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Specific training criteria and phone management policy and procedures to help your dermatology practice blow the competition away.
In December, I discussed the two primary goals of inbound phone management: maximizing productivity and delivering a stellar patient experience. I unpacked essential tools and tips to help you achieve these goals. In this article, I will provide specific training criteria and phone management policy and procedures that position your dermatology practice to blow the competition away.
Inbound calls are still one of the most important touch points for patients and successful phone management is a powerful tool to help your practice grow and thrive. It’s crucial that staff members who handle calls for your practice understand how vital their role is in retaining patients and securing new ones. Training needs to start with expressing the value of their role and practice leaders’ commitment to equipping them to succeed. Treating the process as a partnership in which everyone wins will help diffuse fear of blame or failure that your staff might initially experience.
To prepare for staff training, first gather data to help communicate where the practice is compared to where you’d like it to be. In order to get your staff on board, they’re going to have to see a reason for the training, and that will likely include showing them some unfavorable but undeniable concrete data. Sources of this data could include online reviews, data pulled from phone call recording applications, and patient surveys. It will take strong leadership and diplomacy to communicate clearly and positively.
Implementing a cloud-based call-tracking and call-recording system can allow you to track and record calls without having to upgrade your phone system or download any software to the practice computers. Recorded call information must be tracked and measured for each call using a tool that reflects the goals set by practice leaders.
For example you might want to track things like:
· Who answered the call?
· Type of patient/caller (existing, potential).
· Did caller schedule?
· Was practice greeting used?
· Was caller put on hold? If so, for how long?
Set a period of time in which you will draw data from, and then use it as a comparison while setting goals and measuring improvement. This system will continue to benefit your practice during and after training to monitor and measure performance.
Hiring a mystery shopper patient is another way to bring objective and concrete data about how your practice is doing. A patient experience expert can also help you set goals, train staff and provide feedback from the patient perspective that might be missed when the practice is self-assessing from recording tools.
For dermatology practices that depend on elective services guiding a patient onto the schedule is paramount to maximizing potential revenue. Patients often call with a desire to be assured they’re in good hands and that the services they are seeking are solutions to their dermatological problem. Staff need to understand that simply answering questions accurately is not their most important job. Their goal is providing information while connecting with patients in a helpful, assuring manner that boosts confidence in the practice, and guiding the caller to the next step of scheduling. By the time a potential patient makes a phone call to your practice, they are usually ready - or very close to ready - to schedule. Having some key facts and encouraging information scripted and well-rehearsed will optimize results. A consultant can help you identify what kinds of things matter most to your potential patients based on the demographics of your community and target patient mix.
Some key areas of training should include setting goals for and monitoring:
· Number of rings before a call is answered.
· How callers are greeted, put on hold or transferred.
· Best practices for guiding patients onto the schedule.
· Closing a call and reiterating scheduling details.
· Dealing with an angry patient.
· Answering most common questions.
· How to take a message.
It’s important that your staff is well versed in the treatment options your practice offers and what conditions they are used for, the schooling and training of the physician as well as other clinicians, and unique qualities that set your practice apart from competitors. For example, if your practice is offering something special or your providers have special training or experience, by all means brag about it. Another fantastic tool is the first hand experience of your staff – the ideal practice ambassadors! Staff are uniquely qualified to speak to their own experience with the services they’ve experienced in positive ways when being asked about treatment and procedure offerings!
Keep training and goal-reaching enjoyable by rewarding success. Training is a process of skill building and should include lot of practice by role-playing both common and difficult scenarios. Encouraging staff feedback and collaboration will increase staff buy in and boost morale. Set realistic goals and reward regularly to keep your staff engaged and motivated. An example of a realistic goal would be improving the percentage of callers who schedule appointments by 5 % for the week. Reward even the smallest move of the needle in the right direction to keep staff motivated. Tracking is vital to measuring, it takes commitment but the payoff is well worth it. When a goal is met, let the celebrations begin! Verbal affirmation and acknowledgement go a long way and so do small rewards like movie tickets or ordering lunch in for the staff.
Just as policies and procedures guide the way you and your staff treat patients and run the business of a dermatology practice, they also can bring clarity to the standard for how calls are handled. Clarify details of how you want calls handled by creating an official policy and procedure. This makes it official and provides a consistent standard for staff training and reviews.
Some examples of phone management standards are:
· Greet every caller with staff name and practice name.
· End every call with a thank you and repeat back any scheduling information (date, time and purpose of appointment).
· Always ask if you can place a patient on hold before you do it.
If a patient will be on hold longer than 1 minute ask if you can call them back.
When staff memorizes an exact script it ensures that key information isn’t omitted. Even if you allow staff to personalize their delivery later I recommend you have them learn and practice a script initially. Practice is key and during training staff should role play, practicing the script until it sounds completely natural. Another benefit of using scripts is the consistency it provides when staff represent your practice. A consistently excellent patient experience is the reputation will pay off in patient loyalty and new referrals. Having staff help in developing the scripts will increase buy-in and gets their “head in the game” by understanding the purpose and strategy behind the script.
Investment in your staff is necessary to achieve high patient retention, grow your practice and thrive in your increasingly competitive specialty. There are no short cuts around it. But there is something else you need and it can’t be trained into staff, only developed from what’s already there - the emotional disposition of staff to desire to be helpful, cheerful and confident in representing your practice. Your interview process should focus on discovering whether or not potential new hires have these aptitudes. Add training and tools to a customer-service minded staff and you will be positioned to become a stand out practice in your community and specialty!