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A Good Phone Script Can’t Cure a Crappy Intake Process

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Female nurse sitting at front desk smiling while talking on the phoneA small but familiar drama plays out in a doctor’s office. It seems that people—mainly prospective patients—are phoning the office. But, somehow, there’s a feeling that there aren’t enough new patients coming through the door.

What’s wrong here? The promotional messages are doing their job…prospective patients are interested. And the front desk is armed with a comprehensive script to answer every question, present the various benefits of the practice, and capture all the patient particulars from insurance to five-year health history.

Whoa, horsey! We just discovered the stumbling block. The cumbersome and detailed intake questions are a turn-off. Instead of an easy slide into the appointment book, a good script can’t make up for a crappy process. It’s like weight-loss programs that are 70 percent diet and 30 percent exercise—you can’t exchange a bad diet with a bit more exercise.

The office isn’t going to win many new friends (or appointments) by putting hurdles-and-hoops in the path of prospective patients. And simply providing a script to the front desk is no cure. Requiring excessive paperwork before setting an appointment is self-defeating.

But there is a much better way…

First, you should know that having a good script, along with training and experience, is definitely a good thing. But the first order of business in handling an inquiry phone call is to set a new patient appointment. For the most part, advertising-inspired callers, or self-referrals, are still gathering information along their decision path.

Most callers have not yet decided, and the main task is to assure the caller that they are making a proper next-step decision in selecting the practice and the provider to answer their need. If they are calling, however, they are willing to be convinced, and the call is your opportunity to lose.

You can see how detailed intake questions are out of place in this conversation. Instead:

  • Devise a script and training where the first objective is booking a new patient appointment
  • Inquiry calls belong to a designated team member with communications and sales skills
  • Establish specific goals and results that can be measured, with performance accountability
  • Understand how to control and direct the conversation that is convincing and engaging
  • Develop your “bench strength” to include trained primary and secondary staff members

A good script is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing…

Many practices do not appreciate the value of lost opportunity. What is the lifetime value of one new patient worth to your practice? It’s vital to measure your conversion percentage and to recognize that answering the phone, and setting appointments, is one of the most important staff functions under your roof.

If any part of this story sounds familiar, please give me a call. We can discuss how to create a better, and more financially rewarding, system for your office. I’m at 800-656-0907. Let's talk. Staff Training is an essential ingredient for marketing success.

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