Is Your Front Desk Costing You Patients?
Common Problems & the Solutions To Get Your Office Back On Track
Do your marketing efforts seem like they’re going nowhere? Have you overheard an inaccuracy uttered from a staff member? Do you feel like your office staff is not fully committed to your practice success? If you suspect that your front desk is costing you patients, it’s time to figure out what’s going wrong and find some solutions. SmileMakers has put together a list of common issues and how to fix them.
Problem: The phone is ringing, but your schedule is sparse.
Solution: Invest in formal telephone training.
If potential patients are interested enough to pick up the phone and call your office, it’s basically a done deal. But a negative first impression with one of your team members will send new patients running to your competitors. On average only 5% of front desk staff have formal phone training. That means with training, your staff could be the best of the best.
You might think that training a new hire is as simple as telling them to sound enthusiastic when they answer the phone. But there’s a method to handling a new patient phone call that ensures your front desk closes the deal. If you’re skeptical about the investment, think of it this way... 98% of new patient’s initial contact with an office is via phone call. With numbers that big, why wouldn’t you invest in making sure that your front desk staff is at the top of their game?
Problem: Calls are being missed.
Solution: Add lines, and get an office cell phone.
The first thing you should do is make sure your office has enough phone lines to support the number of calls you receive during peak hours. Also, new patients should never be put on hold. They are always the priority. It’s far too easy for them to get frustrated, distracted or bored and hang up.
If you don’t have access to an after-hours answering service, then consider getting an office cell phone. Think about the hours in the day and night that your staff is off the clock. Does that align with times that potential patients might be calling to schedule an appointment? 80% of new patients won’t call back or leave a message if a phone call goes to voicemail. That’s a very large percentage to lose, especially when there’s a simple solution. Have calls transferred to the cell phone during lunch breaks and overnight. Create a rotating schedule for you and your staff so everyone has shared responsibility. The number one rule with this approach is that the phone has to be answered if someone calls – even if it’s just to take down the patient’s contact information so you’re able to call them back. This may be a responsibility better suited for the doctor in cases of emergency.
Problem: Your schedule is wacky.
Solution: Get on the same page with your staff.
Your staff can’t read your mind, so unless you clearly communicate your preferred schedule, they may not book appointments based on what best suits your work style. If you like to give yourself a buffer between appointments, or take your time with your patients, let your staff know so they can schedule extra time for each visit. Maybe you like to ease into your mornings, or need to leave early on Wednesdays for a standing appointment. Any little bits of information you can share will help a wise front desk person guide patients into timeslots that work better for you.
It will also be helpful to discuss what to do in emergencies. If a patient needs to be seen as soon as possible, either legitimately or by their request, there should be a protocol in place so the front desk is never caught off guard.
Problem: Bad customer service.
Solution: Evaluate the team.
There are many ways to give bad customer service. Being unable to answer questions, having a rude, short or distracted tone, not making patients feel that they are the priority, dropping calls, keeping patients waiting on hold for long periods of time, poor communication skills – the list goes on. We’ve already suggested formal phone training, but if your practice is getting bad reviews because of the way patients are being treated by your staff, it’s time to evaluate your team. There are call tracking options, or mystery callers, that can help you figure out where your team is going wrong and what they need to work on.
You can even create a list of “musts” for the front desk to make sure that while they’re at work, they’re totally focused on being the face and voice of your office.
- Answer the phone with a smile!
- Be knowledgeable of all services offered.
- Be reasonably accommodating.
- Always put the patient first.
- Always answer the phone.
- Never put a new patient on hold!
If any of this information seems at all intimidating to you or your staff, just remember – by the time a new patient calls your office, they’ve made the decision to visit you. They know they need a doctor, they’ve researched providers, checked out your website, and made the time to call your office. But you can lose them with bad service. Make sure your first impression ensures them that they’ve chosen the right place!
- Ask how the patient heard about the office
This will be precious information when it comes to your marketing strategy. You can compare the data of your new patient pool and zero in on your marketing efforts.
- Offer free consultations
If you feel a potential patient needs a little extra incentive, offer a free consultation to get them to commit to an appointment. Once they’re in the office, you can dazzle them!
- Know the schedule
Take a few minutes each morning to look at the week ahead. Most patients will want to be seen within that time frame, so it’ll be beneficial to know where the gaps are.
- Get their phone number
Some days are busy, and sometimes you’ll have to juggle several calls or patients at once. If you have to put someone on hold, consider getting their contact information and offer to call them back instead. A new patient will appreciate your effort to not waste their time.
Looking for ways to create a dazzling first impression with your office?
SmileMakers customizable wall murals allow you to quickly and affordably transform an exam room or your entire office into a place patients will want to visit. Compliment your new look with matching office decor, patient retention tools, and giveaways to keep patients coming back!