Telephone encounters are a crucial part of your organization’s reputation yet, far too often, left to chance. I’ve seen many orientation programs that teach people how to use the phone equipment and minimal effort is placed on how to handle the situations that arise. In our phone training course, “You’ll Have Them at Hello,” we often hear participants tell us how they respond to various difficult situations. In many instances, they feel compelled to say “no” to a patient request and then explain why. While this may seem like a logical thing to do, the fact is that once the caller hears “No” or “I can’t” they are likely to turn a deaf ear to any explanations. Why? Because they’re not interested in the explanation. They want what they called for.
If you want to engage a caller (even in situations where you may not be able to give them what they want), avoid saying, “I can’t” and focus on what you can do. This is a basic skill that can make a huge difference in the patient experience. Take for example the person calling for an appointment with Dr. Jones and you know that Dr. Jones is not taking new patients. But, let’s say you have other alternatives you can offer. Instead of starting with, “I can’t,” say, “I’d be glad to help you schedule an appointment. Dr. Jones doesn’t have any openings, but I can get you in with one of his partners as soon as tomorrow.” This simple technique is among the essential skills we teach in You’ll Have Them at Hello.
Keep in mind that the first impression often happens by phone. Make it a great one.