Poor communication techniques can cost even the tiniest office $1000s per day, and most practitioners don’t have the foggiest clue about what they are missing until they hear it with their own ears…
I can talk to an audience of clinic owners about receptionist scripting until I am blue in the face, and no one will implement a single suggestion; but when I shut my mouth and play one three minute recording of a typical prospective patient call, many will rush to turn their office upside down. What could they possibly hear in a three-minute recorded call that would cause such a resounding sense of business urgency?
It’s really pretty simple; when you realize how much potential business tugs at your sleeve every day through your phone and how much business you may be missing, if you don’t get agitated, then it’s time to check your pulse. Let’s take a closer look…
With the exception of your vendors, incoming calls will fall into one of three basic categories:
A) existing patients or referral sources,
B) prospective patients, and
C) prospective referral sources.
If you are not consistently marketing your business, chances are that 98% of your incoming calls fall into category A. The kinds of questions “A” callers have usually relate to appointment scheduling, insurance, or some other customer SERVICE related issue. As your marketing operations mature, more callers will be from categories B and C. B and C callers have more specific questions about treatment options and the potential benefits of care, or what marketers like to call FEATURES and BENEFITS. If you don’t satisfy the needs of all caller categories, then guess what? They will get their information somewhere else. If you think that’s a good thing, stop reading.
Customer service calls, type “A”, are not the same as prospective patient/referral inquiries, type “B” and “C”, but most businesses treat them like they are the same. To demonstrate the difference, and to show you how you can generate more business with ALL categories of callers, let’s look at some actual examples, and then add some receptionist scripting to show the different potential business outcomes.
Example 1 – Caller Category A, Existing Patient (names have been changed):
|Unscripted Call (Actual from client recording)||Scripted Call|
|Receptionist: Good afternoon, Smith Physical Therapy, this is Diane, how can I help you?||Receptionist: Good afternoon, Smith Physical Therapy, this is Diane, how can I help you?|
|Caller: Hi. It’s Mrs Jones, hey I’m gonna cancel Jake. He doesn’t want to come.||Caller: Hi. It’s Mrs Jones, hey I’m gonna cancel Jake. He doesn’t want to come.|
|Receptionist: What do you mean?||Receptionist: Yes Mrs Jones, this is a very common reaction, but many times when we educate new patients on the difference in speed of recovery and pain reduction, they change their mind. For example, did you know we have research on Jake’s type of injury that shows he can expect a [insert comparative stat or evidence based statement] for his recovery when he goes through our special evidence based [insert body part name] recovery program? You may find this information very helpful in deciding whether to keep the appointment. We already have the insurance information, and the treatment is covered. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this great program. I’ll put a summary sheet of the research in the mail today so you can share it with Jake, and you can also see it on our website, PThelps.com. If you give me your email address, I can even send you the copy from the website so you won’t have to click around looking for it. How does that sound?|
|Caller: He doesn’t have to, the doctor says it’s up to him.||Caller: That sounds great. My email is [ ]|
|Receptionist: It’s up to him?||Receptionist: [captures email] Thank you Mrs. Jones. Also, if you don’t mind, I’ll have [insert therapist’s name] call you in a couple of days to check in on how Jake’s feeling and to review the information with you. Is that OK? Is this the best number?|
|Caller: Yah.||Caller: Sure, yes, that sounds good.|
|Receptionist: Are you for real?||Receptionist: What’s the best time to call you on [insert specific day]?|
|Caller: He don’t want to come, so…||Caller: Wednesday, before dinner, about 5?|
|Receptionist: Why doesn’t he want to come?||Receptionist: Great. [insert therapist's name] will call you then.|
|Caller: I don’t know.||[call wraps up]|
|Receptionist: Doesn’t he want to come and see, and then decide?|
|Caller: He… I don’t know, he’s hard headed.|
|Caller: So if he changes his mind I’ll call you back.|
|Receptionist: OK. Very good. Thanks for calling. Bye.|
|Caller: Bye. [call terminates]|
Example 2 – Caller Category B, Prospective Patient (names have been changed):
|Unscripted Call (Actual from client recording)||Scripted Call|
|Receptionist: Good afternoon this is Smith Rehab, how can I help you?||Receptionist: Thank you for calling Smith Rehab, this is Jane. How can I help you?|
|Caller: Good afternoon. I live in Hopedale, and I’m wondering if I’m talking to the group on main street or 76th?||Caller: Good afternoon. I live in Hopedale, and I’m wondering if I’m talking to the group on main street or 76th?|
|Receptionist: Ahh, you’re talking to 76th. [20 more seconds of location, landmark questions]||Receptionist: I’d be glad to help with you that, but first, can I get your name?|
