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Do You Know How Yours is Being Handled?

It is amazing the extent that computers have taken over our lives in such a short time. In most offices, computers are used to schedule appointments, record treatments, file insurance, send bills and patient notices, and much more.

But the phone is what most patients use to set up appointments, ask questions and contact the office when they are in pain or discomfort. The phone is most likely to be the way new patients approach the office.

Clearly, the phone and who is answering it and how it is answered are a vital part of a successful office. Usually, there is one employee who is primarily responsible for answering the phone, and he or she should be recognized because doing that job well is not easy.

Best Practices for Dental Practice Phone Calls

Hopefully, that employee will have a “script” or a standard way of answering the phone because the old saying “… you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is undoubtedly true. And remember, answering the phone is not that employee’s only job.

When the phone rings, he or she may be checking in or checking out a patient, may be answering a question of another staff member, dealing with a salesperson, or any other of the many distractions. The caller doesn’t know this – the caller only knows how their call is being received and will make judgements accordingly.

Most receptionists we have seen handle this difficult job remarkably well. But, you should remember that other staff members will be answering your phone from time-to-time. The receptionist may be so busy that she can’t answer the phone, she may be on break or at lunch, or she may be sick or caring for a sick child.

When You Need a Backup for Phone Calls

Whoever is the backup receptionist needs to realize the importance of every call and be trained on how to handle the job. It could often be the very most junior employee who is available to answer the phone when the primary receptionist cannot. You cannot assume that any employee is able to just pick up the phone and handle it properly.

The solution is that the entire staff needs to understand the importance of every phone call and be trained on what to say and how to say it. A written “script” is a great way to train everyone on what to say and how to say it.

Another aspect of answering the phone is protecting the dentist from unwanted calls and interruptions. Here is a conversation I had with a receptionist who was vigorously screening calls.

I made the call because the dentist had called me and left me a message to call him.

“This is Doctor Smith’s office, how may I help you?”

“The is Bill Otten and I’m returning Dr. Smith’s call.”

“Dr. Smith is with a patient and can’t be interrupted.”

“That’s fine, just tell him Bill Otten returned his call.”

“What is the nature of your call?”

Getting a little irritated – “The nature of my call is that I am RETURNING his call.”

Getting a little snotty – “Who are you representing?”

Getting a little more irritated – “I’m representing myself returning his call!”

Getting more snotty – “I see – well, can you spell your name?”

Getting really irritated – “Sure I can spell my name, can’t most people spell their names, can you spell your name? Have him call me. Goodbye.”

He never did return my call and I never called him back…

We’d love to speak with you on the phone and help you through the valuation, buying or selling of your dental practice in the great St. Louis area.

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