Betty Hayden was asked to call dentists' offices to ask for donations. As a dental professional herself, she was not impressed with what she encountered. She advises offices, "Ask me if I want an appointment!"
The staff of the school my children attend asked me to help them collect donations for an event, donations of toothbrushes to be exact. I called dental offices to ask if they would like to donate toothbrushes to the school event, and in turn we would allow them to advertise their office at the school’s family event, which was expected to draw a large crowd.
You've received those kinds of calls right, people calling with donation requests? How do you handle them? If you're the doctor reading this you probably aren't answering the phones, but ask your team how they handle these calls.
Can you guess what happened when I started calling local dental offices?
• Many offices I called didn't answer the phone (Thursday afternoon and Friday morning).
• The offices that did answer answered after a few rings and answered simply by saying the office name.
• Some were annoyed with my call.
• Those who did answer told me they would have to check if it was OK to donate toothbrushes.
• They said they would call me back or asked me to call back. The two that said they would call me back never did.
• Two offices agreed to donate some toothbrushes.
So, that's good, right? I got two offices to agree to a donation of toothbrushes. What happened when I picked up the toothbrushes? One office donated about 12 toothbrushes, very cheap toothbrushes, in bags with a business card. The other office gave a generous donation of a case of quality imprinted toothbrushes.
While I was grateful for the contributions, there were a few things I found disturbing during my process: poor telephone greetings; offices that didn’t answer their phones during the day; staff not empowered to make decisions on requests for donations; and offices that didn't get back to me and missed a great marketing opportunity.
I wonder why the office that donated the non-imprinted and poor quality toothbrushes even bothered? (Mind you, this particular office has billboards around town, and does movie theater advertising and cable TV commercials. Oh, and their business cards were black and white and printed on only one side.) The office that did donate quality toothbrushes missed a great opportunity to attach some kind of offer or incentive.
But the biggest problem I found was that none of the offices offered me an appointment, or at the very least took the opportunity to brag about their office. They all knew that I was a mother of children at a school located only a few blocks from their office.
Do you think that’s a petty complaint? I don't think so. It was a huge missed opportunity to bring in new patients. How easy would it be to say, “Thank you so much for thinking about us for donations Mrs. Hayden. That sounds like a fun event. I'd like you to know that we love meeting new families in the community. In fact, we're offering a really great new patient special right now.”
Even if I’m not looking for a new dentist, I more than likely know people who are or who will be looking at some point, and they might ask me if I can recommend a dentist. So go ahead, exceed my expectations and offer me an appointment. You can bet I will not forget the wonderful customer service and personal interest your office showed me.
Maybe your office can't always fulfill a request for donations, so how about offering this instead? “Thank you for thinking of us. We'd love to be able to donate toothbrushes but unfortunately we can’t at this time. However, we really would like the opportunity to meet more families in our community. We can donate certificates to all the families who attend your event. The certificates would be for $25 toward dental treatment at our office.”
Now is the perfect time to look closely at how your office phones are being handled. Listen to the calls.Your team may not even realize that they’re missing opportunities to bring in new patients. Excellent phone skills are critical to your success!
Set aside some time to meet as a team. Everyone in the office should be trained on how to not only answer the phones, but how to handle the calls as well. At the very least, they should professionally and courteously direct callers to someone who can help. Role playing will help everyone feel more comfortable handling different types of calls.
Are you worried about your team members sounding like robots on the phone? Don’t be. As a team create telephone principles, which are your goals and expectations for each call.
Firm in principle, flexible in procedure
The procedure may vary but the principles for answering the phone remain the same. This allows team members to customize their words for each caller’s needs. But professionalism is always a must.
Some things to consider while training your team:
• What times are your phones being answered? Examine whether or not the times you’re actually available to answer the office phone is when your patients and potential patients are actually calling the office.
• What happens after hours? Enless ringing? Voice mail? An answering service? This is your chance to exceed expectations by answering the office phone after hours! You can forward calls to a cell phone.
• First impressions matter, so make sure your greeting is friendly and shares information about contacting the office.
• Shopper callers are a great opportunity. Shopper callers typically have a need and are ready to buy, that’s why they’re shopping. Don’t blow it by refusing to quote fees over the phone. By all means, offer them to come in for a complimentary consultation.
• Prepare a great response to “Do you take AAA insurance? Offer an appointment to wrong numbers. Be kind to sales callers, they’rejust doing their job. Maybe they need an appointment. Also, you don’t know who they know. Put simply, always be kind.
• Keeping that in mind, be kind to mothers who are calling for donations, or to anyone calling and asking for donations. Empower your team to fulfill their requests. At the very least, offer them an appointment.
• Finally, never answer the phone with “Hold please” or “Can you hold?” Take a quick second to find out who the caller is and what they need. People hate to be put on hold. If you habitually need to put callers on hold, you need more people to answer your phones.
Certainly, handling the phones is a big responsibility, but it’s an even bigger privilege. Don’t miss out on any opportunities to set your office apart from the others by always exceeding callers’ expectations.
If I call your office, please offer me an appointment!
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If you have questions about how to successfully handle telephone calls or need help training your team, don’t wait. Ask for help now. I’m ready to help you. If not me, there are many other excellent dental professionals out there who are ready to help. Take a second and follow me at haydenconsulting.wordpress.com to receive my free dental marketing and practice management ideas in your inbox each month.