March 10, 2016
As a traveling surgeon, I spend a lot of time calling multiple veterinary clinics. So I've heard everything from the best to the worst in the area of phone etiquette.
Most times, it's the most helpful, prompt and professional service I could ask for. My call is handled with efficiency and the reason I'm calling for is addressed quickly. But a few times, the things I hear make me shake my head in disbelief.
Yet it is so critical to sound professional when answering the phone. Clients will prejudge the quality of medicine you practice based on what they hear on the phone. And they haven’t even met you yet! Here are some of the most offending situations I’ve encountered.
Calling some hospitals can be frustrating. The line might be constantly busy, or the phone might ring endlessly, both of which are probably not good ways to manage a service-oriented business. Others clinics are reachable, but you are obligated to leave a message without talking to a human being. Sometimes, “Messages are checked hourly” or “Messages are checked at the end of each day” or “Calls will be returned within 2 business days.”
Here are a few aggravating “pick-up lines” heard:
Thankfully, most receptionists use simple opening lines, such as: “Thank you for calling XYZ Animal Hospital, this is Sarah” or “XYZ Animal Hospital, this is Sarah.”
Of course, don’t go overboard. Some opening messages are so long, you could eat your lunch while listening to them. “Thank-you-so-much-for-calling-XYZ-Animal-Hospital-and-Cloud-Nine-Pet-Hotel-and-Spa-where-we-treat-your-pet-like-our-own-and-we-have-a-special-on-flea-medications-this-month, this is Kimberly Sue, how-may-I-provide-you-with-outstanding-customer-service-on-this-beautiful-Wednesday-morning?”
Once I can talk to a real person, here are some of the words I’ve heard after saying something seemingly benign like: “Hi, this is Dr. Zeltzman, can I please talk do Dr. Smith?”
And recently I was told that “Nah, she don’t come in til 12.”
How about something straightforward like: "Do you mind if I place you on a brief hold?"
Call me old-fashioned, but if I had said some of these things as a kid, I would have been grounded for three months.
If you are unsure about what happens when clients call your practice, you could hire a phone mystery shopper. A phone mystery shopper secretly listens to actual phone calls, evaluates the conversations and provides an analysis of the experience. Tips for improvement are then suggested.
You may be surprised…
Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.
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