In terms of personality, when one becomes confident and is really deftly able to practice the distinction that we share in the first impressions, it’s then that your true personality has an opportunity to shine through. In other words, because you know what your goal is and you know where you’re headed, you can then allow your true personality to shin through, and that is not just okay. It’s essential because people don’t want to talk to an automaton or someone that they view is just going through rout procedure, and it’s just like the dentist when they’re practicing. They’re having a conversation frequently, and that’s important because that sets the patients at ease.
It’s the very same case here. If the dentist was just out of dental school and having to think consciously about every move that he or she is making, it’s pretty tough to have your personality shine through. In terms of whether you were hired to do this or not, the fact is we live in a dynamic world, and any practice that is willing to invest in your coaching to master this art, I would look at as a positive thing because they’re actually offering to add to your skill set. They’re providing you with the tools so you can become even more indispensable to the practice.
We get a lot of pushback from reading off scripts. I suspect one reason is we know. We all have experienced people reading off a script to us, and it’s a negative experience. It’s usually the negative that we remember, and we’ll talk about that a little bit more in a minute.
Being too busy is a commonly stated concern, and the only way I ever respond to that is when the phone stops ringing, don’t worry. You won’t be busy for long. In other words, there needs to be a rearrangement of priorities when that phone rings because that really is your patient calling. When the phone stops ringing, the practice is in trouble, and lest you think this is not necessarily, I hope everything I shared already shows you that in fact communicating skills very necessary.
Some people think they’re very good at it now already, and that reminds me of the phrase which is people know what they don’t know and they also don’t know what they don’t know. This could be an example of not knowing what you don’t know. So, all I would ask is that you be open to hearing what we have to share today, and if you don’t agree that there’s some ways that perhaps you could do a better job of connecting with callers.
It’s tough to measure, and we’ll talk about that later, too, because you may have gotten on the phone with someone. We’ll talk about in in the self-fulfilling prophecy that they didn’t come in, and you may consult yourself by saying, “Well, they’re not fit for our practice anyway.” Well, maybe, maybe not, but the production you never experienced because the patient never came in to the office. It’s something you can’t measure, but it’s nonetheless quite real.
We’ll also talk about this view that people are responding to an external stimulus. Also, callers that are low quality, and we will demonstrate how that has never been demonstrated to be the case. We know that once patients meet you, they love you. This is the frustration that you hear sometimes that you hear from dental team members, and the fact is that they’ve already met you. They just met you on the phone. So, we want to show you how you can make them love you on the phone so that they can’t wait to meet you in person.
Now, in terms of this concern about reading off a script, I already gave you an example. I cited one example of a script that we heard is a bad telemarketer that reads and doesn’t listen and is obviously just howling for dollars. That’s what gives scripts that name, but I would ask you to consider some of these that you might remember. Depending on how old you are, this is sometimes an age test. These are quotes from some of the movies that have really become part of our culture: Wizard of Oz, Underwater Front. I think that’s Magnum Force. Go ahead make my day. Dirty Harry. Gone with the Wind, Sunset Boulevard.
These, if you recognize them, are actually very memorable, and they give us warm feelings, and they really remind us of what a great performance we received. Remember, these are all lines off the script, and the reality is the reason we remember them so fondly is that the actor got what they call in the acting book, they got off book. That means they internalized these lines to the point of they didn’t think about what they had to say, and they allowed their personalities to come through. With actors, it’s actually their persona because we don’t even know what their personality is necessarily. The versatile actors will prove that to you that they’re all over the map. They can be animated characters, and they can be heavies and comedic characters. So, it’s easier for us because we don’t want you to assume a character. We want your true personality to come through.
Now, having said all of that, if you don’t like the term script, it might be a negatively charged word for you. If it is, think of a checklist or even map. Frankly, I think they’re more appropriate because we don’t want you broadly reciting a script word for word. We want you to realize that there are certain key points that you have to do like establish rapport, convey empathy, exude enthusiasm, get the caller’s name, use the caller’s name, and connect with them. Exactly how you do that is not my concern. You may do that by sharing the fact that you have children on the same little league team. That’s great. That’s what we want to hear.
