Answering the phones.. It’s just not enough.

Said the busy mom, calling on her lunch hour to schedule her children’s next cleaning appointments, only to receive a long winded VM at the dental practice, not only detailing their business hours of every second/every day but advising that said busy mom chose to call during THEIR lunch hour and to call back in 1 1/2 hours for assistance.  Mom LM asking for a return call. Mom never received callback. She gave them a week. Still heard nothing. Mom called a different practice and scheduled appointments for her whole family of 5.  (Missed NP production of over $1250)

Said the busy businessman, who is home for a brief period in between travels, needs to get the crown done that the dr has been recommending, who calls the office to have to go through a series of prompts (press 1 for account questions, press 2 if you have an appointment today, press 3 if you have a refill request, press 4 to speak to an assistant or press 0 and someone will be with you shortly) that he feels wastes his time, is frustrating and he ends up just hanging up because he has a business call on the other line, figuring he will just have to call the next time he is in town. (missed production about $1460)

Said the patient waiting in the reception area, listening to the 2 front desk team members chatting about giving themselves pedicures last night, and how one of them clipped their pinky toenail too short and now it hurts today, and watching them let the ringing phone go to voicemail so they can continue their story AND ignore the 2 patients that just walked in, up to their desk and they kept their backs turned – both patients just took a seat, and after the lovely toenail conversation was over, they THEN called these patients back up to the front desk to give them their paperwork.  (Missed first great impression opportunity – what price are you going to put on that not to mention the missed phone calls that went to VM)

Ok. I’m sure I’ve got the point across how very important it is answer your practices phones, a minimum of 45 hours a week. I think the “answer your phones movement” is taking off rather well!

What needs to be mentioned, in combination with this, is not only answering your phones, but WORKING YOUR SCHEDULE.

You want a full schedule? You want to meet production goals, collection goals and have growth? Answer your phones AND work your schedule 45+ hours a week.

You can have full, like this…………

Or not so full, like this…………

I know. I know. Your staff rotates carrying the office cell phone home on the weekends to answer calls. If/when they answer a call, are they accessing your schedule to assist the caller immediately? Or do they just take a note and call them back Monday? (If that is they case, that is nothing more than an answering machine so why waste your $$) AND just because a team member has the office cell phone it does not mean that 1) they are the best candidate for answering your phone and 2) that they are “working” the schedule.

(For what its worth in the 8 years that I have been doing this, I have not been convinced that after hours/weekend phone support provide enough of a ROI to warrant or necessitate this type of coverage – invest your $$ in working normal business hours for 45 hours a week! You don’t answer your phones or work your schedule on a Wed or Friday but yet you’ll pay someone to carry a cell phone home over the weekend or at night. Work smarter, not harder!)

Just what do I mean by “work the schedule” the same hours as you answer your phone?

Outbound calls. There should be outbound calls placed every single day in the efforts to keep your schedule full and production humming.

Focus on these areas – (make a daily outbound call goal and watch your schedule get filled and your short call list get padded)

  • Short call appointment calls to fill openings within the next 4 business days. Having a viable short call list is crucial in keeping your schedule full. (Having detailed notes for every single patient on the short call list is crucial to saving time – have a note (dated!) stating what days the patient wants in, what time of day fits their schedule best and if they have a provider preference. Having this valuable information will save you time, from making calls to patients that won’t be able to make the appointment and it saves you from annoying the patient with calls that won’t help them anyways!)
  • Recare – PAST due, NOW due, due next month. I’m a big believer in recare systems, including automated systems, regular ole postcards that patients stick up on their fridge and then phone calls. If you look at your past due, now due and due next month reports, you will have plenty of patients to call (and be sure to pad your asap list by asking if they would like to get in sooner for their hygiene visit if any openings become available that fit with their scheduling perimeters)
  • Unscheduled or Quick Fill lists – These lists are LOADED with appointments that most likely have slipped through the cracks. First, be sure to insert a dateline with DETAILS on why the appointment ended up on this list anyways – ill, work conflict, traveling, whatever the case may be, NOTE IT. This allows for you to pick up the conversation where it left off – If the patient was ill, you can enhance the connection and increase your chances of rescheduling by asking how the patient is feeling now. This list should be worked constantly! If someone reschedules, be sure you are using the appointment from this list to keep the list fresh – If the appointment on this list is no longer viable, delete it from the list. We want these lists to be as viable of an appointment resource as any other list. I have seen some of these lists with appointments on them dated back from 2007!!! (Also be sure to make notes on these appointments if you’ve spoke with patient or attempted contact – this eliminates the chance of multiple calls to the patient)
  • Undone treatment calls and follow – up – If any patient leaves your office without scheduling their next appointment, whether treatment or recare, they need to be followed up with! I like the 3 day system: Follow up in 3 days, 3 weeks then 3 months. Of course, detailed communication notes are crucial in making this system fruitful. Use your tickler system, makes notes on the appointment schedule, whatever works in your office but DO IT! Notes should be made WHY the patient left without scheduling so again, we can continue the conversation where it left off.

 

Want to see a difference in your schedule? Answer your phones and WORK IT!

Here’s to answering your phones and working your schedule!

MB

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