Saturday, February 28, 2009

Better than "Yes"

Among the many things we measure on a daily basis is the ratio of prospective new patient calls to the number of appointments that get scheduled from those calls. It is not cheep to get the phone to ring and we want to make sure we are maximizing the return on that investment.

So what is a reasonable expectation for appointments set to incoming calls? If the marketing is targeted to the right group and the verbal skills are correct, is there any reason why the appointment percentage shouldn’t be 100%. Note that I said the percentage. That does not mean that 100% of the patients who call are going to schedule. For example, what if someone calls to find a dentist who takes Medicaid and you don’t. You can use your best verbal skills to help him or her understand the benefits of coming to you anyway, but there are people who have life conditions important to them that direct them to other offices. That’s OK. You are not going to get them all. In fact, you don’t want them all! You’re not everybody’s dentist. But for every prospective patient who calls that you are not able to schedule, there should be another call behind it where you are able to inquire about other family members who might want to come in as well. Instead of scheduling just one appointment from that call, you could schedule two. That increases your average. When you look at it from that perspective, 100% is achievable. At least that is what I used to think.

Here’s the rest of the story.

Recently, in an office we work with, I started to notice an interesting trend. The call to scheduled appointment ratio was greater than 100% on a regular basis. At the end of each month when we totaled up the numbers, the appointment ratio was 120 to 130%. Was this a mistake or was something going on here? We checked into the numbers and they were correct. What was going on is that the appointment coordinator had a “Better than YES!” attitude. She was not satisfied with just getting one “yes” per call, she wanted two or more. And two or more she got! With good verbal and relationship skills, you can engage each caller in a slightly extended conversation with questions like:
  • Who else at home is over-due for their regular dental appointment?
  • Tell me about your family. We love families in our practice.
  • Since health is a family affair, we like to invite the whole family to be part of our practice.
  • Who else is at home that should be coming as well?
Like most situations, when you ASK, people respond. And respond they did. Just by virtue of expecting something “better than Yes,” this office starting getting one of the best percentages on their calls to scheduled appointments that we have ever seen.

This great example has raised my expectations. 100% is no longer good enough! 120%, 130% or more is possible if you just ASK and expect something “Better than Yes!”

So, raise your expectations. Don’t be satisfied with a simple “Yes.” Commit to “Better than Yes” by asking for more than just one scheduled appointment per call.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Great Recovery

While in Las Vegas this week at our Crown Council Annual Event, I was reminded of a simple principle of Total Patient Service worth reinforcing with your team. It’s the principle of “Recovery.”

After dealing with a long series of mishaps with a hotel that were handled poorly before and after the incidents that occurred, I said to myself, “this is really not that difficult.” You see, no body’s perfect. To execute 100% with every patient to their satisfaction is an impossibility. But how you recover from a mistake may very well be the difference between average and great.

A patient in a practice we work with sent the doctor a very strong letter with complaints of things that had gone wrong during her last visit followed by a demand that her records be transferred to another dentist. How would you handle that situation? Instead of sending a strong letter in return or just rolling over and sending the records, this wise dentist picked up the phone and called the patient. The patient was surprised that the dentist would take the time or even bother with the issue. The dentist apologized followed with the secret of a great recovery: The dentist asked: “What can we do to make it up to you?” The patient did not know what to say. By the time the call was over, the mishap had been taken care of and everything was back on track.

Many times, the secret to a great recovery is a simple question:
“What can we do to make it up to you?”
“What would you like us to do?”
“If you were us, what would be suggest we do in this situation?”

Many times the patient’s solution is much better than anything you might come up with on your own. So, just ASK! It may be the fast track to recovery that will leave the patient smiling and coming back.