This week’s blog post comes from MGE client, seminar speaker and Power Program graduate, Dr. Bruce Smoler. Using the practice management information from the MGE Program, Dr. Smoler has tripled his production and collections, and transformed his practice into a tremendously efficient fee-for-service office.
The Problem: Phone calls were coming in and we were not converting these calls as well as I thought we could. New patients were price shopping and would not schedule, along with what I felt were too many cancellations. After some trial and error, we found the solution in my practice; hopefully it can help in yours too!
The Solution: We implemented what turned out to be three positive changes:
- Call Capture: where we were able to listen to the actual calls coming in online with a dedicated phone number.
- Employee Training: We spent time training on verbal communication skills so as to present a consistent message to all new patients and patients of record on the phone.
- Focus: We made it a priority to focus on superior customer service, genuine care for patient needs and oral health concerns with all callers. In particular, we’ve changed how we handle phone calls regarding cancellations and our number of cancellations has gone down as a result.
Details about how this brought about real-world improvement with new patient conversions and reduced cancellations follow.
1. Call Capture
Quality control checks on calls allowed the staff member in charge of this area of the practice to review how the calls were being handled. Based on what they found, they graded these calls with a “well done” or “needs improvement.” We spent time crafting agreed upon responses for use as a guideline with for each type of new call into our practice; we then had each staff member who answered the phone practice the response until they were comfortable with it and it felt natural.
2. Employee Training
When we’re on the phone with a patient, we ask questions such as: “How did you hear about our office?” “Are you in any pain?” “Do we need to get you in right away?” By showing care, concern and a welcoming attitude over the phone, we were able to increase our conversion rate.
An upbeat, cheerful-focused voice on the phone was practiced over and over until the staff member could do it perfectly. If a staff member sounded distant, uninterested or monotone, it typically was due to an upfront distraction. QC (Quality Control) would then try to figure out what the negative action was; multitasking with another conversation was often the cause of a non-focused, disinterested sounding conversation. By improving our ability to have better control of the calls by asking their names, how they heard of us and by breaking the ice to connect with the patients on the phone, we were able to improve the quality of our phone calls and in turn, book more appointments.
Anyone in our office answering the phones were required to listen to these calls coming in, which were recorded. Insight to positive words or positive comments were highlighted. The simple use of “please” and “thank you” go a long way over the phone to show interest and concern. Verbal skill training was critical to help ensure positive results, and the Phone Skills training course at www.ddssuccess.com was extremely helpful for this. But more importantly, it helped “raise the bar” with regards to expected outcome. Ultimately, we were able to help more people get and stay healthier by feeling more connected to a caring, supportive office.
The final positive change we implemented was adjusting the way we handled cancellations and rescheduled appointments. Typically, in the past, after a patient would call to cancel an appointment we would hear my staff say, “Oh OK, would you like to reschedule your appointment?” Well the truth was, no it was not OK to have patients cancel their appointments and no one really wants to reschedule an appointment. The positive action was this:
Do not ask a question a patient can easily just say “no” to.
We try to avoid the phrase, “Would you like to…” More importantly, when we get the call to change or cancel an appointment, we now ask a different question: “What’s wrong with the appointment you selected?” This simple question wakes up the patient to respond. We then find out if the excuse was valid, and then one of two things happens: a) The patients decides not to cancel and just comes in for their original appointment, or b) we can find out the real reason someone may want to cancel or break an appointment, which we can then address and schedule a new appointment the patient will actually keep.
By selecting a problem to manage and handle, the results become more powerful as an example of a positive management policy. This in turn creates MORE and MORE for your practice. The training I received at MGE helped me adopt this viewpoint as a practice owner and leader. I recommend you contact MGE and start with the MGE New Patient Workshop to learn how you can improve the new patient flow in your practice.