|Caller: This is Mary.|
|Caller: OK. Yes, I’ve had a headache for a whole month now off and on with migraines, so your advertisement was timely. I don’t know if it came in the mail or newspaper, but it interested me.||Receptionist: Hi Mary, just in case we get interrupted or disconnected, can I get your phone number so I can call you back?|
|Receptionist: OK.||Caller: Sure. 555-1234|
|Caller: It’s says to book a free screening. What does that entail please?||Receptionist: Great. We have two locations, you’re talking to the 76th street office, and the other is on main. Do you have any other questions, Mary, that I can help with today? How did you hear about us?|
|Receptionist: Basically, we just get your name and address, phone number, and email address, then we set up an appointment where you can talk to one of the therapists so we can tell ya if we can help ya, not help ya, and if we can help ya what we can do. And it’s free, 15 minutes.||OK. Yes, I’ve had a headache for a whole month now off and on with migraines, so your advertisement was timely. I don’t know if it came in the mail or newspaper, but it interested me.|
|Caller: uhm. Ok. 15 minutes, all right, fine.||Receptionist: Great. We have more information about our newest headache treatment program in our Headache Survival Guide. Can I send a copy to you by mail or email?|
|Receptionist: Yah, I laughed one time when someone called and asked how much it cost. [some banter back and forth about how much a free screening costs]||Caller: Well, sure, but I’d also like to reserve my free screening. The ad says I can book one with a copy of the ad.|
|Caller: OK. I’d be interested in setting that up.||Receptionist: I’d glad to set that up for you right now. Can I have your last name, Mary, and your address and email?[receptionist captures contact info]
OK. Great. Right now all our free screenings are booked through Thursday, but tell me what works best for you and we’ll see if we can work you in.
[free screening booked]
|Receptionist: OK. Hang on a minute while I go get the appointment book. [caller placed on hold at 1:53, audible sighs begin at 2:24, gasp at 2:44, caller hangs up at 3:10]||Receptionist: OK, great. [insert therapist’s name] will call you the day before to make sure you received the Survival Guide, and answer any questions. Is there anything else I can help you with today?|
|Caller: No thank you.|
|Receptionist: Well thank you for calling Mary. I look forward to meeting you. Goodbye.|
In both situations, caller category A and B (we’ll leave category C for another time), the business result is clearly different.
The unscripted calls both had a negative impact on the business. In the first example, a booking is cancelled, and the unscripted poorly-trained receptionist affirms the consumer’s impression of physical therapy as an inconvenient, unimportant piece of the rehab formula. In the second unscripted example, a prospective patient who has responded to advertising gets discouraged and hangs up. No contact information is captured, so the business has nothing to add to their marketing database of people interested in information about headache diagnosis and treatment options.
The scripted receptionist with training, on the other hand, positions physical therapy as an important process with many benefits that may not be fully appreciated. The receptionist takes command of the call. In addition, the trained receptionist sets up a learning conversation that will continue after the caller hangs up. This learning conversation will frequently result in saving the patient from opting out of therapy. Even when the callers do not immediately translate into bookings, the scripted receptionist has captured contact information that can become a valuable asset.
So what does it take to script and train your receptionists to become cash contributors rather than cash drainers? Here’s a quick list:
- You need consumer friendly marketing tools that educate on the benefits of care. These pieces need marketing handles like the “Headache Survival Guide” that quickly communicate value, and can be quickly described by all your staff. These tools should be in both printed and electronic versions for your website.
- You need to understand what works and what doesn’t work when implementing scripts. The most common mistake: Creating a script and just asking your staff to follow it. It’s not that simple. To pull this off, it takes leadership, experience with call center training, and practice.
- Take control. Many clinic owners are told by my colleagues that therapy clinic receptionists CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be expected to do this. Instead, they are told to outsource this critical business function. If you want excellent results, and strategic advantage, then outsourcing this important function is a mistake – trust me.
Complete training, call tracking and scripting is just one component included in your full service PT Referral Machine program.
For a more complete list of services included with the PT Referral Machine program and information on how to implement cash-generating training and scripting in your business, visit www.PTreferralMachine.com/free_webinar and sign up for a 60 minute interactive demonstration.