By Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA (University of Chicago) & MBA (K.U.L. Belgium)
In this Issue, we conclude our treatment of The telephone as selling tool.
Whoever asks the question controls the call
The final key to connecting with callers is to get them to agree. This could mean agreeing to hear more about the practice, agreeing to make an appointment, agreeing to pay their bill on time, or any one of several other desirable actions you want callers to take.
Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this is to answer the caller’s question with another question.
For instance, if someone calls your practice and asks “How much do you charge for a crown?” You might answer, “I can help you with that. My name is [your name]. To whom am I speaking?” By that simple, but highly effective, sleight of hand (word), you have just regained control of the conversation.
Be careful how you label callers
The self-fulfilling prophesy trap refers to certain attitudes and beliefs that can cause what you least desire to come to pass. For example, some dental offices place a call tracking sheet near the telephone. There are boxes at the top of the sheet the team member uses to identify the ‘kind of patient’ calling the office. One of these designations is often “Price Shopper.” If a caller asks how much a procedure costs, an X goes in the box marked ‘shopper.’ The team member understandably feels he is doing his job by saving the practice a lot of time and aggravation “getting rid of the price shopper.”
Unfortunately, neither doctor nor team member may realize that, when we label someone as undesirable, the quality of the communication changes, almost invariably for the worse. The call can become more of an interrogation to see if the caller is “worthy” of the practice than conveying to the caller the unique benefits of joining the practice. This is particularly unfortunate because, in all likelihood, the caller simply asked for the price because she did not know what else to ask.
Is your telephone equipment up to the task?
Now that we’re free of any prejudgments about who is calling us, let’s focus on the technical side of the equation.
Your telephone system should have enough lines, connected by a ‘hunt group’ so that, when people call, they’re likely to speak with a real person within a maximum of 4 rings. Your outgoing message (OGM) heard by callers when your team is unable to answer the telephone should be no more than 40 seconds long and be just as enthusiastic and inviting as though the call were being handled by a member of your Team. After hours, your OGM should immediately play, that is, there should be no rings causing the caller to wait unnecessarily. Your OGM should begin with an enthusiastic greeting and tagline explaining why (depending on whether it is during or after office hours) you cannot come to the phone. Your OGM should provide callers with a way to bypass the remainder of the message by pressing “0” or “#” so repeat callers are not inconvenienced hearing the same message over. Your OGM should not include your office hours (unless they are truly special and beneficial for your patients). Dental practices are not doughnut shops: people, almost without exception, make an appointment before a visit. The practice should have a customized and regularly (e.g. quarterly) updated on-hold message to keep patients entertained and informed about practice goings on, including involvement with the community.
So stay out of the self-fulfilling prophecy trap, establish rapport, exude empathy and enthusiasm, and practice your skills, and soon you and your entire team will be master telephone communicators, setting the stage to effectively sell dentistry, which is the topic of our next issue.