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Monday, May 21, 2012

Six Seconds To Connect

 Austine Etcheverry
         Salt DPM
    Media Specialist
         Part 1 of 2

When a phone is answered in your office you have six seconds to make an impression.  How many times have you called a business and hung up feeling frustrated or angry? Let’s face it, in our busy world, our reputation can be damaged or are patient base increased based solely on phone etiquette.   In everyday communication we rely on nonverbal signals to help us navigate what a patient might be telling us, likewise when a patient shows up and is angry, our head nod may be enough to tell the patient we care.  Telephone conversations make non-verbal communication obsolete, therefore increasing the importance of ones ability to verbally communicate. 

When your receptionist answers the telephone, are they perceived as being happy? Excited to be at work? Do they use a confident, comforting, "I’m here to help you" voice? Or do they give the feeling of, “I’m tired, over-worked, over stressed and ready to hit the five o’clock rush hour because that would be better than being at my job?”
How the receptionist answers your phone makes a direct impact on your patients, and first impressions are the most important.  How patients view that phone call is every bit as important as the message given. Customer service is your key to maintaining and keeping patients coming in the door.  While your patients might call for a variety of reasons, the feeling they have when they hang up will be the message they pass onto friends and family.  

Recently I had the privilege of pre-screening for an entry-level front desk position for a client.  The first call I made I enthusiastically dialed the phone number. When the person on the other end answered, "Hello," I thought, wow, pleasant voice, but no smile. I informed her that I was pre-screening for a position she'd applied for and asked if she had a few moments to answer some questions. Her response was, "Yeah." The immediate mental image I had was of a young girl, whom clearly did not understand the importance of the call.  I had spoken to her for less than six seconds.  Continuing the interview, I asked her to describe her current position.  "Front and back office work.” The message is clear, she’s short, to the point, and probably won’t spend time with patients explaining the process they may go through, or be comforting when they have a problem.  Next I asked her how her current employer would describe her personality. I held back a chuckle when she told me, “out-going.”   Out-going was not at all the feeling I had while talking to her on the phone.  She was quickly placed in the, “no” pile. 

So, what goes into communication to help set the tone and how can you work with your team to improve the office’s phone etiquette?  Start by listening to your team throughout the day as they are answering the telephone. Use a checklist to evaluate the tone, pitch of their voice, and the impact you were left with after they hung up.  This will help you to determine where to go from there.  Go to http://www.saltdpm.com for a downloadable checklist.

Austine Etcheverry is a coach with Salt Dental Practice Management. Savor success and learn more at www.saltdpm.com or contact her at info@saltdpm.com.  Article originally published by

This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin
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