The 2-minute phone call
An expert in practice management offers 4 tips to efficiently handle and increase the number of calls to your practice without compromising client service.
Do you have 7 phone lines ringing off the hook? Are 4 client service representatives not enough? Your office only has 3 phone stations? Clients call your practice for different reasons. The most common include the following:
- Scheduling an appointment
- Ordering medication or diet refills
- Scheduling lodging
- Scheduling grooming
- Checking on their hospitalized pet or a pet undergoing an anesthetic procedure
- Returning a doctor’s call
As you can imagine, the phone lines can get bogged down because there are so many moving parts. After analyzing the workflow, it is clear an easy way to improve client service is to keep phone calls to 2 minutes. This allows time to address the client’s needs while being able to convey compassion and empathy. The bonus is that it also frees up your phone lines so you can help more clients. Coach your team on the 2-minute phone call using these 4 tips.
1. Keep the call on track and get down to business
You know those clients who just love to chat it up. I have coached many a new customer service representative (CSR) who would patiently listen to all their stories about trips to the grocery store or personal health issues. You can be compassionate while keeping the call on track. If the client strays, patiently steer them in the right direction.
“I’m sorry your trip to the store was trying. How can I help you with Dodger?”
“You are one tough cookie to endure those challenges. How can I help you with Dodger today?”
There is nothing wrong with even saying, “Mrs Sylvester, it has been so great chatting with you. I must take this other call; we will see you soon.”
2. Offer 2 yes options
The difference between asking a client what time works for them versus giving them 2 time options is huge when your goal is a 2-minute phone call.
- “When do you want to bring Dodger in?”
- “What time works well for you today?”
- “Our afternoon is wide open; what time do you want to come in?”
A couple of things happen when you ask these kinds of questions. It makes it sound as if your practice is slow. This could raise questions with some clients; for example, do you want to eat at an empty restaurant, or would you eat at the restaurant that is packed? Perception is reality. Questions like these also force the client to start sorting through their obligations of the day, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming. The reality is, they are probably calling you in between 6 other tasks, so make it simple for them.
- “Dr Abbott has an 11 AM or a 4:30 PM appointment; which do you prefer?”
- “Do you prefer morning or afternoon?”
Giving the client only 2 options allows them to focus on engagements they may have around those 2 times and decide easily and quickly. You may go back and forth until you find a time that works for the practice and the client, but continue to give them 2 options until a decision is made.
3. Transfer calls efficiently
Implement a phone in each “zone” that is monitored on a regular basis. Your CSRs are able to transfer calls based on the client’s needs which frees them up to take the next incoming call.
Consider breaking your practice into these “zones”:
Voicemails are set up accordingly and appropriate expectations are set for the clients. For example, a practice that has a lodging zone walks, cleans, and feeds from 7 to 10 AM. Communicate to the client to leave a message and their call will be returned after 10 AM. If your pharmacy is busy and the client may not be able to get through right away, encourage them to leave a voicemail and their call will be returned within an hour. Transferring calls will take the load off of the CSRs and provide more efficient client care. It is important to set clear expectations and allow for a transition period as everyone adjusts to the new system. Once in place, it can be phenomenal.
Identify CSRs in your practice who have mastered the 2-minute phone call and pair them with new team members or those who need coaching. Some training tools I use are a phone splitter and recorded phone calls. The phone splitter is affordable, and the trainee can hear the trainer do a few calls; they can then switch and have the trainee take the call while the trainer listens. Recorded calls give you the opportunity to hear an entire phone call after you have set the trainee free to take calls on their own. Give positive, constructive feedback and celebrate the little victories until the 2-minute phone call is achieved.
These 4 tips will increase your practice’s ability to receive more phone calls by keeping your phone time with each client to 2 minutes. Clients will also appreciate having their needs met in a very efficient manner.
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, CVBL is regional director of operations in Florida for Family Vet Group.