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Improve Phone Customer Service at Your Practice: 4 Tips


Did you ever call your medical practice to try to understand the first impression patients are getting? If not, you might be placing your reputation at risk.

Did you ever call your practice to try to understand the first impression your patients are getting? If you have not done so, you might be placing your reputation and your practice volume at risk.

Many practices today, due to volume or bureaucracy, tend to follow the path of many large corporations that use voice response systems, but that's not always the best method to establish a positive and lasting first impression.

Patients today seek a relationship with the doctor, and poor telephone technique is a patient relationship barrier. So what is a practice to do?

Here are four of my suggestions:

1. Review your call volume. In order to justify an automated system, your practice must review call volume and more importantly, review how many calls are unanswered, placed on hold, etc. Observe the issue and decide what needs to change.  In other words do you have the proper people answering the calls? Can they handle the volume? Do they spend too much personal time and not address the true issue? Are they procrastinating and not accepting calls within certain guidelines? Finally, do you have a call process for them to answer calls?

2. Mystery call your practice. The only way to understand any issue is to call anonymously and determine gaps in telephone response. Do calls get answered after the fifth or sixth ring? What is the demeanor of the staff member addressing the call? Is there a standard message communicated to the person with each call such as, “Good Morning. This is Amanda and you are calling Stevens Clinic, how might I assist you today?” And, is there a proper salutation at the conclusion of the call such as, “Thank you for calling and is there anything further I can assist you with?”

3. Review your response times. For example, my practice for the last 25 years is that if someone leaves me a voicemail I reply in 90 minutes, guaranteed. How many practices can uphold this standard? Many practices feel they are too busy, or they use the excuse that the voicemail requires a response from someone else (such as a physician) who is unavailable. However, what is wrong with a simple return call from a staff member that states that the doctor will return the call before the afternoon or the close of the business day? I recently required surgery for a detached retina and called the doctor about suspicion of a developing cataract. It took four days to receive a return call. Unacceptable.

4. Review your call and return-call method. There are some doctors (not all) that decide to have calls forwarded to a cell phone, return calls via cell, or even opt to avoid standard landlines and instead use voice over IP lines. Using such methods depicts an office apathetic to the proper patient experience. First, cell phone service is not always as vivid as a general landline and words may be misconstrued and lines unclear. Second, some doctors tend to answer their phones wherever they are, which includes shopping malls, department stores, gasoline stops, etc. If you want to illustrate a professional image, then your telephone must be part of it. There are many services today such as YesTrak, that enable users to obtain a private number via the Internet and someone will answer the call at any time. These Internet related professional answering services are now pennies on the dollar while also providing you the best in patient communication.

Every practice requires a good first and lasting impression. For any business, great phone service and telephone customer service can establish your professionalism, empathy, and communication. The question to answer is: What impression are you leaving?

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