In the era of real time emails, chatbots, and online communicator tools, phone calls may seem like a thing of the past. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth — in fact, three out of four people believe that calls are the most effective way to get the information they need quickly.
Unfortunately, not all phone conversations result in a positive experience. Many patients don’t get a chance to communicate when they call their doctor's practice and are often met with painfully long hold times. When they manage to reach the front desk, the assistance they get is not always satisfactory. And if the call goes unanswered, many decide not to call the business ever again. Statistics are brutal: 74% of people who have a negative call experience when trying to contact a company will hang-up and opt for the next online competitor.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In many cases, the reasons for poor patient customer service are simple and can be handled with basic measures. Read on to learn about three easy ways to improve the inbound call strategy in your healthcare business.
Hold Back Your Hold Times
On average, US citizens spend over a year of their lives on hold. That’s a staggering amount of time! No one likes waiting, specifically if people’s health is at stake. Leaving too many calls unanswered not only has a devastating impact on the image of your practice; there’s also a good chance it’ll lead to patient outflow.
How can you prevent it? Identifying pain points should be your first step. Try to find out if there are any specific hours or days when your business faces an overwhelming number of calls. You can then decide to redirect incoming calls to a live medical answering provider during the peak hours.
Another way to address this issue is by talking to your staff. Maybe your front-desk receptionists simply have too much on their hands? Perhaps some tasks can be scheduled for other parts of the day to make room for customer service when calls are flooding your practice? Think low-urgency jobs, like administrative or maintenance work. Discuss task priorities with your staff and ensure that answering calls is high on their list.
Master the Manners
When you think about phone manners, there’s much more to them than just politeness. You also need to ensure that the information you provide over the phone is relevant and professional. Patients’ time is as precious as it is limited. That’s why it's essential to avoid straying off the topic. In many cases, this can be extremely hard, especially if you come across a chatty caller. The trick is to minimize chit chat and keep the conversation on point, without being rude.
Coming off as rushed can distract some patients and infuriate others, even if you want to keep the conversation short with the best of intentions. Keep in mind that callers may be distressed, worried, or even angry from the get-go. Be prepared for any reaction and stay patient. Remember: speed should never come at the cost of quality.
Improve the Flow of Information
Now that you know how to deliver patient support via a phone call, ask yourself: could you make this process more effective?
Here’s another data point to think about: nearly half of customers prefer phone calls when they seek assistance for complex matters. This shows the need for trustworthy and reliable support. Consequently, it means that providing quality assistance will win your patients’ trust; in contrast, insufficient support will erode it. Of course, you can’t expect everyone in the staff to be able to answer all of your patient's questions. However, there are specific ways to improve how caller issues are handled.
Start by identifying the most common requests that patients raise over the phone. Divide them into categories: administrative, strictly medical, registration-related, and so on. Then assign specific employees to categories they’re most knowledgeable about. This will make it easier for your staff to redirect the caller to another staff member who is better equipped to help the patient if they can’t resolve a particular issue on their own.
Once you have enough insight, you’ll be able to see which questions are asked most frequently and instruct more of your workers on how to handle them. This will significantly cut down call times and reduce the number of redirections required to handle each issue. Consequently, you’ll get more things done in less time, all while leaving your patients satisfied. A true win-win!
No matter if your answering practices still need improvement or if you think they are working fine, give the above methods a try. You’ll quickly see how improved communication benefits both your employees and your patients.