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Lose Any Potential Patient, Attributable to Poor Practice Management

Jun 12, 2008
In my wife's seventh month of pregnancy, I found myself faced with the task of finding a newborn care specialist and pediatrician for our baby. The obstetrician had given me a list of pediatricians in the area, so I had an easy starting point.

The other day I began calling around to different doctors to make a "howdy" visit so the new doctor and I could meet each other. Really, aside from the initials following their names (which made me all the more clueless), the only differentiating factor was the gender of the doctor. This really didn't matter all that much to me, so I began with the first name on the list.

Dr. M. Miller's front office person, Glenda, answered the phone. She was very nice as she said her greeting, "Hello, Dr. Miller's office. This is Glenda. How may I help you?"

I began to tell her that I was in need of a pediatrician for my newborn and I would like to schedule a "howdy" visit to meet the doctor. Her response caught me a little off guard, "Well, actually, we are just going into a meeting right now. Can you call back in a couple hours?" She didn't offer to call ME back, nor did she collect my phone number should she not hear from me. Although her tone was nice and friendly, she still lost my business.

Nice and friendly alone doesn't get new patients in the door!

Now, I admit, I'm a little more critical of front office staff than the next person. Since I am a professional marketer, the do's and don'ts of answering phones has been beaten into my head. Still, this was unbelievable to me, and I think any person - whether in marketing or not - would agree that this is a turn-off to a potential patient.

I sat there on the other end of the phone thinking: I'm on my lunch break, I don't have time to call back in a couple hours. So you're going into a meeting, but you don't have 5 minutes to spend with me over the phone? You don't have someone else manning the phones while the others are in the meeting? Wow. If this is the kind of service I'll be getting with Dr. Miller's office, I'm calling the next person on the list.

So, needless to say, they lost my business because of a simple phone call. I proceeded to call the other doctors on the list, one by one. Some were booked out too far past my due date, others didn't accept my insurance. I finally found a doctor that could schedule me in before my baby is due, and who made it simple and easy for me to appoint.

The lesson here is simple, but extremely important. Are you losing business because of a simple 5-minute phone conversation gone wrong? Make sure your front office staff is trained in answering phones. Not only that, but make sure your staff sees the value in each and every patient who calls in. This goes for existing patients too. The way they are treated by your staff will dictate whether they stay with your practice in the future.

If you're not sure how your staff answers your phones, call and find out. Or, have someone else call and tell you what they think. It's better to know that your staff properly handles phone calls, rather than just assume that they do.
About the Author
James Erickson is the President of EMC Dental Marketing which gives Dentists a resource for turn-key dental marketing programs and dental practice marketing education including new patient attraction, and internal marketing systems. Visit www.EMCdental.com and get a free practice
building kit sent directly to your home or office.
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