Date ArticleType
6/25/2019 Insights

The Biggest Challenge You Experience as an Office Manager (and What to do About It)

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The Biggest Challenge You Experience as an Office Manager (and What to do About It)
by Corey Johnson

Schedulers are hired to be friendly, helpful and knowledgeable over the phone, but in order to truly assist patients, they must sell the appointment.

Managing front desk employees. Handling upset patients. Resolving billing concerns. Scheduling effectively. Following up on treatment plans. All these components and more make up your daily to-do list. With your time stretched so thin, enhancing your office’s phone processes and performance likely gets ignored.

While this remains a chronic challenge among office managers, lack of focus on the phone is hindering your patient experience and bottom line. This is especially true in today’s digital climate, where patients can access any information at their fingertips within a matter of seconds. If patients have recurring trouble getting through to your practice for what should be a simple phone call, this same digital age has made it effortless for patients to call a different practice that makes their concerns a priority.

It’s necessary to deliver an optimal calling experience and maximize revenue opportunities over the phone, which isn’t disappearing anytime soon; it’s becoming your number one conversion channel. Excellent phone performance is the primary avenue to successfully capturing and booking patients.

Providing that white glove patient experience on every call is increasingly necessary when growing –– or even maintaining –– your practice’s level of service. The key here is turning the phone from a liability into an asset. Use it to your advantage by changing your team’s mindset toward booking appointments on every call.

The challenge:

Typically, front desk staff are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. But their mindset usually isn’t one centered on appointment scheduling. New patients may be calling in with obvious interest in booking an appointment, but your phone handlers feel as though they’re being pushy toward the patient, so they don’t ask for them to schedule.

It’s a natural response for staff to answer every patient question and think they did a good job for doing so, but in reality, truly helping them equates with offering and securing a consultation about their concern.

Not securing an appointment can be dangerous to the patient’s health. A professional consultation from a doctor is necessary to treat for cavities, oral cancer, periodontal disease, and other maladies. Focusing on this mindset can have sweeping effects on the team.

The solutions: 
    -- Make the appointment commitment as simple as possible

Rather than asking patients when they can come in for an appointment, narrow it down for them. Schedulers should start by asking if earlier or later in the week works better for them, then if mornings or afternoons are preferred. Finally, they should conclude by providing two times within the desired time frame. Helping callers make it into the office but not overwhelming them with options is key. Make it as comfortable as possible on callers, and patients will be more likely to feel confident in your team. 
    -- Make declined appointment calls

Maybe Patient Manuel was having a crazy week when he was offered an appointment. Maybe Patient Linda was in a financial pinch. Check your practice management software for patients who declined appointments, and call to see if anything has changed, demonstrating that you’re there to help. By following up with these patients and securing their appointments as a manager, you’re showing front desk staff that booking an appointment is the best way to assist patients in improving their health. 
    -- Hold one-on-one meetings

Regularly meet with schedulers who have room to improve on the phone, perhaps twice per week. Together, listen to a call that went well and a call that needed improvement, then offer best practices and craft a game plan to get the employee on the right track. 
    -- Set the example

Make appointment confirmation or reminder calls, reach out to patients who left negative Yelp reviews, and follow up with those who expressed recent interest in an appointment, but needed to “check their schedule and call back later.” If you show your employees you’re dedicated to booking more appointments over the phone –– with the plethora of items already on your to-do list –– it’s likely they’ll follow suit. 

Concerned not every patient is being helped? Make your office’s phone processes a priority. Worried your staff members’ lack of training is resulting in appointment opportunities slipping away? Make your schedulers’ phone skills a priority. Want to instill a more appointment-driven culture throughout your practice? Make the phone a priority, and you’ll quickly see a boost in staff performance, scheduled appointments, and satisfied patients.

The phone is a patient’s first touchpoint when contacting your office; make it a pleasant experience for them. Altering your team’s mindset toward phone use is a necessary step to see real return on your managing efforts and initiatives.

Want more phone insight, or already employing any of the above techniques? Feel free to reach out! Email me directly at [email protected] –– I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned along the way.

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Corey Johnson is Top Problem Solver at Call Box. Doctors and owners call Corey to increase their bottom line through enhancing the patient experience over the phone and converting more opportunities. Corey earned his MBA from the University of Delaware and graduated from UNC, where he studied how the power of data can affect organizational change.