By Mara Shorr, BS, CAC II-VIII and Jay Shorr, BA, MBM-C, I-VIII
How your phones are answered can make or break the customer experience. That first voice sets the tone for how a prospective patient views your practice, and whether they book an appointment or move along to another office. So how do you get started with a winning first experience? Make sure the person answering your phones:
- Does so with a smile. Your caller can spot an unhappy receptionist over the phone, and it doesn’t sound good!
- Speaks your patient’s language. If English and Spanish, or English and French, are prominent in your area, make sure you hire a bilingual receptionist.
- Is knowledgeable about your practice’s services and retail products. For instance, your receptionist should know the difference between microdermabrasion and a TCA chemical peel and the difference between fillers and neuromodulators. Patients may be confused by the various procedures and bring false information to the conversation; it’s your team’s job to set the record straight about which products do what. (We always recommend offering free treatments to your staff so they are able to answer questions and speak enthusiastically about your services.)
- Doesn’t give out specific medical guidance or advice. Your receptionist is not qualified or licensed to give out medical advice. Have him or her use the following phrase: “That’s a question you’re going to have to ask Dr. ______ (or the name of your physicians assistant, nurse practitioner or aesthetician, depending on the provider the state allows to treat the patient.) I’m more than happy to schedule a time for you to come in for a (free if applicable in your practice) consult to speak to him/her in person.”
- Collects the caller’s phone number, even if this is an existing patient. Contact information could have changed since the caller’s last appointment, and you want to make sure you’re able to follow up with the caller ifs/he chose not to be an appointment that day. Your receptionist can begin the conversation by asking: “May I please have you phone number, in case we get disconnected?” If your practice has caller ID on the phone system, be sure to confirm the number and not just assume that’s where you can call the patient back: “In case we get disconnected, is _______ the best number to call you back?”
- Collects the caller’s email address. Again, for existing patients, this may have changed since his/her last appointment. For new patients, you want to add this information to your files and email database. Phrase the question as follows: “May I please have your email address? We send out appointment reminders via email, as well as information about our specials and upcoming events.”
- Credentials the provider. If your practice is known for body sculpting, and the caller is interested in that, let him or her know they’ve come to the right place! Talk about the latest course the provider has taken, their beautiful artistry, and how long they’ve been in practice.
- Isn’t afraid to let the caller know about their own positive experience with a certain procedure. If the receptionist has undergone treatment with neuromodulator for years or has had laser hair removal with the latest device, don’t be afraid to let him/her rave a bit about his or her experiences.
- Confirms the appointment once it’s been made. Be sure to confirm all key details: time, date, location (if your practice has multiple locations), what the appointment is for and which provider the caller will be seeing.
In some cases, employees just can’t seem to get the art of the phone call right or a practice does not have enough staff to personally answer all calls, and it may be necessary to consider an answering and scheduling service. There’s nothing wrong with this at all; take the time and devote the resources to doing whatever it takes to get your phone calls answered correctly.
Jay A. Shorr, BA, CMBM, CAC I-XIV and Mara Shorr, BS, CAC II-XIV are partners in Shorr Solutions, a medical practice consulting firm specializing in the operational, administrative, staff training and financial health of cosmetic, aesthetic and plastic surgery medical practices. Contact this father-daughter team at www.ShorrSolutions.com or [email protected].
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons/Agência Brasil.