Do you feel like your front desk staff struggles with answering the phone? Are they not meeting your expectations? Are you looking for a way to increase revenue without increasing your costs? It may be time to adjust your approach. By converting a higher percentage of the calls coming into your practice, you can literally make more out of what you already have.
If you are looking for a good place to start, consider these seven steps to help you convert new patient calls.
It’s easy to overlook how important the person who answers your office phone is. More importantly, that person may have no idea how important they are. If she’s not effective, the practice cannot reach its full potential. Spend the time with this person or group of people to help them understand how their performance directly impacts the practice. Explain to her what you expect, how you want the practice represented, and set realistic goals for her to live up to. Reiterate these expectations frequently.
It is impossible to track the progress without establishing a baseline. This is a simple starting point to help you outline goals and expectations. One baseline assessment may be to tabulate the number of incoming new patients your practice receives. Compare the number answered by your staff to the number that go to your voicemail or answering service. Another starting point to establish is how the phone is being answered. Consider the number of rings, the amount of time people are placed on hold, the greeting and answers for commonly asked questions. Evaluate your baseline and use it as a spring board for how you want things done moving forward.
At Ads Next, we work with dozens of dentists around the United States and we’ve found after monitoring hundreds of new patient calls, a majority will fall into 5 or 6 categories. They will mainly have to do with basic questions about the practice, dental services, insurance questions or financing concerns. We find that within the same office, even by the same receptionist, the same questions are answered differently each time. We recommend to our dentists that they create a plan the office staff can follow each time they answer the phone. From the greeting to answers for commonly asked questions, having a script or planned response will allow you to better measure what works and what doesn’t work.
There are many options for phone skills training available in the market today. The most traditional are; personal consulting and coaching, online training, simple online practice modules, and numerous books and articles. Whether you choose to invest in one of these methods or not, you should make an investment of your time. Listen to the calls that come in to your practice. Are they doing a good job? Are they missing opportunities? Are they representing your practice in the way you want to be represented? Schedule time each month to review your findings with your staff, re-establish your expectations, and give them feed back in regards to what they did well and what they need improvement on.
There are many things to review each month with your staff to insure that they did the best job they could converting your practices new patient leads. By listening to the calls, you can understand how many opportunities were missed. You can also identify other issues such as missed calls, unacceptable hold time, or trouble handing specific types of questions like “is your practice in my dental insurance network”. You can also make sure that incoming leads are being followed up on. A standard review process each month will go a long way to insuring that you are making the most out of the calls and forms that come into your practice.
Now that you have established a baseline, created a call plan, provided training and reviewed the incoming calls, and leads, it is important to measure the result from one month to the next. You want to see continued progress, but you definitely don’t want to see the numbers drop off. By measuring results you can better control the outcome and continue to find areas that have need for improvement.
If you are going to expect more from your employees, they are naturally going ask, what’s in it for me? Assuming that you think highly of the person working for you and understanding that good people are not always easy to find, telling them that they get to keep their job likely isn’t realistic and not very motivating.
The best way to get buy-in would be to establish a method of reward. Many offices use a monetary monthly, quarterly or annual bonus as a reward based on revenue or number of new patients. If you like the idea of a monetary reward, I would suggest that you choose the monthly option. It establishes a commitment each and every month. You can’t slack one month and then do a great job in the others and make the same money. You also avoid a situation where the goal is reached early in the year or you find later in the year that the numbers you set were not realistic and need to be altered. The monthly option gives you the flexibility to make adjustments as needed.
Monetary rewards are not the only option. Many offices establish other rewards such as extra vacation days, special recognition, gifts or even fully paid trips. The type of reward is not as important as the idea of giving them some kind of stake in the success of the practice.
By Bill Mulcahy, Vice President of Ads Next
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