1. UNDERSTAND THE FIVE AREAS OF PATIENT EXPERIENCE
Greeting & Introduction
A quick response to a ringing phone demonstrates you value the caller’s time and interest, so always try to answer within two or three rings. Provide the practice name, identify yourself by name, and ask how you can help the caller. Reassure them you can help with their problem or question. Ask how they heard about your practice.
Avoid putting the caller on hold. If you must do so, however, ask permission first — for example, “May I place you on hold a moment?” Always wait for a response before you put the caller on hold. Reassure them periodically that you’re still on the line. Thank them when you return to the call.
Body language heavily influences both first impressions and decision-making ability. Thus, phone calls put you at an immediate disadvantage. Prospective patients must rely on your tone of voice and word choice, making it critical to control both for effective and professional communication.
- Use emphasis and vary your pitch to engage callers and ensure they understand important information.
- Listen to a few recorded calls — noting problem areas and opportunities for improvement — to help ensure you’re speaking in a professional manner every time.
- Smile, because your tone of voice is closely linked to your facial expression. A frown on your face will make your voice sound harsh and cold, but a smile will warm up your voice, making you sound inviting, enthusiastic, and caring.
- Speak clearly and loudly, so callers — many of whom may have hearing difficulties — can hear you. This also conveys your confidence in your ability to help them.
- Let the caller speak without interrupting them and repeat back what you’ve heard to confirm your understanding.
- Answer any questions the caller may have. It will encourage ongoing dialogue, giving you a chance to understand their needs and concerns in advance of an appointment.
- Build a relationship with the caller, using their name, thanking them for calling regardless of whether they book an appointment, and letting them know your practice appreciates their time.
Asking open-ended questions builds engagement and rapport. It also helps you understand the patient’s unique lifestyle and needs, ensuring the provider will be well prepared for the consultation.
Engage the caller rather than over-talk them. Asking questions pulls the patient toward you; making statements pushes the patient away from you. But don’t lock your questions into a certain order.
At a minimum, get answers to the obvious, such as the caller’s name, whether they’re calling on behalf of another, the pain points, hearing aid status, and when their last hearing test was taken, if applicable.
Always gather contact information if possible. If the patient doesn’t book an appointment, they can still be entered into your database for outreach at a later date.
During each inbound conversation, be sure to communicate the practice message. It’s a short statement that clearly communicates the benefits each patient receives from your services and products. If your practice doesn’t have a practice message, develop one — it’s a crucial part of the patient experience.
Crafting an effective practice message requires careful consideration of your practice and market. “We have the best audiologists in town!” isn’t enough. Callers and patients should understand and remember your message easily. It needs to be specific and focused on what patients want and value.
Start by listing what sets your practice apart. Be thoughtful — these characteristics will define your practice to your patients. Then put these elements together to create your practice’s unique message.
Asking each caller to make an appointment is a must, but how you phrase the question also matters immensely. Always create a “yes-yes” question, such as, “I have open appointments on Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon — which works better for you?” rather than a “yes-no” question, such as “Would you like to make an appointment?” It demonstrates your flexibility and, more important, increases the caller’s likelihood to make an appointment.
If they seem hesitant, try to validate their objections and answer their underlying concerns.
2. USE YOUR INBOUND CALLING CHECKLIST
Engaging with the caller and gathering information make your practice stand out from the competition and get appointments booked. Create an inbound calling checklist using the following to help ensure you’re gathering the right data for all your inbound calls.
- Get the caller’s name — Hi, my name is Taylor. What’s yours?
- Get the caller’s status — Are you calling for yourself or someone else?
- Get their hearing aid status — Are you currently wearing hearing aids? How long have you had them?
- Ask engaging questions — What kinds of things do you like to do that are impacted by your hearing?
- Determine level of daily difficulty — What difficulties made you decide to give us a call?
- Determine when their last test was — How long ago was your last hearing test?
- Get contact info — I have your phone number. May I have your address to follow up with you?
3. BUILD VALUE WITH TRANSACTIONAL CALLERS
There are four types of callers you’ll encounter, and you should be able to recognize each of them:
- Transactional callers. They have a low need for a relationship with your practice, and they don’t want lots of information. They want the right product at the lowest price, and they want it quickly.
- Relationship callers. These prospects want a relationship with your practice. They want to be understood fully and deeply, and they want to be helped.
- Informational Callers. They have a high need for information but a low need for a relationship. They’ve done their research and now want information on your products, appointment process, providers, and so on. They want validation of their research and their decision.
- Partnership Callers. These callers have a high relationship need and a high information need. They want someone who will truly go the extra mile to understand their specific needs.
Unlike relationship, informational, and partnership callers, transactional callers are largely focused on price or — more specifically — value. They want to know whether the perceived benefits of a purchase are worth the price. Motivating them to act starts with understanding and changing their perception of benefits.
Some common issues on the transactional caller’s mind as the phone rings:
- Whether they have prices from other practices or you’re the first person they’ve called, they plan to spend hours calling every person on the internet or in the phone book to research this issue.
- They have a friend or family member with hearing aids who scored a terrific deal, and they’ve had a great experience with their technology. That loved one is an advocate — but only for those hearing aids at that great price.
- They currently wear hearing aids but aren’t having a good experience.
If you’re simply giving them a price, you don’t have a chance to build value in their mind. You’re putting yourself on an equal playing field with the wrong players: price-based competitors.
Start asking those open-ended questions mentioned earlier. Build engagement and rapport. What prompted them to call? What are they — or their loved ones — experiencing? Is the person in question currently wearing hearing aids? Dive into it. Show your concern and knowledge. The more you can show it’s a nuanced process, the more value they start to see.