Last month, the school that my children attend hosted a Family Fall Festival. I was asked to help them collect donations for the event, donations of toothbrushes to be exact. Okay, so here I am calling dental offices asking if they would like to donate toothbrushes to this event and we would, in turn, allow them to advertise their office at the family event that was expected to draw a very large crowd.
You’ve received those kinds of calls right? People calling with donation requests. How do you handle them? If you’re the doctor reading this you probably aren’t answering the phones, ask your admin team how they handle these calls.
Can you guess what happened when I started calling local dental offices??
- Many offices I called didn’t answer the phone. (Thursday afternoon & Friday morning)
- The offices that did answer, answered after a few rings and just answered by saying office name.
- Some were annoyed with the call
- All that answered said they had to check if it was OK to give any out and that they would call back or asked me to call back. The two that said they would call me back never did.
- Two offices agreed to donate some toothbrushes.
So that’s good, right? I got two to agree to make a donation of toothbrushes. What happened when I picked up the toothbrushes?
One office gave about 20 toothbrushes (very cheap toothbrushes) in bags with a business card. The other gave a very generous donation, a case of quality imprinted toothbrushes.
While grateful for the contributions I did receive, there were a few things that I found disturbing:
- Poor telephone greetings
- Offices not answering the phones during the day… you know, when most new patients are likely to call.
- The fact that they were not empowered to make decisions on requests for donations on the initial call.
- The fact the offices that didn’t get back to me missed out a great marketing opportunity!
- The one office donated non-imprinted poor quality toothbrushes. Why bother? (Mind you this particular office has billboards around town, movie theater advertising & cable television commercials. Oh, and their business cards, were black & white and printed on only one side.)
- The office that donated quality toothbrushes missed out on a great opportunity to attach some kind of offer/incentive with the toothbrushes.
What was the biggest problem that I found?? None of the offices offered me an appointment! Or at the least took the opportunity to brag about their office! They all knew that I was a mother of students at a school that was only a few blocks from their offices.
Is that a petty complaint? I don’t think so. It was a big missed opportunity to potentially bring in new patient(s).
How easy would it be to say: “Thank you so much Mrs. Hayden, for thinking about us for donations. That sounds like a fun event. I’d like you to know that we love meeting new families in the community, in fact, we’re offering a really great new patient special right now… “
Even if I am not looking for a new dentist, I more than likely know people who are or that will at some point, ask if I can recommend a dentist. So go ahead, exceed my expectations – offer me an appointment! You can bet, I will not forget the wonderful customer service and personal interest that you showed to me.
Maybe you can’t always fulfill a request for donations, what about offering this instead: “Thank you for thinking of us, we’d love to be able to donate toothbrushes but unfortunately at this time we can not. However, we really would like the opportunity to meet more families in our community, we can donate certificates to all the families attending your school event, the certificates would be for $25 toward dental treatment at our office.”
Or something like that. Just don’t say “no” and hang up.
Now is the perfect time to really look closely at how your office phones are being handled. Listen to the calls. Your team may not even realize that they are missing out on opportunities to bring in new patients. Having excellent telephone skills is critical to your success!
Set aside some time to meet together as a team – everyone in the office should be trained on how to not only answer the phones but they should know how to handle the calls. At the very least, professionally & courteously direct the caller to someone who can help. Role play will help all to feel more comfortable handling different types of calls.
A few things to consider:
What times are your phones being answered?
What happens after hours? Ringing? Voice Mail? Answering Service? Here’s your chance to exceed expectations by answering the office phone after hours! (Forward calls to a cell phone)
The Greeting (First impressions matter!!)
Shopper Callers (Great opportunity! Don’t blow it.)
Insurance Questions (Have a great response to: “Do you take —-ins?)
Wrong Numbers (offer an appointment anyway)
Sales Calls (Be kind they’re just doing their job. Maybe they need an appointment. Plus, you don’t know who they know. It’s simple – always be kind.
Moms calling for donations or any organization that asks for donations (Offer us an appointment!)
Worried about your team members sounding like robots on the phone? Don’t be. This is what you do, create as a team, Telephone Principles (your goals & expectations for each call.)
Firm In Principle – Flexible in Procedure
The procedure may vary but the principles remain the same. This will allow the team member to customize their words to the individual caller. However, professionalism is always a must! I believe that there are words/phrases that should never be used on a call.
One more, never ever answer the phone with “hold please” or “can you hold?”! Take a quick second, find out who they are and what they need. People hate to be put on hold. If you are habitually needing to put callers on hold, you need more people answering the phones.
Certainly, handling the phones is a big responsibility but it’s an even bigger privilege. Don’t miss out on any opportunities to set your office apart from the others by always exceeding the caller’s expectations.
So if I call your office, please, please offer me an appointment! 🙂
Should you have questions about how to successfully handle telephone calls or need help training your team, don’t wait, ask for help. I’m ready to help you. If not me, there are many other excellent dental professionals out there that are ready to help.
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Yours for Greater Success,