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Have you ever called your office?
I don’t mean to reach your staff to check in or tweak the day’s schedule. I mean, have you listened — really listened — to the way your receptionist answers the phone?
Do you hear a warm, welcoming tone, one that sounds cheerful and helpful? Or do you hear exasperation, distraction, and even irritation?
It might seem inconsequential, but how your practice sounds to a caller, especially a first-time caller, can make the difference when snagging a new patient or reinforcing an established patient’s feeling that they’ve chosen your office for all the right reasons.
I didn’t always slice and dice this issue. In fact, I spent many years thinking I was impressed with a cool, professional tone on the phone. To me it conveyed evidence of a highly skilled office and a sense that I was in good hands.
But I’ve come to deeply appreciate warm phone manners that suggest someone is connecting with me; they listen and really hear my part of the conversation, and they will do what they can to help me.
Don’t underestimate that in this age of healthcare indifference, patients need reassurance from their dental and medical offices that they’re more than just a name and number on a chart.
There’s a receptionist I know who better than most exemplifies the qualities I’m lauding. A warm, smooth hello precedes the practice name. She asks – and listens – to the reason for my call. She’ll offer an observation on my request, the day or weather; she’ll ask how I’m feeling. She laughs. You just know she’s smiling. She doesn’t give any hint that I’m taking too much time. She sounds like a friend, or a favorite aunt or neighbor. And she knows her stuff. She’s just who I want to talk to!
Management consultants as well as staffing services like Kelly Services and Manpower tell us what is common sense: that a receptionist is a “gatekeeper” who sets the tone for the visitor’s whole experience at the office. It’s crucial that they be warm and personable as well as composed, capable and professional. They start that “wow” customer service experience you want for your patients.
But for a small dental office, where a staffer who serves as receptionist also holds several other responsibilities, the question might be: How can I possibly find such an extraordinary employee?
The advice comes from that bastion of exemplary customer service, Nordstrom, where helping the customer is its hallmark: “Hire the smile – train the skill.”
If you hire applicants with the right personality and confidence, the Nordstrom’s training guide advises, the rest will follow. The right person can be trained and nurtured to handle all the tasks you can throw at them, and then some.
Sure, it takes a little longer. But it’s an investment worth making.
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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