lens practice pearls
Time to Examine Your Telephone Technique
THOMAS G. QUINN, OD, MS, FAAO
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?
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."
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.
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.
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.
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