Someone has rung your health clinic, looking for further information. They’re not in a hurry to book an appointment. They’re likely talking to your competitors, comparing and contrasting your services. They may well be calling due to a word-of-mouth recommendation, but they’re not about to book in until you’ve impressed them, and then some.
Communication, especially over the phone, is both an art and a science. You can systematise certain things and train staff in improving their communication skills. But much of what makes communication an art lays in your intuition, emotional intelligence, and advanced interpersonal skills.
When you want to increase your new patient numbers, and especially if your phone inquiries aren’t converting into new patient visits, it’s essential to learn how to better convert your phone inquiries into new patients (who bring friends!).
The art of listening
Listening is more valuable than ever, as it becomes increasingly rare. In an ‘always on’, always busy world, listening is becoming more valuable than ever.
“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self”
– Dean Jackson
It’s imperative that the receptionist listens deeply to the patient, and in particular, new patients.
Listening requires paying attention to the words spoken, as well as the tone used and the emotions expressed. The gaps between these factors show what’s not said.
A good listener is someone that is quickly valued for their skill at holding space and putting the other person’s needs first.
Ask, don’t assume
Part-and-parcel of being a good listener is asking good questions. Far too many health professionals miss pertinent details because they made assumptions. These assumptions may cost a patient dearly.
A skilled receptionist knows what questions to ask and explores all ambiguities so the ‘full picture’ can emerge. Not rushing to categorise or generalise is an integral part of listening.
The receptionist is trying to get the whole picture to accurately and authoritatively advise the patient about whether to book in.
By asking smart questions and avoiding assumptions, the receptionist builds rapport and trust in the patient – making them far more likely to take their advice.
Address common misconceptions or preconceptions
Misconceptions and preconceptions are rife. They are the shortcuts we use to make sense of the world. These misconceptions and preconceptions can cost a healthcare business, because they stop patients from taking the next step.
Let’s take the example of a physiotherapy business.
A misconception might be:
“Physiotherapists are good for making a patient feel better immediately, but they’re not good at preventative health, or for managing chronic pain”
(Nevermind that this misconception may stem from a patient forgetting their exercises, or not having the discipline to do them .)
The receptionist can correct this misconception during the patient’s first call. For example, they can tell the caller that the physiotherapist will:
- Film the patient doing the exercise and sends this to them so they remember what they’re doing.
- Create an accountability system to help the patient commit to doing these exercises.
Receptionists don’t need to wait to discuss misconceptions or preconceptions – these common things can be talked about and overcome, thereby helping the patient to book in.
There are many different ways to get people to do what we want them to do, but the most effective is to empower them. When a receptionist can:
- answer any questions
- address common misconceptions or preconceptions about the health professional in question
- actively listen and express empathy, and
- provide the necessary information,
…the patient feels empowered.
When we empower people with information and make them feel listened to, and cared for, they’re far more likely to take the first step and book in.
A high conversion rate – from the number of new call inquiries to the number of new patients – is a good reflection on the quality of your reception staff.
A low conversion rate likely means your reception staff have a way to go to gain the confidence and trust of new people.