During our training sessions with owners and their front desk staff I always ask “How do you answer the phone”? Surprisingly, I have never had an entire staff, in one or multiple sites, all say the same thing. Hello, thank you for calling APC Physical Therapy how can I help you? ; or APC can I help you? ; how about – APC Physical Therapy hold please; or Hi, APC Physical Therapy, we are happy you called, this is Diane, how can I help you today; or how about, APC Physical Therapy, if you want to schedule an appointment press 1, if you want to speak to a therapist press 2, if you want to discuss your bill press 3……… Short, long, name, no name or a recording – what do you want every caller to hear every time they call your office?
I am a definite fan of calling and reaching out to a person. I hate to listen to a recording and I get more annoyed if I press a number and get the wrong person or worse get disconnected. Sure, I understand that is a part of many businesses’ standard operating procedures - but a private practice? I don’t think so – this is about my healthcare. I still like hearing a kind voice on the other end; a person who can help me now and I think most people do. Are we not all very busy and have little time for waiting?
I look at the “first phone call” as the beginning of a patient’s journey and every call after that part of their experience. Regardless of whether or not you have a million things going on, when the phone is answered, the person on the other end should feel like you have been sitting around waiting for their call and are ready to help them with their questions or whatever their needs are.
At an extremely busy time, wait for the caller to tell you what they are calling about and if you absolutely cannot help them at that moment (new patient intake can take 10 to 20 minutes) ask them if it would be alright for you to take their phone number so you can get back to them in 15 minutes or whatever time frame is going to work for you but then do it. I cannot think of a better way to get off on the wrong foot with a patient than to tell them you will call them back in 15 minutes but do not call for hours, if at all. Many patients have been lost because of this.
Answering the phone is a skill to be mastered. It is not as easy as you might think. Sometimes the front desk could use 3 arms, but no matter what is going on, do not forget how important it is to the company culture to start every phone call off with a pleasant hello.
For more information on improving other front desk responsibilities, call us at 508-422-0231 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diane McCutcheon, President
DM Business Management Consulting Services, Inc.
Account Matters – Billing & Collection Services
4 Charlesview Road, Suite 4
Hopedale, MA 01747
P: 508-422-0231 F: 508-422-0234
Bottom line – First impressions matter, you never get a second chance at a first impression. No matter who answers the phone, if it is the caller’s first time, the voice and tone they hear will become their first conscious thought of the business. What raises the level of professionalism in a practice is making sure everyone answers the phone exactly the same way. Make a corporate decision on answering the phone - say it, mean it and make sure everyone follows the same dialogue – no if’s ands or buts.