If your marketing has been done right, your practice should be receiving hundreds of patient phone calls a week. But how many of these phone calls convert into appointments? If “Not many” is your answer, it’s time to ramp up your phone skills.
Every incoming call to your practice is an opportunity to fill your schedule, even if the call begins with a query about pricing or opening hours. So the person handling patient calls must be properly trained to win callers over to the point of, “Let’s get you in for a consultation. When would you like to come in?”. He or she is the first point of contact for new patients and the lifeline to existing ones and should be constantly poised to create a great impression.
Here is a checklist of patient call handling best practices to help you and your team master the phones and convert new patients. Next to the CEREC machine, your phone is the most important piece of technology in the dental office, so treat it as such.
The definitive phone skills checklist
Part 1: Patient interaction
- Don’t be afraid to get personal with the caller. Building a connection will inherently get you better results because they feel that they’re being heard.
- Do more than “hello” or “good morning”. Try: “Thank you for calling [your practice name]. This is [your name]. How may I help you today?” Say it with a smile, because they can hear it in your voice. A warm greeting is a good start to building rapport.
- Do take down their contact information early in the call: name, number, and email. If the call is dropped, at least you can quickly get back to them.
- Do show interest in the caller. Ask how they’re doing, when their last visit was, and listen well. The more you know about them, the better equipped you are to give them the best and most appropriate solution to their need. Repeat the caller’s name back at some point to help create a deeper connection.
- Don’t ask “What type of insurance do you have?”. Wait for the caller to bring it up if that is top of mind at all. Your goal is to build a relationship with the caller, to get to know them and their expectations.
- Don’t ever place a new patient on hold. This is a huge turn-off. If it’s necessary, ask if you could put them on a brief hold, but remember to check back with them every 10 to 15 seconds. If your busy front desk is in the habit of putting callers on hold, you need more people answering the phones.
- Do consider investing in a new phone system with a line failover feature that automatically routes calls to the line of your choice when you can’t answer. Imagine a typically busy day at your practice, when you have to greet intake patients as they arrive, manage the office phone, and keep an eye on your phone (on the other side of the office) for an important call you’re expecting. With a line failover set up, you can send the call to the closest office phone so you don’t miss it.
Part 2: Securing patient appointments
- Do invite them to schedule an appointment. Research shows that only 45% of callers are invited to make an appointment. Ask, and ye shall receive—a simple yet effective notion.
- Do offer a free consultation. We all know that a lot of people avoid the dentist for fear of high treatment costs. They will call different practices to price shop or check which ones accept their dental plans with no hassle. Take the time to explain that the fee depends on the extent of care needed and the time involved. Offer a complimentary visit to get a better estimate of the treatment they need.
- Do answer the phone during lunch hour. It’s a popular time for patients to make calls during lunch because it’s the only time they’re able to. Have one of your receptionists take an early or late lunch so that there’s someone is connecting with potential patients calling in at the time.
- Don’t let the caller go to voice mail during business hours. People don’t like leaving messages, and they’re most likely to hang up and call the next dental practice on their list. Some of the best phone systems have auto-attendants: they can handle a ton of callers (a win for you) and they help callers quickly reach the team member or access the information they called for (win for your patients).
Part 3: Maintaining HIPAA compliance
- Do be aware of your surroundings when you’re speaking on the phone. If your office space is small, there is a risk that the patient in the waiting room with you can overhear. HIPAA is about reasonable and appropriate behavior. As long as you are taking all reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure that you are not disclosing information, you are fine.
- Do have a written policy on addressing patients in a manner to disclose as little personally identifiable information (PII) as possible, when other patients can hear, like speaking with a low voice.
- Do keep your calls as short as possible. Everything discussed over the phone is subject to HIPAA regulations, so it’s important to make sure that any information exchanged is HIPAA-compliant. Limiting the interaction minimizes opportunities for mistakes.
- Do have a procedure in place that forces people taking incoming calls to log off their computers when they walk away from their workstations and to never write down passwords.
Part 4: Improving phone skills with the right training and tools
- Do track and evaluate your team’s phone skills. With the proper call recording tool, you can review the calls, assess your team’s phone skills, and ramp up training.
- Do have FAQs handy. For years, phone scripts have been a tried-and-true solution to handling typical patient inquiries, but a fact sheet of frequently asked questions (FAQs) gives more team members the chance to turn uncertain callers into enthusiastic patients. So park your FAQs by the phone so anyone can refer to them quickly when needed.
- Do invest in training the front office team. Equip them with rapport building and communication skills to be more effective on the phone. Those handling your office phone should be able to make potential patients feel comfortable, valued, and that they are making the right choice for their dental care.
Want to become a front office superhero? Let us walk you through how RevenueWell Phone can help you get more done on each call and save time at your front desk. Request a demo today.