♫ Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can hear me………. ♫
Ok. Ok – I got carried away with the Pink Floyd reference…….. Back to reality.
Just what are your patients and potential new patients hearing when they call your office?
Do they hear a clipped, unsmiling, non-welcoming “Dr. So & So’s office!”
Here’s a small challenge for you this week. Google dentists in your area (or even tell Siri “I have a toothache and see how many offices she pulls up) – pick up the phone and hit *67 (to block your number so people don’t think you are spying on them even though you are! hee-hee!) and dial a few other offices numbers to get a feel for how they are doing it. Make a mental note of how each greeting made you feel – like you wanted to go meet the people here? Like you were interrupting something more important? Like holy cow that lady was a beeee-atch? Did they make you smile?
Now, after you call a few other practices, call your own. Star *67 your number again and really “listen” to how you are being represented when someone answers your phone. Is this how you want patients and potential new patients to view your practice? Every single thing that goes on in your practice is a direct reflection of YOU – The initial phone call should be knocking the patients socks off, EVERY SINGLE TIME!
You make think this is a silly exercise, however I am here to tell you that this exercise will make you more aware of the happenings within your own practice.
There is nothing that makes me more sad than when I call a practice and the person answering it is showing such a display of being in a hurry, an attitude of “you’re not important to me” and “what do you want” – all within the first 10 seconds of answering the phone. How many times have you called somewhere and the person answering says the practice name so freaking fast you can’t even understand what they just said and can’t catch their name either, if they even say it.
(Don’t get me started on the messages left on answering machines during lunch hours- “We’re out to lunch for an hour and a half – call back THEN and your call will be important to us!!”) News flash – there are A LOT of busy patients who use THEIR lunch hour to take care of personal needs, including scheduling appointments.
And, for the 1000th time, if someone is answering your practice phone by just picking up the phone and stating “Dental Office” MAKE IT STOP! If I was a patient looking for a new office and got this answer I would hang up. These offices place no value and offer no investment into personal connections PERIOD – well, maybe the dentist does but no one will ever know because they can’t get past the poor service on the phone.
Patient care needs to be amped up over the phone – why? Because although patients can hear it in your voice, they can’t see your face to make the whole connection. It’s better than communicating through email, yet not quite as good as face to face. Do you want somebody faking it? Absolutely not – patients also pick up on that and it is a total turnoff.
Covering phones for one of our great practices, I took a call from a fella who was shopping for implant fees. He told me he was shopping. This gentleman was completely sticker shocked at the price he was quoted at another practice, never even really knew what an implant was until he now was recommended one and was completely overwhelmed. I gave him what I have the luxury of giving him – TIME – I answered his questions as best as I could – calmed him down a bit – and had a wonderful conversation with him. At the end of the conversation, I asked for the appointment for a complimentary smile consult with one of the dr’s. He declined saying he had a list of NINE offices he called and he needed to talk it over with his wife. Hanging up, I was like “dang” because I didn’t appoint, however felt very good about the conversation. (This call was on a Friday) Guess what? He called back first thing on Monday to schedule! He told me he decided on this office because of “your bedside manner” and “the time you took with me”. He not only met with Dr., but he s accepted treatment that includes bone grafting and implants. All because I took the time. (This patient ended up investing over $13,000.00 with this practice).
It’s all about connections – personal and positive connections!
Is every phone call going to be a super success? Nope.
Would your administrative team pass every single phone call test randomly given by some, tape recorded then mailed to you to encourage administration training? Nope. Neither would I.
However, as long as kindness, patience and friendliness rule you can always say we honestly gave it our best effort. Let’s face it – we have to base the success rate of our phone calls partially on the person calling in… So if you have less than stellar answering the phone and combine that with a perhaps difficult new patient asking all kinds of questions, well, I would bet my bottom dollar that your new patient scheduling rate isn’t very high.
Do you offer to contact the patients insurance company to get a breakdown of benefits for them? Even on a new patient phone call, if the patient isn’t sure, we always go the extra mile and offer to obtain this information for them. I know, I know – somebody out there is screaming “WHAT??!” when they read this and thinking ” I don’t have time for that” or better yet “It’s the patients JOB to know what their benefits are!” Hearing this drives me bonkers! In the most well run, and booming practices that we see have stellar insurance administrators that know insurance plans inside and out. They leave NOTHING to chance. By NOT offering to support the patient in obtaining their insurance benefit information, that is exactly what they are hearing – You don’t have time for them. And if you don’t have time for them at this initial phone call when will you? WOW them from the get go! (we have a great insurance information breakdown sheet to use – if you would like a copy let me know!)
Ok – moving on. Let’s face it peeps. Some of your calls are going to go to voice mail. It is going to happen and unfortunately happens way too much. (I do believe you need to have a solid 45 hours a week phone coverage to make the most of every opportunity calling in and connect with the patients promptly!) Every phone call that comes into your practice is an opportunity. Even an appointment adjustment is an opportunity. A wrong number, an opportunity~! Think about it! (we have converted wrong numbers and local sales calls into appointments!)
You may THINK patients know you’re out on Wednesdays or Fridays but I can guarantee you calls are still coming in. And during lunch hours. And while you are out on vacation or holidays. Life doesn’t stop just because someone isn’t answering your phones.
What happens after they leave a message is what makes or breaks the deal. On your message let the patients know how important their call is, and that you WILL return their call within the next 30 minutes. And you better be ready to back that promise up!
My niece, who lives in Chicago, called a practice TWICE leaving a message both times asking someone to call her so she could schedule NEW PATIENT appointments for both she and her husband. No one returned her call. Ever. She wrote on their facebook wall how terrible their customer service is and that they lost out on 2 new patients because somebody couldn’t be troubled to return her calls. They never responded to that either. And it’s not like she didn’t give them time. She waited 5 business days. Can you say YIKES!? EPIC FAIL on this practice part.
Opportunity knocks every time your phone rings. Its all in how, and IF, you answer it.
It’s time you replace that boring, non-productive answering service with a result producing, appointment scheduling AWESOME service!