You only get one chance to make a first impression. Even before your phone has been answered, the caller is forming impressions of you and your practice.
First impressions are lasting impressions. That’s why the first few moments your staff spends on the telephone with a patient are crucial. These are a few important points to remember:
1. Are your calls answered promptly enough without being too quick? Promptly is usually within 30 seconds. That gives you about 8 rings before your caller becomes anxious. Answering too quickly will also make your callers uneasy. A good rule of thumb is never answer before the second ring. This gives the caller time to collect their thoughts before speaking.
When you are ending one call and the other phone begins to ring, it is best to finish the first call before taking the second call; even if it means the second call rings a few extra times.
2. What’s the first thing you say? “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” are pleasant ways to start your conversations. But be sure to follow with your name and title or department. By providing those facts to your caller they will know how your responsibilities relate to their call.
3. Does your staff speak clearly and naturally over the phone? Be sure they speak into the phone. That might seem obvious, but most of us never get to hear ourselves over the phone. Many people who speak in normal tones face-to-face speak softly over the phone. Ask a co-worker to listen to your voice on an inter-office call. Test your voice periodically.
4. Do you always ask for the caller’s name early in the conversation? Even if the name isn’t needed to make a query, asking shows you are interested in the caller as a person. If you only ask for the caller’s record or chart number they will begin to feel as though you think of them as numbers, not as human beings.
5. Are your callers treated as though they are the most important part of your business? This positive approach applies even to callers who are part of your practice. Others will never be part of your practice if they aren’t treated well from their very first call.
6. What do your patients hear after they are placed on-hold? What they hear on-hold will make a lasting impression. Used wisely, your telephones’ hold circuit can be the most cost-effective patient education tool that is in your office. Your first contact with a new patient is usually on the phone. While patients are “on-hold” you can politely inform them of the procedures you perform and the services offered by your practice. MJD’s Messages-On-Hold are written to generate consults by professional scriptwriters who know about the latest advances in cosmetic procedures.
What they do “on hold”:
“I thought about the last time I called this office. I was put on hold for a long time then, too. So I asked myself, ‘Why do I keep doing business with these people?’” - Wendy S., calling a dentist.
“I counted the songs I heard playing on the phone line. There were three.” - Sally S., calling a pediatricians’ office.
“I listened to the news. You know, it’s really depressing.” – Kevin B., waiting for his test results.
“I visualized the receptionist who answered the phone. Was she asleep? Did she forget I was on hold?” - Jennifer S., calling her gynecologist.
“I read a few more pages in my novel. I seem to do most of my reading while I am on hold.” - Mrs. D., calling her dermatologist.
“I didn’t think about anything. After about 10 seconds I hung up and called another office. My time is as valuable as theirs is. I called the next name in the yellow pages.” - Andy G., calling a lawyer’s office.
How do you sound?
Successful phone skills are more than just the spoken word. This quiz can help you evaluate how well your staff communicates to patients through those subtle, less perceptible skills.
1. Do you try to put a smile in your voice? ____ ____
2. Do you make a point never to sound impatient? ____ ____
3. Do you speak slowly and distinctly? ____ ____
4. Do you always identify yourself in the call? ____ ____
5. Do you keep your voice calm, even
when dealing with angry callers? ____ ____
6. Do you maintain a friendly yet
professional voice? ____ ____
7. Do you convey the feeling that the ____ ____
customer is always right?
8. Do you end conversations in a positive, ____ ____