I once called a dental office to make an appointment and was immediately greeted by someone who sounded as though she had been doing something much more important. While asking her questions, I could hear her sighing and I swear I heard her eyes rolling. Needless to say, I never made an appointment with that dentist. This scenario happens time and time again. An excellent dentist with high recommendations could possibly lose business because of who is answering their phones. The basic are making sure calls are answered by the third ring, having a voicemail or answering service in place, and always answer the phones with a smile! Here are a few more tips on dental phone etiquette.
Often times who you have working your dental front office and answering phones are the first impression of your office. When a patient comes into your office or makes that first phone call, it is not the dentist that they encounter. Someone who is rude and short with your patients does not reflect well on the entire practice. If you were to encounter someone rude over the phone the first time you called a business would you want to start a relationship with that office?
It Doesn’t Take a Detective
Ever call an office and hear chewing coming from the other end on the line? Not very pleasant, but it happens a lot. Eating breakfast or lunch at the front desk is not professional. If the dentist would like phones answered during lunch hours, then employees should trade-off while the others eat. In addition to it being rude over the phone, it is even more rude and unprofessional when patients come into the office and people are eating at the front desk.
Have Patience with you Patients
Not being able to understand a person over the phone can be frustrating and cause miscommunication. It could be from a person who is hard of hearing to a person with a foreign accent. The first thing to remember is that shouting at the person is not the solution. If you shout at someone, they may take this as you being angry with them and impatient, causing them to yell right back. People, for who the English language is a second language to them, are not going to understand you better because you yell at them. If you are having difficulty understanding someone there are a few solutions. First, you can put the person on hold and go to a quieter place in the office where you can focus on the conversation. Second, if you cannot understand someone and find yourself starting to shout at them, ask someone else to speak to them, there is no shame in doing this. Some people understand certain accents better than others.
Placing Calls on Hold
Rule of thumb, if the phone rings back to you after you place someone on hold, they have been on hold too long. If you know that the person is going to be on hold, ask them if you can take a number and call them back. Make sure you call someone back immediately. Most people prefer you call them back instead of sitting hold, but if you do not call people back when you say you will, they may take their business elsewhere.
Much of what I have said is certainly common sense, but they are also issues that get thrown out the door when people get too busy and having a bad day. The person you have answering the phones needs to be someone that even on their worst day, your patients would never know it. Have your dental front office team try answering the phones all day with a smile, your patients will take notice!
© Warschaw Learning Institute, 2012