Change The Way Your Phones Are Answered

Provide Effective Dental Call Handling Performance Coaching

Managers and business leaders are always looking for ways to improve how their businesses function in order to drive better results. New technology means new processes in every business, and your back-of-house is probably very used to learning new techniques and doing things differently than they have before, but…

Front desk dental phone training might be a little bit different, I mean, who doesn’t know how to answer the phone?!

Well, technology is providing us with better and more-effective ways to improve front-of-house and call handling specifically. Call centers have recording and grading calls for years, we use it extensively at Patient News, and we’re really excited to provide this fantastic service to our clients. The slice of data we get from call tracking shows us clearly what is likely happening to all calls flowing into your practice. If your team hasn’t engaged in telephone training and performance improvement goals, it’s likely that your practice is losing revenue every day.

However, providing feedback and implementing change can be a touchy subject. You may be:

  1. Trying to change call handling procedures, but are anxious about the reaction from the front office staff
  2. Worried about the best way to give constructive feedback without provoking a defensive response
  3. Trying to figure out how to talk to your team who feels they already handle calls perfectly.  

Translating what you’re learning from your call recording/scoring to the people who need to implement the required change is something to be sensitive about even though it’s incredibly empowering because it is specific to the task, and it’s not about the person or their intentions. First, make sure that your team is informed and understands all practice goals and how continually improving their performance will contribute to overall practice productivity. Good communication always leads to better morale, acceptance of training, and improved revenue.

Launch your next huddle with a review of your upcoming dental marketing plans, including content and special offers. Cover your average monthly new patient numbers, total current patients, and practice production goals. These numbers your team needs to beat and they are critical to everyone’s job security. If you’re using call tracking, you’re trying to attract and convert more new patients.

  • Does everyone who answers the phone at your practice WANT more new patients?
  • Do they understand WHY you need more new patients?
  • Do they have goals and incentives specific to their role within the practice?
  • Do the folks that don’t work at front desk or answer phones understand the importance of each new patient call and that they shouldn’t interrupt reception when they have an important call in progress? (That means the doctor too!)

The most effective way to implement change is to engage team members in defining required changes. Everyone who answers the phone at your practice should have completed Phone Power, the Patient News telephone training system. You’ll also want to keep your phone power training manuals and support materials up front and revisit segments in a weekly huddle. This training program focuses on the importance of new patients and contains powerful techniques that will increase your conversion rates. Once the training has been completed, have the team discuss the scripting and call handling processes your practice will implement.

Your inbound calls are recorded and graded on your Patient News Marketing Performance Dashboard. This system provides you with a completely unbiased review of each call. Use these score sheets as a team and/or individually.

For one-on-one reviews, you’ll want to find a private room to listen to specific calls with each call handler. This is a great way to get their buy-in on what works and what doesn’t. Remember, there is no criticism here, just feedback. Compliment the areas of the call that were handled well, if there are areas for improvement, ask if you can provide feedback… “I’d like to comment on this section, is that ok?” Refer back to the Phone Power kit for specifics and ask the call handler what they might do differently as a result of this review. Ask not why they did what they did (which will make them defensive) but rather WHAT they feel they could do to improve their scripting in the future (which will guide them into an offensive mindset). For scripting to take hold, the language must be natural and suit both your team member and your practice style.

Providing one-on-one feedback and encouragement will become a positive activity. Have each team member select a call to listen to with the entire front desk team and work together to improve practice call handling. Our team sends their own calls to our Patient News call coach and solicits feedback – especially when it’s been a tough or awkward call. We’ve learned that by listening and getting feedback, we improve results. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, for sure, but when handled sensitively, it’s appreciated and it ramps-up performance.

So now you’ve communicated your goals. You’ve set up an incentive plan. You’ve provided telephone training and you’re tracking results in order to provide ongoing encouragement and feedback, but … not everyone is engaged. Years ago, one of our strategic advisors told us that we should always be ready to cull. Yes, he used the term cull. As managers, he said, we must always be ready to replace folks that do the bare minimum to implement strategy, the covert critics who express their support of change to management and then do not follow processes behind management’s back, and of course those who are openly defiant or simply continue to do things their own way regardless of business impact.

If anyone on your team doesn’t buy into your vision, then they may not be the right fit for your practice. That doesn’t mean they haven’t contributed in the past, it just means that in the future, it won’t work to the best advantage for either party. These aren’t easy decisions, and you’ll want to take all the steps you can to come to a positive outcome, but you must protect your business and you must to secure your life and career, and the lives and careers of engaged employees.

Providing your team with tools and training and having a continuous emphasis on improvement will help individuals recognize the importance of their roles in the organization along with demonstrating a high level of customer care. Have a special weekly huddle just for those who answer your phones and log into yourMarketing Performance Dashboard to see how you’re doing as a team.

  1. Did you reduce the number of calls that slipped past to voicemail?
  2. Did everyone improve their month-over-month grade percentage?
  3. Which areas of call handling need a little further practice?
  4. What was your conversion percentage of calls to appointments?

Keep call training fresh by watching one or two segments of the Phone Power dental phone training video series each week. We’re working as a team to improve overall practice production. This is a positive movement. Celebrate the successes and recognize effective performances.

This process will create a more open and positive workplace. It will help team members to support and encourage each other for their wins and pick them up when there’s a miss. Always encourage dialogue and use these unbiased tools to coach and mentor your team to improve business systems and practice success. Your front line team is one of the most critical parts of your practice success and these training tools honor and support their role.

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