To Script or Not to Script?
How much are contact lenses? Does my insurance cover contact lenses? Why are your fees higher than my last doctor's?"
Your staff members have probably heard these questions and many just like them in the last hour. And the way they answer (or don't answer) them has a profound effect on the economic health of your practice.
In a perfect world, your staff would be a cloned extension of yourself and would deliver your perfectly scripted answers to these nagging and recurring questions. But alas, the world isn't perfect, your staff isn't cloned and, in our consulting company's experience, scripts rarely work.
The problem with scripting answers to common contact lens practice-building questions are many. First, your staff has to actually find the script. For example, when a patient calls and asks how much contact lenses cost, will staff find the script filed in a draw under "F" for fees, "P" for prices or "S" for shopper?
Next, assuming the receptionist does indeed find the correct script and finds it in a timely manner, all but the best academy award-winning actor will sound like he's reading from a script because, after all, he is! The caller will automatically perceive this artificial answer as robotic and impersonal, and it will work against the customized, customer-friendly aura your office should project. The best answers to patients' questions should come across as genuine, informative and conversational something scripts can't deliver.
Finally, having a staff person rely on scripts can lead to brain freeze in the event that a patient asks follow-up questions to which the answers aren't scripted. For example, when the patient says, "So, contact lenses cost $65 for one box. But what happens if I buy four boxes at the same time? Do I get a discount?" If you don't have that question scripted, then your staff member may sound like he's floundering to answer it.
Instead of scripts, we recommend that our clients have their staff memorize global concepts and practice taking charge of questions. Using our above example, the real goal with this caller isn't simply to answer the question about how much contact lenses cost; rather, it's to turn the shopper into a patient! And that fact is the core concept that staff members need to memorize. Once they've ingrained that goal in their minds, they can redirect the answers to any follow-up questions toward the original goal (which in our example is to convert the shopper into a patient).
Role playing helps to reinforce the memorization of global concepts. At your next staff meeting, start by stating the topic goal. For example, "Let's discuss how to handle phone shoppers and how we can convert them into patients." From there, have two staff members role play a typical interaction. It helps to record the conversation and then play it back and critique it. This allows you to interject comments such as, "Right here would have been a great place to reinforce our availability of appointments" or, "After you told the patient the lenses cost $65 for one box, you could have added, 'And here's why you should get them from us.'"
This immediate interaction and reinforcement, especially when repeated at future staff meetings, eventually leads to the memorization of the goal concept without scripts. Also, you can use the tapes with new hires.
Question the Unsuccessful
If you're using scripts without much success, then go through each one and ask yourself why you have it and what your goal is for delivering the script. From there, you can focus on reinforcing the main concept at your next meeting.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.