Ophthalmology practice management has changed (check out this article for more details), but a phone call is usually still a patient’s first contact with your practice. The level of customer service expressed over the phone sets the bar. Your receptionist should have the phone skills to handle inquiries effectively, converting them into appointments and eventually, paying patients who will return again and again.
Unfortunately, your receptionist may not have the phone skills to do so, and each caller who decides not to visit your practice is money down the drain. Missing out on even one conversion opportunity each week could mean thousands of dollars of lost revenue over the course of a year.
Physicians should conduct a phone-skills assessment by calling their own office, just as a patient would, advised practice consultant Mary E. Schmidt at a previous SECO conference. Many physicians are surprised at what they hear, she reports.
Top Telephone Tips
In addition to emphasizing the use of scripted responses, Schmidt gave attendees these tips for taking their telephone game up a notch:
- When the phone rings, take a time out. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, sit up, and have a pen and pad of paper nearby. These actions take just a few seconds and will help you keep your cool on the phone while slowing down your thoughts so that you can focus on the caller.
- Answer promptly—on the first two rings.
- Use a courteous, friendly voice. Nothing turns off a customer more than a phone conversation with a cold receptionist.
- Use plain language. Avoid using technical terms, such as “toric” and “refraction.” Ex. Instead of “refractive test,” say, “vision test.”
- Apologize for all errors and delays, i.e. putting a caller on hold.
- Write down patients’ questions, concerns, and requests. This makes it easier to follow up, and avoids you having to ask the patient to repeat themselves.
- Keep your promises. If you say you’re going to call a patient back at a certain time with specific information, do it.