There IS a difference between “answering the phones” and “working the schedule.

Answering the practice phone, just to say you answered the phone is completely pointless unless you are DOING something with those answered calls.

We all know the importance of answering your practice phones. Minimum of 45 hours a week. During the WHOLE day. Every working day of the year, regardless if you are on vacation or not. Why would you stop working the opportunity that keeps knocking on your practice door every day even if you are on vacation? You CAN go on vacation and still reap the benefits of answering the phones and working the schedule.

Even on your “regular” days off of the week, you might be thinking, “Well our patients know we are closed”. Here’s some cold hard stats for you – Last month we scheduled over $277,000 in production for our clients, during regular, normal business hours including “regular” days off of the week. Want to know how we did that? If our clients phones aren’t ringing IN, we are making them ring OUT to work the schedule!

Here’s a few pointers:

Do not leave a voicemail message that is 3 minutes long explaining the office hours painfully in a day by day blow, give five dialing options for a different party’s extensions, and finally at the end ask the patient to please call back in an hour – or worse in 10 days when your back from vacation.

Look, moms are the ones who are usually calling to schedule. Or ask questions. A lot of moms work. A lot of moms don’t. Working moms usually use their lunch hours to take care of appointment stuff – and nothing is more irritating then when they finally find the time to call to schedule appointments, and they get a message that whomever they are calling is out to lunch and to call back later. Guess what? Chances are great that they are NOT going to call back later, at least not that day.

When patients decide to pick up the phone and call your office, for whatever the reason may be, they want to speak to someone NOW. They don’t want to leave a message, they don’t want to be put on hold, they don’t want to go through an automated system, they want to be warmly greeted by a real live human being who can immediately connect with them and support their need NOW. (think about when YOU call somewhere – don’t you want to be supported RIGHT NOW?)

Scheduling is based on emotion, and whatever emotion that spurred that patient to make the call, will dissipate if not tapped into immediately.

So, you say, I have one of my team members taking the office cell phone home to answer incoming calls. “Answer” the calls. Does this mean they are welcoming callers, scheduling appointments and helping the patients with their questions right now? Does this mean they are taking the time necessary in making the connections with the patients calling?

I’m not saying that they are not. But how do you know? What if they are in the grocery store, or at a dr’s appointment, or on the beach or if their child is screaming in the background?

Some are answering, but may not have the capability to get on the computer to schedule/answer questions and are only taking messages to get back with the patients on Monday to answer their questions or schedule their appointments. (Why not just let it go to voicemail and save yourself a few bucks at this point)

Now there are some fabulous, diligent team members who do all of the above when it’s their turn to man the phones. Yet let me ask you.

Are they just answering the phones, or ‘working the schedule’?

What I mean by this is, we all know that answering the phones is crucial. Let’s say your office is closed on Fridays and your team members share “manning” the office cell phone. However, if someone calls on a Friday morning to schedule an appointment, and they are not signing on the computer RIGHT NOW, especially with a new patient, or if someone calls to cancel an appointment and its for Monday at 8 am, are the team members WORKING the schedule to increase production, protect payroll and assist the patients NOW?

Working the schedule is just as important as answering the phone. If that phone is not ringing in, it needs to be ringing out with recare calls, undone treatment calls, post op calls, follow-up calls and any other type of call that will support a full and productive schedule. Working the schedule can add thousands of dollars to your schedule in one day.

Working the schedule means that there is a consistent effort to increase production, protect payroll and assist the patients who are calling in. Working the schedule means that these things are done every day – in real-time. Not after the fact, not tomorrow or the Monday after the weekend when the opportunity might have already slipped through your fingers. Every day. All day.

We understand that answering the phone is an important part of the process but is just that – only a part – of the overall scheme. Answering the phones in itself without working the schedule is not going to increase production, boost cash flow and improve office efficiencies. As they say in every sales class across the country “the fortune is in the follow up!”.

Next. In my opinion, if you are choosing between a regular old non-productive answering service or voicemail – Go with voicemail. Answering services are usually not manned by super pleasant people, they state out of the gate they are ONLY an answering service will only relay a message, serve no purpose of connections with your patients (which is what a successful practice is all about) and can leave a bad taste in the incoming callers mouth. At least a voicemail you can make sound perky and friendly. Results are the same though. NOTHING is being worked or added to your bottom line so why not save yourself a few bucks.

“If you like getting what you are getting, keep doing what you are doing”. Zig Ziglar

No truer words have been spoken. If you don’t like what you are seeing on your schedule, if you don’t like hearing whats happening on your phone, it’s time for a change!

Change, while not always easy, is a fabulous thing! When you make a plan, create a system, and implement it to be worked consistently, the rewards will be amazing!

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