If you picture your clinic marketing process as a circle, success is when you close the loop. Getting the phone to ring is a good start and an important part of the loop. But an inquiry call to your clinic doesn’t complete the loop. The ringing that you hear signals an important opportunity.

What happens next, properly answering the phone and closing the loop is where the payoff should begin.

But here’s the unfortunate reality, the clinic often fails miserably when the phone rings.

You would be alarmed at how often and how easily healthcare clinics fail at this critical point in the loop.

It’s painful when a prospective new patient calls your clinic and the opportunity is blown away by a truly bad experience on the phone. Marketing studies show when this happens;

  1. Advertising costs (invested to inspire response) are sunk with no return
  2. Your clinic lost the new patient opportunity, your competitor wins
  3. Nearly 75 percent of callers dial the competitor after a negative phone experience
  4. Some 70 percent of callers will share their complaint with friends and family
  5. Roughly one in four of callers will also complain via social media

Ways to fail on the phone

You might think, ‘It’s easy. Anyone, can answer the phone…right? There’s nothing to it’. It’s a wrong to assume that anyone can answer the phone and convert the prospective new patient from inquiry to appointment. The fact is it takes training, practice and good sense. How your phones are answered makes a big difference, on gaining a new patient or driving a patient away.

What to Do & what NOT to Do

Don’t Sound Rushed

When the person answering the phone sounds like they’re in a hurry to get off the call, the caller feels unwelcome. No matter how busy things are in the clinic, patients, especially prospective new patients, should not feel like they are an interruption. It sounds so fundamental, but always greet callers with a friendly and welcome tone.

Don’t have One-Word Answers

Short and snippety answers even unintentional is an extension of sounding rushed, annoyed or impatient with the caller. The caller is being treated as if they are unimportant and unwanted. And without a warm, conversational greeting, it’s an open invitation to call the competition.

Don’t be Uninformed or Unprepared

Believe it or not I have heard conversations where prospective patients inquire about cost and the office person doesn’t know or doesn’t have the information. Often, the only question that the caller knows to ask is about the cost and virtually everyone wants to know. What’s more, everyone who answers the phone needs to be fully prepared, including rehearsing and practicing.

The proper answer is an excellent opportunity to present benefits and value to the caller, and to set an appointment in the office to discuss options. Converting the inquiry call to a firm in-clinic appointment is the objective.

Don’t ever say “Wait. I have to call you back.”

There’s never a second chance to make a first impression. When the person answering the phone doesn’t have all the information, or they are busy or distracted, promising a return phone call is an immediate negative experience. At this stage prospective new patients are not committed or even convinced that they should make an appointment.

Everyone answering the phone needs to be seizing the immediate opportunity to help the caller, provide information, capture caller information, and arrange for an early appointment. It’s about 100 percent certain that the delay of “calling back” means a speed-dial to the competition.

Listen for understanding Many inquiry calls may turn out to be similar, but it’s vital to understand the needs, questions and concerns of the caller. First understand the caller’s perspective and form answers that address these wants or desires.

Some additional red flag tactics to avoid

  • Answer the phone quickly and politely
  • Put the caller “on hold” for a long time or for any reason
  • Don’t take calls during a long lunch period
  • Who cares about tracking or how the new patient was inspired to call
  • Use technical terms or office jargon
  • Never thank the caller

And, the biggest mistake of all: Never ask for the appointment. Exactly 100 percent of callers will not arrive spontaneously at your clinic. You must invite them, make an appointment, and have them feel welcome and wanted.

Answering the clinic phone is not a simple, throwaway task that everyone can do “instinctively” or properly. What’s required is staff training, practice and experience. And that can deliver a major boost in business instead of lost opportunity.