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It’s a sobering truth that your patients’ Dental experience begins long before they see you in the operatory. The way your staff communicates with them will make the difference between a good experience and a great one. And it starts with the telephone.
“When I started this business and we’d talk about first impressions, it was all visual,” explained Melenie Broyles, the founder of Etiquette Chicago who has for 15 years offered business and social etiquette instruction for students of all ages. “But at some point I thought about verbal impressions when we make appointments. Much of the time we call before we ever see anybody at a place of business, and if it’s a good impression – if you can make people feel welcome – then they will spread the word to others.”
It’s a big charge for a small office, but Ms. Broyles makes it sound simple. Start by answering calls in a timely manner, and do so with a friendly tone – even on Monday mornings, when calls for emergency care are coming fast and furious.
“Get to them as soon as possible,” she said. “Patients expect that you’ll be busy when you answer, but they should hear compassion in your voice. Show you are listening and trying to solve their problem.”
Answer the phone with a smile on your face, and hear how the tone of your voice changes.
“It will sound like you are happy to hear from the patient and that you think of them as a partner in care, not an interruption in your day,” Ms. Broyles explained.
Listen to the information the caller provides when you answer the phone; they’ll probably give their name so that you can call up their patient file quickly. Use the right nickname for patients with names like Richard (Richard? Rick? Dick?) or Elizabeth (Liz? Beth?), if they use a nickname at all.
“People like to be recognized, so track that information in your files, and train the office staff to look for it in the files,” Ms. Broyles said. “Your staff might be technically smart, but it’s those little things that matter.”
And if you ask to put someone on hold, wait for permission before engaging the music.
“My biggest pet peeve is when I call an office and they pick up the phone and say ‘Dr. So-and-So’s office can you please hold,’ and then put me on hold without any idea of why I’m calling. What if it’s an emergency, or I’m cancelling an appointment that day?
“Don’t give me an option if you can’t follow through. Wait for my response, and give me the option to call back at a less busy time,” she said.
Business etiquette instructors like Ms. Broyles can offer quick, low cost improvements for your practice. But small changes pay dividends.
“In our changing economy, patients may come into your practice with a bad taste in their mouth because of the overall healthcare industry. If you can counteract that, you can grow your practice,” Ms. Broyles said. “The way you treat people, your word choice and your tone of voice can overcome your patients’ preconceptions. But it must be a staff priority, from the top down.”
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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