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Article Date: 1/1/2006

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Take Time to Examine Your Telephone Technique

BY THOMAS G. QUINN, OD, MS, FAAO

There's little doubt that the telephone serves as a key communications tool in any practice setting. With that in mind, how's your office's telephone technique?

Your Dial "Tone"

Proper telephone technique begins with tone of voice: pleasant, professional, unhurried. Maintaining this demeanor in the heat of a very busy day can sometimes be challenging. To sensitize my staff to the importance of "telephone attitude," I ask them to recall their most recent trip to the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This evokes vivid images of rushed workers who rattle off instructions in a rapid, monotone voice that is both unintelligible and annoying. That's what we don't want to be. Perhaps we can sum up the proper mindset as "caring."

Demographic Dialog

When answering the telephone, be sure to state the name of the office followed by your name. For example, "Drs. Quinn, Quinn and Associates. Cathy speaking. How may I help you?" Be sure to get the patient's name early in the process. Jot it down if need be, to save yourself the embarrassment of needing to ask again.

Understanding Patient Needs

Be sure you're clear on why the patient is calling. If he's calling to schedule an appointment, clarify what services he seeks. I discourage breaking down visits into glasses exams or contact lens exams. Nearly every contact lens patient should have a wearable pair of eyeglasses, and many spectacle wearers are excellent candidates for contact lenses. Don't begin the process by limiting yourself or the patient's mindset to "one or the other." If a patient wears contact lenses or is interested in a fitting, note it on the schedule so you'll be prepared at the time of examination.

For an established wearer, ask him to come to the appointment wearing his contact lenses, ideally for at least four hours, so the practitioner can accurately assess lens performance on his eye.

Also request that he bring his eyeglasses to the examination. When you discuss spectacles, contact lens wearers often dismissively say that they have a pair. Having the glasses "in hand" will let you compare and demonstrate any changes in the spectacle prescription as well as assess the condition of their eyewear.

Insurance Talk

Before hanging up, be sure to discuss insurance coverage. What kind of insurance does the patient have? Is it vision or medical insurance? Does the patient understand what is covered? Gathering this information at the outset will streamline the check-in process and will prevent any unpleasant surprises.

On-Hold Etiquette

Invariably there will be times when you need to put a patient on hold. If the telephone rings while you're serving a patient who is present in the office, excuse yourself and then answer the telephone.

Introduce yourself to the caller and ask permission to put them on hold. Here's the hard part: Wait for the caller to give permission. Then, your goal is to be as efficient as possible to minimize the patient's time on hold. If you're "crazy busy," seek out a co-worker for assistance or ask the calling patient for his name and contact number so you can call him back.

Messages On-Hold

We have an on-hold message system that allows us to provide customized information about contact lenses and other developments in our office. The beauty of this is patients on hold aren't simply waiting, they're being engaged and informed.

Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio, and has served as a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.



Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: January 2006

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