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July 10, 2018
July 6, 2018

Connect with Your Clients - Dial Up Your Telephone Skills

Monica Dixon Perry

As a part of our on-site consultation services, anonymous calls are made to practices assessing the healthcare team’s telephone skills. When is the last time that you assessed your practice’s telephone skills? Maybe now is the time to evaluate how your current systems are working because we have yet to meet a practice without opportunities for improvement.

Here are some of our top tips for creating telephone answering protocols and expectations:

Avoid automation whenever possible! Even in our highly technological society, having a warm, friendly voice answer your phones is always recommended and goes hand-in-hand with giving professional, top-notch customer service.

Schedule training for all employees who answer phones BEFORE they are expected to answer phones. This training should include job scripts so that a consistent message is delivered. Training should also include role playing and telephone etiquette guidelines so that your team has a clear understanding of your expectations. As an added part of training, if you expect a team member to educate callers on procedures, it is recommended that those team members see and experience how those procedures are performed at your practice. This enhances their confidence and knowledge, which better resonates with callers.

Establish an “answer by the 2nd ring” goal. Unanswered or slow to answer incoming calls increases noise pollution and lower your practice’s perception of value. Team members should be prompt and attentive with incoming calls. To achieve this, make sure your front desk or telephone operator center is properly staffed. Do not expect one person to effectively handle a multi-line, high volume system. Set your team up for success, not failure.

Make sure you have enough inbound lines to handle the volume of incoming calls. Clients should never get a busy signal when calling your practice.

Consider high quality headsets that allow your team physical flexibility when answering calls. They can improve the ability to hear and understand the caller and leave hands free for accessing computers or files.

Smile and dial! Although smiling when speaking on the phone is nothing new in the customer service industry, this recommendation is not widely enforced. How callers perceive your team should be nothing less than accommodating, friendly, engaging and inviting.

Standardize the greeting that your team is expected to use when answering incoming calls. An example would be, “Good Morning, thank you for calling ABC Veterinary Hospital, this is [name], how may I assist you?”

If a client must be placed on hold, make sure you have on-hold music or messages. Not only does it let them know the line has not been dropped, this is a fantastic way to introduce incoming callers to the practice and market your services and products.

Converting telephone shoppers into actual clients should be a top goal. Make sure your team is aware of this expectation and is committed to achieving this goal. Remind them that they should make every effort to set your practice apart from the rest and offer to schedule an appointment before concluding the call.

Always discuss the features and benefits of a service before quoting a price. Team members need to understand how important it is to highlight the value associated with the services your practice provides. Taking the time to explain what is included in a service or anesthetic procedure and then quoting the price adds significant value to the service.

Your team should be familiar with your practice’s prices and practice management software system so that they can quickly prepare an estimate of costs without having to place a caller on hold.

Team members should be as accommodating as possible and never make callers feel that they are being rushed or that they are an inconvenience.

Direct telephone shoppers to your practice website and invite them to come for a tour of the practice if they are not committed to scheduling an appointment.

Team members should take pride in how they conduct themselves when answering incoming calls. They have a plethora of knowledge and expertise – their expert handling of calls can have a strong impact on the health and well-being of your patients. They may be the client’s first impression of your practice and they should never take lightly the responsibility of answering your hospital phones.

If you’ve noted anything here where your team could improve their performance, map out an action plan and make these changes happen. Every day is a perfect day to make a great connection!



Earn C.E. while learning the fundamentals of veterinary management. Register for Monica Dixon Perry's seminar, Principles of Veterinary Practice Management at a location near you.

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