“Answering the phone is not my job!”

“Answering the phone is not my job!”

In a dental office it is often thought that the people working the desk are responsible for customer service on the telephone. Customer service is everyone’s responsibility and that includes the CEO to the Sterilization Technician. Everyone on the dental team contributes to the organization’s reputation within the community.

Most dental offices use not only the telephone but email, fax, voicemail and social media to communicate with patients and other business representatives. Even with those forms of communication the telephone as a direct line to your practice has not been replaced. Think for a minute as to what percentage of all customer/patient service is handled on the telephone? What percentage is handled face to face? Who then on the team has more responsibility to satisfy patients and other callers such as referring dentists, laboratory technicians, salespeople, dental supply representatives, insurance companies, IT support etc?

If the largest percentage of your business comes through per the telephone wouldn’t it make sense to make sure that everyone answers the phone the same way, listens to the patient/customer the same way and provides the most excellent service possible?

Take Dr. Techy; he spent thousands of dollars on his website to attract new patients and to serve his existing patient base. Patients can send an appointment request, fill out forms and get all the information they need about the practice without picking up the phone accept the information that can not be provided without a telephone conversation: individual insurance eligibility information and individual’s financial options. Websites have general information such as “We are in network for the following insurance plans.” Or, “we accept almost all dental insurance PPO plans.” Information to file a claim properly is seldom received correctly over an online filled in form because the patient does not know what the correct answer is to most insurance questions.
The new patient calls Dr. Techy’s practice after visiting the website and downloading the forms. He wants to know if they “take his insurance’? Dr. Techy has employed an Insurance Coordinator to answer these questions, however she is out sick and Mary; the Hygienist is helping the Scheduling Coordinator. Mary takes the call: “Dr. Techy’s dental office, how can I help you? I am sorry I don’t know anything about the insurance, I don’t usually answer the phone, and I am just helping. I will take your name and number and our Insurance person can call you back. I think she will be back in tomorrow but I am not sure.”

The following scripted responses should help give better customer service:
“Thank you for calling Dr. Techy’s dental office, this is Mary, how may I direct your call?”
Patient: “Hi, Mary, this is Ned Petri and I have a question in regards to insurance. I have MetLife PPO.”
Mary: “Thank you for calling, Ned, have you been here before as a patient?”
Patient: “No, I filled out the forms online and I will be a new patient. I don’t see my insurance listed on your in network list.”
Mary: “We would be happy to check that list to see if we have recently added that plan. We do accept all PPO plans because you can go to whomever you choose. We get your information over the phone and then contact the plan representative to check in network or out of network payment. We then get back to you with the information. I will transfer you to our Scheduling Coordinator, Betty, and she will be glad to find a great appointment time for you and get the insurance information too.”

Or: “Thank you for calling Dr. Techy’s dental practice. This is Mary. How may I direct your call?”
Patient: “Hi, Mary, this is Ned Petri and I have a question in regards to insurance. I have MetLife PPO.”
Mary: “Thank you for calling, Ned, have you been here before as a patient?”
Patient: “No, I filled out the forms online and I will be a new patient. I don’t see my insurance listed on your in network list.”
Mary: “Welcome Ned. In order to properly answer your question, I am going to transfer your call to our Scheduling Coordinator, Betty. In case we are disconnected may I have your phone number? May I put you on hold to transfer your call? Thank you and I look forward to meeting you soon.”
Since your telephone is the valuable lifeline to your practice make sure that everyone knows the professional greeting, how to answer patient’s questions and how to take a proper message in a calm and courteous fashion.

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