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What’s the phone to you in your practice: an essential tool or a nuisance? In some offices, it’s viewed as a time-consuming bother rather than the vital link to patients that it is. Your office’s attitude about the telephone may be hurting your bottom line. The following tips will help ensure that your phone manners are helping — not hurting — your practice.
Require consistency in how the phone is answered. Regardless of who picks up the phone in your office, the greeting should be consistent. A simple, effective greeting is comprised of the name of the dental practice, the name of the individual answering the phone, and a friendly, upbeat question such as, “How may I help you?”
Have a designated back-up for busy times. The phone should be answered within two rings. Someone in the practice should be selected to help answer the phone during peak hours or when the receptionist is already on the line. This individual should not be one who is regularly in the operatory but one who can get to a phone quickly as needed.
Use voicemail sparingly. While it’s easy to let calls roll over to voicemail, it’s not the most productive way to run a practice. Patients calling for the first time are unlikely to leave a message and to simply call the next dentist on their list. And patients of record would rather talk to somebody live rather than waiting for a return call.
Check voicemail often. If you must use voicemail, be sure your telephone includes a notification light so that the receptionist knows when a voicemail is in the queue. This will enable her to return the call promptly — a necessity in a profitable practice.
Use patient notes. Electronic records make it easy to access files when a patient calls. Refer to file notes when talking to a patient to make the interaction as personal as possible. Notes should include any preferences such as hygienist, day of the week, time of day, etc. Also record nicknames and other preferences (such as being addressed by their first name or “Mr.” or “Mrs”). Recording this type of information takes just a few seconds but has high impact on your interactions with patients.
Plan for outgoing calls prior to making them. Scheduling staff should take a minute to review the patient file before picking up the phone. Prepare for the conversation by having a clear goal. Do you want to schedule the patient for a hygiene recall? Are you attempting to reschedule a cancelled appointment? Following up on uncompleted treatment? Knowing your goal before lifting the receiver increases your effectiveness in reaching it.
Complete a mini mental rehearsal before calling. Have your opening line ready before placing the call. This will help you come across as confident and capable, and reinforce patient trust in the practice. It will also keep you from fumbling on those rare occasions when a human answers the phone instead of voicemail.
CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing problems dentists and staff members experience in the office. Front Desk is prepared by Mary M. Byers, CAE, a professional speaker and freelance writer. Email Ms. Byers or visit www.marybyers.com. Suggestions? Email suggestions for topics to be covered to the Chicago Dental Society.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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