the business of contact lenses
Shake Up Your Phone Training
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Many of us cringe when we hear our staff on the phone. Answering that annoying, yet recurring question, "How much do contact lenses cost?" is certainly difficult. Similarly, "Will my insurance pay for my eye exam" is another challenge. As frustrating as these questions might be, they will continue to be thrown at your staff. And until you train them on how to answer them, your cringing will continue.
Think Outside of the Profession
To help train our telephone staff, many of us have mystery shopped each other. While the phrase "the blind leading the blind" has no place in a contact lens journal, it certainly seems to apply to the illogical behavior of trying to train front desk phone skills by calling others who are struggling as much as your staff is.
But mystery calling and phone shopping is indeed a great learning tool — if you call the right people and businesses.
Start the exercise by identifying those areas that need the most work. Explaining fees, booking appointments for when it's busy and explaining insurance conundrums are three main areas I'd recommend concentrating on.
Once you've established the key points you'd like to study and train, brainstorm with your staff for non-contact-lens-related businesses that might struggle with similar issues. For example, "How much does a car cost?" is probably equally as exasperating to answer for a car dealership as, "How much do contacts cost?" So, in this case, it might be productive to have your staff call and study the responses from a few car dealerships to see how they handle the "fee" question. I would recommend calling across a spectrum of quality. Using the example of car dealerships, compare the differences between the responses from a used car dealership and from Mercedes Benz.
Any other businesses that might have several different prices or tiered fees would also be good places to mystery shop. Gyms or establishments that sell home theater equipment or computers come to mind.
To get tips on how to steer patients into an appointment template that favors efficiency instead of chaos, call a local well known restaurant and ask for a prime time reservation. Similarly, call a five star hotel and try to book a room during its busiest season. Assuming no tables or rooms are available, pay particular attention to empathy, pride in being busy and being a part of a successful enterprise and, of course, the attempt to somehow accommodate your impossible request.
For complex administrative issues such as explaining why a patient's "vision insurance" won't pay for his PKP lenses, call another insurance company — such as one that offers coverage for high-end homes or collector automobiles. "You mean I can't drive my Ferrari more than 3,000 miles per year and I still have to pay $1,200 per year for insurance?" should resonate with a receptionist who has even one day's experience.
Putting the Information to Use
Once your calls have been made and your staff has recorded their comments, have each caller present the findings during a staff meeting. From here take each segment and find ways to implement the high points into your own phone techniques.
For example, when the car dealer responded to the price question with, "How many miles do you drive each year?" your receptionist could ask a price shopping patient, "Do you plan on wearing your lenses every day?" When the hotel referred you to the concierge to send you a discount coupon for Disneyland because they couldn't accommodate you, might there be an analogy when you can't see that family of seven at 5 p.m. on Friday night? And when the insurance agent calmly and succinctly explained why the Ferrari could only be driven 3,000 miles per year, find a way to bridge that to your PKP patient. CLS
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.