It might seem like a very simple task, but the truth is that taking phone calls is a very important part of most medical practices and businesses’ daily operations. Through telephone calls, you can answer your patients’ inquiries, schedule appointments, check up on providers, and handle bill collections. Most customer experiences begin with a phone call. Maybe a potential patient an ad for your newest procedures, or maybe they heard about your practice from an acquaintance. In any case, reaching for the phone is the first thing that many people will do when they’re interested in a business and the services that it provides.
Once one of your employees picks up the phone, their behavior, humour, and professionalism can be the difference between gaining a new customer or losing potential business. Imagine calling a medical practice to inquire about their services, only to have your phone call answered by a grumpy, unprofessional employee. Would you really still be interested in going to that medical practice? Probably not. In most cases, an awkward telephone interaction will be more than enough to drive customers away from your business.
There are many factors that can turn a business phone call into an unpleasant experience for your customers. These are some of the do’s and don’ts of phone etiquette:
- DO ask your customers before putting their call on hold: maybe the person who answers the phone needs a moment to ask for information, or to finish handling another call. There’s nothing wrong with that; however, you always need to ask the caller if it’s okay for you to do this. You should also ask them first if you’re going to transfer their call to someone else.
- DON’T leave a phone call on hold for a long time: once you’ve told the caller that you’ll place their phone on hold, you must make sure that the call gets picked up again as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’s very likely that the customer will get tired of waiting and hang up.
- DON’T let the phone ring more than three times: if the phone rings too many times, the customer calling might hang up before anyone picks up their call. Avoid this by answering each phone call on the second or third ring.
- DO answer each phone call with a positive and professional greeting: you should establish a short, professional greeting to be delivered during each phone call. Something like “Good morning, Crawford Dermatology Center, this is Lucy” should be more than enough to greet each call.
- DON’T interrupt the caller: sometimes, you might feel like you know the answer to a customer’s inquiry before they even finish speaking. Or they might have talked for minutes on end. It can be tempting to interrupt a ranting customer, but it’s never professional to do so. The customer needs to feel like their concerns are being taken into account, and they won’t feel like that if you interrupt them while they talk.
- DON’T tell the customer that you “don’t know” the answer to their question: there’s nothing wrong with not having the answer to everything; however, this isn’t something that the caller needs to know. If you don’t know the answer to an inquiry, calmly put the call on hold for a few moments while you ask another member of staff, or transfer the call to someone who can help the customer.
- DO smile when talking on the phone: believe it or not, the sound of your voice changes when you’re smiling, even if the other person can’t see you. If you smile, your voice will come across as friendly and warm.
- DO reassure angry or unsatisfied callers: handling an angry phone call can be difficult. But being understanding towards disgruntled customers can help them calm down, which will make it easier for you to handle their concerns. Messages such as “I understand”, “I’m sorry this happened to you”, and “We’ll work through this together” can help in these cases.
The importance of positive customer interactions can’t be overstated. In 2018, Forbes estimated that businesses lost $75 billion due to poor customer services, and that up to 67% of all customers are “serial switchers”, meaning that they’ll switch to a different business in the search for a positive customer experience.
Providing good customer service is arguably even more important when you work in the healthcare industry; patients and customers need to know that their concerns and wishes will be taken into account and respected when dealing with your business. Having good phone etiquette can mark the beginning of a positive customer experience.