By Dr. Greg Grillo
We live in a society that increasingly relies on non-verbal communication. Two-thirds of people check their phones 160 TIMES DAILY , and they’re often using text messaging. About 90% of text messages get opened, including those from businesses. Some psychologists even question how effectively kids are developing their interpersonal skills as they lock onto their screens. Despite the prevalence of texting, most healthcare practices still rely primarily on incoming calls to move patients onto their appointment schedule. On the other end of the phone line, a human voice harnesses unique characteristics that digital characters fail to convey. But it’s not enough to have your front desk staff answer the phone and spend two minutes or less dishing out information. People need to feel connected to your brand, and a handful of strategies can significantly influence the effectiveness of a phone interaction with your team. The right techniques can make your marketing budget produce better results, too. If your team converts 70% of new patient calls to appointments, it takes far fewer leads than if they’re converting 30%. If you’re wondering if your marketing is producing results, track how often the phone rings. Steady call volume and an empty schedule often suggest phone conversions need a boost. Here are three ways to help convert more patient calls into appointments:
1. Answer Patient Phone Calls With A Plan
A ringing phone during business hours can intrude on a busy day in the office, and it’s easy for annoyance to creep into phone etiquette. But callers can infer what’s happening in the medical office, and the tone of the person who answers can impact their words for better or worse. Exceptional phone etiquette gives us more brand power through better reviews and word-of-mouth. Attention-to-detail increases the chance we’ll convert callers into patients while enhancing our reputation for service. Practice these techniques and set the stage for more conversions when answering patient phone calls:
- Answer by the third ring. Nobody likes to leave a message when they’re calling your practice, but sometimes it’s inevitable. Legwork Phones offer a cloud-based service that helps you capture and control the messaging faster and easier. But whenever possible, train your medical practice personnel to pick up no later than the third ring.
- Smile. Nobody can see you on the other end, but they sure can hear you. And smiling changes the inflection of your voice and prepares you to deliver a customer-focused conversation.
- Practice a proper phone script. Scripting isn’t just for actors. It’s one of the most effective ways to get messaging right. Create a flow chart of answers to the most common questions, and standardize greetings. Experiment with, “This is Amy at Caring Family Dental, I can help you,” rather than “Caring Family Dental, how can I help you?” With a smile, the difference carries extra impact.
- Structure questions to ask the patient when returning the call. Respond to patient requests as quickly as possible, and use a checklist of questions to guide calls to conversion.
Smiling, scripting, and rushing to grab a call may seem like overkill, but it’s the basis for what happens next. Consumers often make decisions based on what they feel. Simple techniques that guide with a helpful, friendly tone pave the way to appointments.
2. Choose An Integrated Phone System
When Alexander Graham Bell earned the first phone patient in 1876, the world changed forever. The conversational dynamics may be the same as 145 years ago, but phone systems continue to evolve to fit today’s world. Many businesses rely on VoIP and eliminate the likelihood of expensive equipment repairs with plug-and-play designs. But the best systems integrate with software interfaces to help you serve patients better. Since 32% OF PATIENTS REPORT PHONE CALLS as the most frustrating customer service channel, every call presents an opportunity to impress. LEGWORK PHONES demonstrate how an innovative design adds to first impressions with minimal effort. We can customize our call flow with a simple drag-and-drop editor and control how each extension handles an incoming phone. After organizing operations in the dial plan, we just click save, and changes immediately go into effect. On-hold time increases the likelihood that a patient will hang up, call the next office, or enter the conversation frustrated. LEGWORK CALL POP-UP immediately pulls in caller data from your practice software and displays it on the screen. Staff members can move seamlessly through a conversation and address details that can help a patient schedule. Call Pop-Up makes outgoing calls hassle-free too, enabling you to phone patients with one click from their file–no need to dial their phone number by hand.
3. Track, Learn, and Adjust
Businesses that thrive gather insights from every point along the patient journey. They know that 65% OF CONSUMERS HAVE ABANDONED BUSINESSES over one poor customer service experience, and they don’t want to be a statistic. HEALTHCARE LEADS COST NEARLY $300 to acquire, and we can lose them with one subpar phone call. Weak links come at any point in the patient experience, and the phone is a tool that provides a critical step in the journey. Make a point of tracking a few metrics in your phone service. You may start with determining times during the day with the highest call volume and making sure the team is prepared to add support. One of the most effective metrics is tracking how many potential new patients call the office and schedule appointments. The staff keeps a tally sheet with two columns and makes a simple mark every time a new patient calls. If they schedule, they check the next column. Once you have a baseline percentage of conversions, you can start tracking changes with any new training. Create incentives for the admin team, and consider celebrating or rewarding them when they hit goals. Don’t be surprised if you discover you’re converting less than 50% of the new patient calls. Set a target for 70% or more.
Make Patient Calls A Priority In 2022
Every time the phone rings, another opportunity waits on the line. When our call system is structured to integrate with our software systems, we get started with helpful information. Structured phone etiquette sets the tone with efficient answering, scripting, and a smile. And as we track our patient calls, we shore up a critical conversion tool in the patient journey. Convert your ringing phone into a source of new patients. Switch to a cloud-based phone system and get free phones for your office–choose from one of many designs. Contact us for more information.