Answering the telephone is quite simply the most difficult task in your dental office. More often then not, your team is not taught the proper telephone skills you desire yet you hand over the most important aspect in your dental office, your phone calls! Why?
Today’s patients are much more insurance driven, so to gain patients, it is imperative that your entire team has the tools to convert the calls into appointments. The goal for anyone that is answering the telephone, is to get the patient in the door, therefore as a team, you can wow them in your office to establish a long term and loyal patient.
1. Telephone Responsibility
It is important to identify and clarify whose role it is to answer the phone to avoid confusion and chaos.
2. The Greeting
It is much more than a "hello" or "good morning." Use your greeting to warmly welcome existing and potential customers to your business. The speed of the delivery is extremely important.
Speak slowly; we all tend to speak too fast.
3. Telephone Etiquette
It's not so much "what you say," but "how you say it," that truly matters to your patients. Continue to provide important information but focus on the delivery. Again, what is your tone?
Rushed, out of breath, multi-tasking, all these things will be “heard” by the client.
4. Scheduling Appointments
Make sure that each employee answering these calls knows how to schedule all types of appointments. Do not take for granted that they probably already know! Nothing is more frustrating to a patient to continually be placed on hold to check or ask a question regarding an appointment. As a result, it may put doubt into their decision to schedule at your office.
5. Placing Callers on Hold
Establish a warm and friendly manner while placing callers on hold without offending the patient. NEVER with a NEW PATIENT place the call on hold, NEVER!
For all other calls, ask if you could put them on a brief hold, however, you will need to check back with them every 10-15 seconds.
6. Transferring Calls
Don't leave the caller hanging; let them know when and why you are transferring their call to another employee.
7. Leaving and Taking Messages
Identify what an appropriate message is to leave for a patient, as well as, how to gather all the necessary information when taking a message for other employees. When leaving a message, always identify yourself, company and a phone # that they may call.
When taking a message, gather detailed information and ALWAYS thank the caller for calling your office.
8. Handling the Unhappy Caller
It is important that employees keep their own cool when talking with an unhappy caller and work towards a mutually acceptable answer to the caller's concern. REMEMBER, a patient is always right.
Powerful words: You’re right or I understand. Makes them feel validated. If you need to do additional research, tell them, “please let me do more research into this for you and I will personally call you back.” Set a time and keep that promise.
9. Handling Tough Questions
Recognize how much information is okay to provide and when it is time to seek the assistance of a more seasoned employee. We don’t always have all the answers.
In that case, tell them that and seek assistance from someone that can better assist this patient.
10. Personal Calls
Unless on break or lunch, there really is no acceptable time for employees to make and receive personal calls. This Behavior is a big put off because this communicates to the patient that your time is more valuable than their's. No personal call should take the place of a client call.
3 Common Obstacles with Potential New Patient Calls:
1. Do you take my insurance?
2. How much does ____ cost?
3. Is your office open nights and or weekends?
What are your office’s top 3 Telephone Obstacles? How is your team responding to those obstacles? At your next team meeting, as a team, create your dialogue for your
office’s top 3 telephone obstacles. The entire team should be involved with this exercise and be comfortable answering those questions.
Practice as a Team, be Confident as a Team!
Deb Eatros, Management Consultant, PracticeCFO