Now, setting the stage does also depend on the physical environment and your equipment, and we’re going to talk a little bit about telephone systems, cordless headsets, what people hear when they call you after hours, and what people could hear when they’re placed on hold at your office. The key is that we want all these systems working in concert which means you, every member of the team, needs to know what do people hear when they call you after hours. That’s important. They might make reference to it, and, specifically, we want to offer convenience to callers. We don’t always know when they’re going to call so one way of offering convenience is your outgoing message should reference your website if it’s able to accept appointment requests. Just about every website today has a contact us form. So, this shows convenience and also invites them to learn more about you. Many people calling your office have already been to your website, by the way. That’s where more and more people are going to find and evaluate a practice before they even call you.
Likewise, if you have an on hold message, what does it say? What if somebody says, “That’s really interesting. Tell me about your implant-supported dentures” or “I didn’t know you were supporting the local [21:28]. My husband’s a part of that group.” If you say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” that’s obviously a missed opportunity to connect with the caller. Likewise, know what’s on your website because people will reference it.
I am on a cordless headset right now. I have not used a handset since 1989. Literally, they were not cordless back then, but cordless headsets are nothing less than freedom. Now, I don’t know because we’re not interacting right now, but I’ve heard things from, “We don’t like them because they mess up our hair. They give us ear infections. They don’t work.”
Change is uncomfortable, but I can tell you that the technology of today’s cordless headset is so wonderful that if you’re accustomed to using a handset, there’s a little bit of an adjustment. Sometimes it’s a mental adjustment, and sometimes you just need to contact tech support and put yourself on your cordless headset. They will walk you through how to optimize the sound quality.
I strongly recommend this because it untethers you from the front desk. Remember we talked about whether your environment was serene or chaotic. If it’s Grand Central Station at the front desk and you’re trying to connect with a first time telephone caller, a prospective patient, that is a challenge. What we really want to do is get you in a position where you can go to a quiet area and give this caller your undivided attention. I recommend Mallory headsets, malloryheadsets.com. Also go with hellodirect.com. They’re very cost-effective. They’re very durable, and they charge for at least 3 hours, and you can walk away with 300 feet from your desk. So, no practice is too big to be served by cordless headsets.
Your outgoing message, otherwise known as voicemail unless you’re using an answering machine or answering service, is a very important connection. This is a first impression, and what I mean by first impression throwing its weight is we cannot control when people are going to call our office. People will often call after hours because that’s when it’s convenient for them, and that’s why the outgoing message has got to be recorded and regularly monitored and taken very seriously because a certain percentage of people, their initial contact with you will be your outgoing message.
So, in general, during office hours, we don’t want to hear it ring more than 4 times before answering, and 3 rings is even better. With most telephone systems, you should be able to change the settings so that when you’re not in the office, the caller doesn’t have to ring any rings, and that’s really important because here’s another convenience feature. People don’t like to be kept waiting. People on cell phones could be driving through a bad cell, and you could lose the call. It’s also the case that people may need to muster some courage to get the phone and call a dental office in the first place. So, all they need is an excuse to say, “Yeah, I tried to call the dentist, but it just kept ringing. I just hung up.” Let’s make it really simple for them to connect with you.
I’d also recommend you avoid and reference to hours and anything else that might fluff. I can only guess that the reason that people refer to their office hours is that the first answering machine or maybe the outgoing messages that we hear at retail establishments, which a dental office is. I mean it’s a local area business for sure. It’s important to know what a pizzeria’s hours are or a dry cleaner’s office, but we are not really a walk-in business are we?
Therefore, I doubt, unless you’re a rare exception where you have a high walk-by traffic or you’re a serious dental center, I suppose, it’s very unlikely that anybody’s going to walk into the office without first calling you. In fact, giving the hours is one less reason for a person to leave a message because they want to know what your hours are. They may want to know that when they’re calling..