This is a boring topic, no doubt. In fact, most offices may think they have this, simple, easy task under control. But, I’ll bet the farm, MOST do not! How calls are handled is probably the single most important function of an office, that is, at least at the beginning stages of the new patient/office relationship.
Here’s what we mean… Most offices, regardless of the type of business they are in, will answer the phone, “JustUs, this is John, how can I help you?” They identify the company and themselves and then ask how they can be of assistance. Our company deals with a list broker on occasion, for mailing lists, etc. When we call them, they answer like this, “It’s a great day at Dunhill! How can I help you?”
There’s a big difference, especially from the caller’s perspective. Either/or is great, or even somewhere in between these two. BUT, the critical parts need to be in place: identifying the practice name and the receptionist’s name and asking, “How can I help you?”.
Now, let’s look at those 7 critical steps when answering phones:
- Be courteous. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many offices have impatient or even downright RUDE sounding people who answer their phones; a tone like “How dare you bother me!” is not uncommon. The caller needs assistance. That’s why they are calling, and that’s the person’s job answering phones… to provide that help when the phone rings.
- Ask the caller for complete information. This is critical for a number of reasons, one of which is so that you can speak to them using familiar terms like their name! First and last name, complete address, phone and even a fax number and email address. This particular information comes in handy later on.
- Find out the exact nature of the call. Ask a question such as, “What exactly can we do for you today?” Rule #1 for stimulating a good response in any conversation: Ask a question, keep your comments to yourself, and LISTEN.
- Establish a priority for the call. Is it:
- Level I emergency? (Patient needs immediate appt./care)
- Level II situation? (Patient needs appt./care as soon as a spot opens in the schedule)
- Level III, non-emergency situation? (Patient is responding to ad, referred by someone, or has a general inquiry)
- Schedule the appropriate action to be taken.
- Send out a confirmation.
- Follow-up after the appointment. Both on the phone and in writing. If available for follow-ups, the doctor doing so has tremendous impact on the patient’s opinion of how they are treated! A 15 to 30 second phone call can do wonders for patient appreciation (Translation: Patient Retention).
Patient opinion can either help build or help destroy your office. Remember, it all starts with that first phone call to the office. Make a great, five-star impression the very first time a prospective patient calls!
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