- Successfully fielding phone inquiries means having a documented game plan: what your staff will say, and how callers should be routed through your practice
- Remember: consumers’ goal isn’t to be on the phone, it’s to get information. Prioritize speed and clarity to move them through the process and onto the next stage of engagement.
Are you losing customers before you even speak with them?
How is this possible? By not taking full advantage when opportunity comes calling—literally.
Here at RealSelf, we know from experience that most prospective patients initially reach out to two or three doctors when looking for a provider. Having an efficient, well-planned, documented procedure for handling customer phone calls is a great first step to building relationships with prospective patients who ring up your practice.
Regardless of where a prospective patient may be in their decision-making process, the first interaction is crucial for helping them determine if your practice might be a good fit. Here are some tips on how to make this first interaction productive for both parties if it occurs on the phone.
1. Don’t Let Consumers Languish While the Phone Rings
Answer the phone as quickly as possible. In an ideal world, all calls would be answered within two rings. This sets the right tone: your office is responsive and ready to help.
2. Say It With a Smile (Literally)
Encourage your staff to smile when they answer the phone. The caller will hear it through the phone (and it might induce them to smile back), and the smile will boost that staff member’s mood as well, setting the pretext for a positive interaction.
3. Waste No Time in Getting Contact Information
“Thanks for reaching out! Before we get started, I’d love to make sure I get your name, phone number and email address just in case we get disconnected.” For practical reasons, it’s a great way to get this critical information in case you do, in fact, get disconnected—and so that you can add them to your contacts. This also has a positioning effect: you want to make sure this caller knows they’re a priority. Asking this question upfront will help to project this.
4. Take a Team/Funnel Approach to Phone Calls
This means ensuring that all team members are trained and capable of assisting customers over the phone. It may make sense to create a funnel or flowchart for how phone calls are handled.
For example, have the receptionist who initially answers the phone transfer the call to Team Member A, if applicable, after he or she determines the nature of that consumer’s inquiry. Although Team Member A has other responsibilities, they are the first in line to assist prospective patients over the phone with questions in their specific wheelhouse.
By doing this, the patient 1) gets a fast, personal response, and then 2) receives the undivided attention of a team member who is not placing them on hold to answer another call or greet an in-office patient.
By taking the time to really listen to the caller’s needs, you can set your practice apart from your competitors while making the caller feel important and valued.
5. Don’t Waste Their Time
Don’t leave someone on hold for an extended period of time. If Team Member A is not available, have Team Member B take the call—and make sure this process is known so your front desk staff isn’t fishing around for a person to forward the call to.
If you don’t have enough staff to create this type of chain of command, then set a follow-up protocol for having the person who can answer their question in specific terms follow up if they aren’t available.
But do it fast. Remember: there’s a good chance your inquiring potential patient is convening these conversations with multiple practices at once. As a general rule, it is important to have a standard way of fielding consumer calls and making sure all team members are trained to assist those prospective patients.
6. Credential the Doctor
Make sure all of your team members have brief talking points in regards to doctors’ credentials and experience. This is the time to let them know they are in good hands with your practice (staff members can do this by literally saying, “You’re going to be in great hands.”) and that their needs are important.
7. Get Their Buy-In to Stay Connected
If the caller is not ready to book an appointment, ask for permission to call them back at a later time to see if they have any additional questions or concerns.
If at all possible, make sure the follow up phone call is made by the same person who answered their initial questions. This can go a long way towards building the relationship and making them feel important to the practice.
By quickly answering the phone, having a dedicated and knowledgeable staff member take the time to really listen to the caller’s needs, and ensuring the consumer they are in good hands, you help position your practice ahead of your competition.
Now do this:
If you don’t have one already, work with your staff to create a standard phone greeting to ensure a consistent experience for your patients and make it easier for your staff to quickly and courteously direct calls.