By: Susan Hoy, CA
Has this ever happened to you… Your phone rings and you answer. The caller greets you with the following question, “Yes, hello, could you tell me how much you charge for an office visit? I would be a new patient.” You say (because this person caught you off guard), “Sure, a new patient visit at our office is $____.” Suddenly, you realize you shouldn’t have volunteered this information so quickly. The caller says, “Thank you very much, I may call you back,” and hangs up. You know that you have just lost that potential patient and all the future potential patients who could have been referred. This scenario has happened to all of us, whether we care to admit it or not; and there is no telling just how much potential income is lost because we weren’t well trained and confident enough to handle this type of phone call.
I used to hate scripts. Why would a Chiropractic office need scripts? I, like most people, am sick and tired of those incredulous telemarketers who are so totally scripted that you begin to wonder if they’re human. In fact, some of them are not!
I have changed my mind about scripts, however—at least as they pertain to certain scenarios in our office. Over the years we have had many employees who just simply are not trained to handle certain questions. They don’t know what to say or how to say it, not because they are not capable but because they are not well trained. Make no mistake about it, what you say and how you say it can make or break a practice. Even the best communicators must be trained in how and what to say. Presentation is everything! I have found that scripting is essential in our office. Our scripts, however, must be delivered naturally and comfortably. Every staff member must be saying the same things. Remember, people have to hear something five times before they remember it. It is vitally important that every staff member is saying the same thing and in the correct verbiage.
One of the Chiropractic assistant’s most important duties is answering the telephone. After all, I don’t care how great your Chiropractor is; if you don’t impress the potential patient on the phone, your Chiropractor will never get an opportunity to help him/her.
The bottom line is, when we answer the phone in our office, we must treat everyone with care, concern, and respect. Even when I get one of those copier salesmen calls, if the person is courteous and gives proper identification, he is treated with dignity. Just remember, everyone who calls our office is a potential patient and every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
When answering the phone, make it short and give your name: “Chiropractic office, this is Susan.” People like to know with whom they are speaking, and they like to call you by name. The worst scenario is when you get into a battle about who is going to give his or her name first. I hate it when I ask, “With whom am I speaking?” and the response is, “Well, who is this?”
The object of the all-important initial phone conversation is to get the potential patient to schedule an appointment. Your job is to get the patient to schedule so your doctor can have an opportunity to treat them.
To begin with, you have to understand what the potential patient is feeling when he calls your office. For starters, he is feeling like making an appointment, so it might as well be with your office! This potential patient is probably in pain. He may be experiencing fear, confusion, frustration, exhaustion and is probably experiencing anxiety about seeing a Chiropractor.
What feeling does the potential patient need to get from you? There are several questions this caller needs to have answered before making an appointment. They are as follows:
- Does this office give me confidence?
- Is this doctor experienced?
- Does this doctor have experience treating my problem?
- Does this office care about me?
- Is my problem serious?
- How much will I have to pay?
The important thing to understand is that the first five questions must all be addressed before you address the sixth question; however, the sixth question is almost invariably the first question asked! So you have to be adept at controlling the conversation and begin controlling it immediately. The first thing you need to know is where the patient is coming from—i.e., referral, yellow pages, insurance book, etc. Secondly, you should ascertain if this is a new (acute) problem or a long-standing (chronic) problem. It will make a difference whether you need to get him into the book today, or if it can wait for a day or two. The following are examples of scripts we use in our office:
“Hello, I was wondering how much you charge for a visit.”
“Sure, I’d be happy to give you that information, but can I get a little information first?”
[From where is the patient coming?]
“Were you referred by a patient of ours, or a medical doctor?”
[This question gives the caller the idea that most of your new patients come from referrals or medical doctors. It instills confidence.]
“I was just looking through the phone book.”
“Oh, then let me give you confidence that you have called a very well respected, reputable Chiropractic office.”
“I hope so.”
“Dr. ________ has been practicing in ____________ for over ___ years and he has an excellent reputation throughout the area. He is an excellent Chiropractor. I know how hard it is to look through the Yellow Pages for a doctor.”
“I know, I was just looking for someone close by.”
“What is your name?”
[Identify the problem, be compassionate and understanding, and identify acute or chronic.]
“OK, Sally, can you tell me what kind of problem you’re having?”
“Yes, I have a very stiff neck. I am in so much pain, I can’t stand it anymore.”
“How long have you had this?”
“For about two weeks.”
“What you have to do is get to the cause of your problem, not just cover it up with drugs. Do you know how this happened?”
“I think it is because I started exercising at the gym. It started right after that.”
[Create an identity with the patient. “We have experience treating this problem.”]
“We have a lot of patients who hurt themselves exercising. Once we relieve the pain, we try to educate our patients about the proper way to exercise without hurting themselves.”
[Is my problem serious?]
“Do you have any pain radiating down your arm yet?”
“Yes, it is beginning to do that. Is that bad?”
[Offer assistance to the patient.]
“It could be. I can tell you this, symptoms like yours should not be ignored! If you decide not to come to us, I would strongly suggest that you definitely get help somewhere. It definitely sounds like a Chiropractic problem. I will be glad to help you in any way. May I make a suggestion?”
[Ask for the appointment! No obligation, nothing to lose!]
“Our office offers a consultation at no charge. You can come in and meet with our doctor and determine if he can help you. That way, you can decide if you feel comfortable with Dr._______ and our office. I will also set time aside for you to be treated, since most people decide to stay for treatment.”
[We are bust, but patients in pain are a priority.]
“We can see you today. We always keep space in our schedule for patients in pain. We have found that when you make this call, you are ready to take action! Can you come at 2:00?”
[Once you get the appointment, make sure to discuss fees. Be sure to let the patient know he or she will be expected to pay either a co-pay or for the entire visit. The last thing you want is a collection problem in the making!]
Every Chiropractic assistant who answers the phone must be capable of answering questions thoroughly and professionally. In fact, every aspect of patient care should be scripted—from the initial phone call to encouraging the patient become a wellness patient. A well-trained Chiropractic assistant is one who knows exactly what to say and how to present!
About the Author
Susan Hoy has been the office manager for Dr. Basil Snyman in Center City, Philadelphia since 1989. She speaks to Chiropractic Assistants throughout the country, specializing in staff growth and the difference they can make in the practice and in the healing process.