I like to think I have a grasp on my personal strengths and weaknesses, so 3 months ago I asked my lovely wife to do a little recognizance on what clothing is hip these days so we could up my style game at the office. We went to the local Nordstrom and between my wife and the overly-in- my-grill sales associate I left decked out, feeling like Don Johnson circa 1989. (A lot of you younger docs, are probably like Don who??) I was feeling good!
That was until I tried to get ready for work Monday morning. I don’t want to brag here, but before that Monday morning, I could dress myself just fine. I could not, for the life of me, remember which shirt went with which pants and which pants went with what shoes. I completely forgot how to dress myself. I couldn’t adapt, I needed the ‘script’ my wife (and Chauncey from Nordstroms) had composed to help me dress. Because I wasn’t taught any principles of style, when things weren’t going exactly as planned I froze. Turns out, when I became dependent upon someone else’s script, I was not able to make confident decisions-even about pants!
It struck me then, why on Earth do we love to give scripts to our team members and then freak out when they freeze on the phone?
Stick to the script!
I have listened to coaches, consultants, and been to enough weekend seminars to know that most new patient caller advice revolves around pre-written scripts. I get it; scripts are a way to systematize what we do in order to get a desired result. But, here is the deal, the more dependent the team member becomes on the script, the less able they are to adapt and thrive in a real conversation.
Spoiler alert: the caller never follows a script!
I don’t like scripts, and it’s not because the lines are bad or the purpose is wrong, it is because they don’t allow my team the confidence to make decisions—and that hesitance comes through on the phone. They are stiff and awkward and as soon as the caller asks a question that isn’t pre-scripted, my team freezes!
Don’t be a one-script pony
Even though I don’t like scripts, don’t think for a second we place any less importance on phone skills in my office. I prefer my team have a whole quiver full of principles at their disposal, instead of being a one-script pony. Additionally, I make sure my team understands at the end of the day, it is just a conversation with another person. Talk to them like you would a friend—that’s it.
At The Lifestyle Practice, I teach doctors how to lose the scripts so their team can adapt to the patient, think on their feet, and make the new patients love us by using the incredible people skills they were hired for in the first place.
Here are 10 of the principles we use: (#4 is my favorite!)
10 Strategies for handling new patient calls without a script:
1. Answer with a smile.
Even if you are having a horrible day, fake it ‘til you make it and physically smile. Smile first, pick up the phone second. People can literally hear the difference when you are smiling
2.Exude good energy.
I don’t mean over the top, crushing Adderall energy, but be enthusiastic. Let them feel in your voice that it is a great day at your office and they better get in and figure out why.
3. Become the caller’s friend and ally.
Act as if you have been friends for years. Tell them you are glad they called YOUR office. If the caller feels like they are ‘just another call’ you might as well hang up.
4.Reinforce their great decision to call your office.
The best way to turn a potential patient into a raving fan is to make them feel good about their decisions. Reinforce it by speaking highly of the team: “Mrs. Jones I just want to let you know you called the right office. You are going to love Dr. Short, he is
If a patient is in pain, they want someone to truly listen and understand them. Don’t rush them; help them feel heard.
6. Get their name, and use it often.
Dale Carnegie said it best, “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” People love hearing their name. Get it early in the phone conversation and use it often
7. Mirror and match.
Mirroring voice tone and matching their speech rhythms lets the patient know: “I am like you, so you can like me”. Are they speaking slowly and quietly? Are they in a hurry? Whatever they are doing, mirror and match.
8. Take note of rapport-building information.
Often things come up in conversation like the patient is getting married; they work close by or have children. Make notes of these things. Use these facts as a springboard for conversation and getting to know them better. They will be impressed!
9. Ask how they found your office.
This is just good business. Were they referred by another patient, website, mailer or work insurance plan? Always take any information you are given to help deepen your relationship with your patient.
10. Make it EASY for patients to get in.
If every time you called a friend they gave you a checklist of items to complete and said you couldn’t visit for 2 months you’d find another friend. Don’t make patients jump through hoops! Besides your marketing material, a patient’s first call is the most important moment in the relationship building process. It will set the stage for your relationship and you will never get a chance to redo it.
Don’t be naïve and underestimate how much the patient is assuming based off this first interaction.
Whatever feelings the caller takes away from the first call they are projecting it directly on to you. Is the interaction sloppy? They will assume your work is sloppy. Is the person answering the phone crabby? They will assume you are crabby. Thankfully this works both ways, if the person answering the phone is happy, enthusiastic, caring, empathetic, poised, and generally excited about having a new patient visit the office, then you will be assumed to have those attributes too.
Spend time with your team going through these 10 strategies. They will empower your team and crate a practice environment that doesn’t need to be micromanaged. Have a great PRODUCTIVE week!
The response so for to TLP has been overwhelming! Who knew there were so many like minded dentists, that are wanting more from their practice and life??!!
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