create positive results. I also offer telephone training to help you make those improvements and better understand the value of scripted telephone conversations and what they can do for your practice, from growing patient retention numbers to a more robust bottom line.
Next week, 9 ways to improve your telephone techniques
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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