Answering a telephone enquiry can be a challenging task.
We can overcome this challenge effectively by training our team members with the correct flow of questions to be asked while interacting over a phone call.
You can create a set of questions for your front desk manager which can help you to streamline the telephonic interaction with your patients.
Having a documented scripting system creates consistency among team members and leads to a more comfortable, streamlined process to which your patients will respond by accepting treatment.
Having effective communication skills is necessary for you to have a successful practice in today`s competitive times.
Verbal skills or "how you say it" can simply skyrocket your case-acceptance rate and production while developing better patient relations. Remember, these scripts are a guideline for doctors, current staff and training new staff. After you have studied these scripts, you need to modify them to fit your comfort zone.
Greeting and guiding patients by phone
Customer service and the image of quality begin with you.
A less than perfectly answered telephone demonstrates that the office is not ready to assist patients.
The telephone is your lifeline.
Whether it is a patient or the referring dentist of a new or current patient calling your office, it is essential that the conversation be handled in a professional manner that emits feelings of concern.
Callers must perceive that your staff members care about solving their problems and taking care of their treatment needs, starting with the initial telephone call.
Many front-desk coordinators will ask new patients why they chose this particular office.
Because many practices gain new patients from current patients, it is appropriate to ask and to learn this information so that you can thank the referring patient, which may encourage additional referrals.
Meeting and greeting patients in the office
When greeting current patients, you should be just as enthusiastic as if it were their first visit to your office.
You want all patients to feel as if your office has opened especially for them.
If the front-desk coordinator is busy with the telephone, checking out patients or other administrative details, it is likely that patients may not be properly greeted.
Patients should be greeted by name.
If you are the only person at the front desk and on the phone when patients arrive, nod to them and acknowledge their arrival.
Ignoring a patient`s arrival evokes a negative impression.
This simple exchange, or some version of it, should be standard.
Patients never get tired of being acknowledged or feeling that you care about them.
Everyone likes to feel special. They tell other people about it, too.
Emergency patients in pain
Communicating with current patients who are experiencing an emergency situation is critical.
This is the ultimate test. Whether real or imagined, these patients believe they have an immediate and serious emergency.
You can use this situation to enhance a patient`s loyalty to the practice.
You have the opportunity to perform productive treatment in most of these cases.
You will want to suggest a time that will not disrupt your schedule. It is unwise to ask the emergency patient, "What time will be good for you?" Emphasize your concern and your willingness to see patients at a time when the doctor can perform treatment for their painful problem.
Always present the benefits to the patient.
All patients should be guided into appointments.
The key to scheduling success is to appoint patients where you want them, but do it in a way that convinces them that you are trying your best to make it as convenient for them as possible.
Convince the patient to schedule when you want them to by making it to their benefit.
Successful scheduling also has much to do with having confidence, being assertive and having good verbal skills.
The scheduling coordinator should guide the patient into taking an appointment that works well with the practice`s schedule.
There are many reasons for scheduling patients at particular times, such as coordination with lab pickup and block scheduling, but make it to their benefit to schedule the appointment when you would like them to schedule it.
Managing patients is far easier when they feel that you are focused on them.
It is best to give patients a few choices, but patients should not dictate your schedule – you should.
The hygiene pre-appointment system
We recommend that patients be pre-appointed for their next hygiene visit before they leave your office.
This leads to increased productivity, recare efficiency and improved patient retention.
Before implementing a recare system in your office, ensure that each staff member understands his/her importance and learns effective verbal skills for communicating this to patients.
When you tell patients the benefits to pre-appointment scheduling, they feel that the focus is on them and their needs and that they will get the appointment that they want.
Also, you give them advance notice by sending e mail &amp;amp; message and, if they have a scheduling conflict, they have plenty of time to call and reschedule.
As patients return to your office, the pre-appointment system that you put in place will become natural and nearly every patient will be happy to schedule their next hygiene appointment.
Cancellations are a major problem for many practices. In the average schedule, one or two cancellations can make a profitable day unprofitable.
The front-desk personnel have a challenging opportunity to reduce the number of cancellations when patients call to cancel.
It must be handled diplomatically, but firmly.
We must train our patients to respect the office, but we must do this in a way that helps them feel that we are doing them a favor.
The previous script does not focus on concerns about filling time.
Instead, it emphasizes that additional problems might result unless that appointment is kept.
The front-desk coordinator reiterated the doctor`s concern and requested that patient be seen as soon as possible.
Notice that the front-desk coordinator did not make it easy for the patient.
She did not tell the patient that it was OK to miss the appointment.
She did tell the patient that if the appointment was missed, it might be a while before another appointment could be scheduled.
Suddenly, we are creating a higher level perception of value and stimulating a greater need on the part of the patient for keeping that appointment.
In many cases, the patient will call back and offer to rearrange his or her schedule to keep the appointment.
The problem is that we have allowed patients to think that dental appointments are easy to change without any financial or physical penalty.
If we convince patients that there may be additional damage to the teeth resulting in more expensive treatment, and they always assume that more work is synonymous with discomfort, we have an opportunity to encourage our patients to keep appointments.
Making a collection call
Collection calls are critical to your practice.
While tact and courtesy are necessary, the ramifications of not collecting money within a reasonable time frame can be extremely detrimental.
The doctor does not get paid nor receive late payments with interest.
The patient may be turned over to collections and then follow through with a malpractice suit in retribution.
Collection calls must be transacted in a way that is firm but will not create an angry liability.
Your objective is to persuade the patient to make payments, and a one-on-one telephone call is the best solution.
This first collection call should be pleasant and solicitous.
The financial coordinator should make a note of when the check should have arrived in the office and make sure to follow up.
If there is no follow-up and the payment does not arrive, the patient will assume that the overdue payment is negotiable.
You must create a system in which the financial coordinator is aware if the check does not arrive when it should.
All members of the dental team must have accurate, consistent and sufficient knowledge and information of office policies and strategies, which are part of any management system.
This way, your patients will feel confident that they are receiving the highest quality of care and will be more likely to accept treatment.
By creating detailed scripts for your staff, everyone in the office will be able to communicate effectively and consistently with patients.
Most people coming into your office will be reluctant.
No one truly enjoys coming to the dentist.
However, your goal should be to make patients as comfortable as possible so that they have a pleasant experience when they visit your office.
Scripts allow you to present yourself effectively and communicate with your patients so that they feel good about their decision to come to your practice and confident when accepting treatment.