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Hang up on bad phone protocol


Train and monitor your team to make sure clients get professional, polite responses.

As a doctor and practice owner, I occasionally listen in to hear how team members are answering incoming calls. Are they upbeat and polite? Do they offer the right answers to clients' questions? I'm not trying to be nosy—this is an essential part of practice protocol.

Dr. Jeff Rothstein

Phone etiquette is a big deal. It sets the tone (no pun intended) for the practice and is a crucial part of client communication. One of my pet peeves is when a client claims he or she went to another clinic because a receptionist said we didn't have an opening during that person's time of need. It breaks my heart, because I know our team is trained to never turn anyone away. It's just a result of miscommunication. I'm sure you have your own horror stories. Let's get rid of them with a system of training, retraining, and monitoring.

Training and testing. There's no shortage of training materials on phone etiquette available online. Pick your favorite, then meet with your entire team to discuss specific goals. For example, you could focus on how to respond to phone shoppers, handle emergency calls, explain your medical standards of care, or discuss your annual wellness care recommendations over the phone. Once team members have completed training, be sure to test them. Testing encourages them to take the training seriously and shows you they've learned something.

Monitoring calls and retraining. If you're like most doctors or practice managers, you've educated your team on phone etiquette at one time or another. But remember that you've hired new employees since then and others have probably forgotten important information. Because of this, you need to develop methods for monitoring calls. First off, don't be afraid to listen to your team members on the phone. When you hear someone not following the guidelines, gently discuss that with him or her, and remind everyone of the protocols at the next team meeting.

Another way to check on phone protocol is to hire a mystery shopper. An alternative is to use a team member or family member who's not well-known yet to the others to make the calls. Either way, you can write your own list of questions for the caller to ask. (See "Related Links" below). Once the process is complete, share your findings on some good calls and some bad calls with the team as a whole. Don't name names, unless you're recognizing someone for good phone service.

The bottom line: Good phone service is good business. You'll have happier clients and higher profits, plus your team will gain confidence and praise when you acknowledge their exemplary service.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan. E-mail comments or questions to ve@advanstar.com or post your thoughts at the dvm360.com community message board.

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