I recently visited a Dental Office where the owners were planning a significant change to the way most practices operate.
This practice was contemplating the separation of phone answering for incoming calls to the practice.
What they wanted to do was create a room away from the front office reception where incoming phone calls to the practice would be received.
I thought this was an absolutely brilliant idea for this practice. Here’s why:
Nobody knows when an incoming phone call is going to happen
We know the phone is going to ring at our practice. We just don’t know exactly when.
We want the phone to ring.
We just have no control over what time in the day it chooses to ring.
When the phone does ring, of course, there’s an immediate urgency to answer it.
After all, the incoming phone call is the lifeblood of our business.
And we’ve been told it is impolite to let the phone ring any more than three times.
We must answer the phone before the third ring, no matter what else we are doing.
Despite the fact we may be doing something else.
Something else that may be extremely important.
Like dealing with a real live patient right there in front of us.
A patient who has just now arrived at our office.
Or a patient who is giving us money, who has just now completed some treatment, and is organising their subsequent visits.
What do you do at your Dental Practice?
What’s the protocol for taking incoming calls at your office?
The ringing phone cannot be ignored, as if it’s not even ringing.
That’s a complete no-no.
An unanswered ringing phone becomes an auditory irritation to all who can hear it.
Live patients hearing a phone ringing, will think, in this order:
“There’s the phone.”
“She’s going to need to answer the phone.”
“Why isn’t someone answering that phone?”
“Will someone answer the phone?”
“Is someone going to get that phone?!?”
“ANSWER THAT PHONE!!”
As soon as the phone rings it becomes an immediate interruption.
As the phone continues to ring it cannot be ignored.
So I absolutely see the point of separating the incoming phone call away from the physical areas of patient interaction.
And this was a very busy Dental Office.
Six or seven chairs. Six or seven dentists.
Six or seven patients arriving at one time.
Along with six or seven patients leaving.
At the same time.
But even if this was only a one or two chair practice, the principles and reasons for phone separation are equally as valid.
Separating the incoming phone call away from the area in the practice where patients are greeted and farewelled will have a significant effect on the feelings and experiences of those “live” patients that we deal with.
They’ll be greeted without interruption.
We’ll be able to give the arriving patient our undivided attention.
The arriving patient, be they an existing patient returning, or a new patient, will benefit from the experience of being greeted without the intrusion of the unexpected ringing phone.
The arriving patient can be engaged and entertained without interruption while they are waiting to be treated.
Our concierge can engage in purposeful conversation with our patients in our client lounge without the jolt of interruption of a ringing inbound phone call.
This can only add to the process of setting the patient’s mind at ease while they await their appointment.
The incoming phone caller will receive much better attention.
The incoming caller won’t feel as if they are being rushed off the phone.
Because the incoming call will be taken in an area away from the high traffic reception area, we will be able to create ample time to answer all the questions that the caller may have.
This will see an immediate increase in our conversion numbers for new patient enquiry phone calls actually making appointments.
And of course, the departing patient can proceed through our detailed checking out process without interruption.
The uninvited ringing phone is an instant “mood deflator” and distraction to the purpose of the checking out of the departing patient.
The purpose of the Ultimate Checkout is to create clarity in the mind of the departing patient with regards to:
- Exactly what they had done today
- What they are likely to feel after today’s visit
- Exactly what they are having done next visit
- Exactly when they need to come back, and the urgency of the next visit
- Exactly what will happen if the treatment is delayed or deferred
Removal of the ringing incoming phone away from the checkout environment will only add clarity to the checkout.
So that the patient does indeed leave with a Clear. Next. Step.
As a result of this added clarity we’ll see an improvement in the number of patients leaving with appointments rather than deferring them.
We’ll also see an improvement in the number of appointments kept rather than cancelled or postponed.
Patients having their treatment completed sooner rather than later or not at all will benefit because their restorations will be smaller.
And that has to be a win for the patient?
Are you able to separate the incoming phone call away from your reception area?
I can only see this as a positive move, if you can, for all dental practices, no matter what their size.
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