The importance of telephone training for reception staff

As the initial point of contact for your dental practice, how your front office staff answer the phone makes a real impact on patient relations.

In order to make the best possible first impression, staff must be trained in telephone best practices. Here are a few basics.

Training

Everyone needs training. Even those with years of front desk experience may have worked at an office with a different culture or brand than your practice.

Focus on the call

When a patient calls they expect your undivided attention. Do not let your staff multitask while speaking with patients as this will lead them to come off as distracted.

Listen intently and repeat back

Understanding the patient’s reason for calling is the key to solving their problem. It’s a good idea to repeat back what you heard in order to clarify and show the caller that you’re paying attention.

  • “I understand that you’re calling to reschedule your appointment.”
  • “So you’ve got a problem with your bill.”
  • “You need directions to the office. Great. I can help you with that.”

Speak slowly and clearly

Communicating over the phone is different than an in-person interaction. Without hand gestures, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues it’s easy for part of the message to get lost or for there to be misunderstandings.

Be cheery but professional

There’s a fine line to walk between being friendly and over-the-top bubbly. Staff should use their normal tone of voice but try to “speak with a smile.” One or two nuggets of small talk can be OK, but remember that patients are calling for a service, not to chit-chat.

Patience is a virtue

Sometimes patients call because they are upset. It’s vital to keep that staff keep their cool and not get defensive. Even if they are unable to meet the patient’s request, they should do so in a calm, professional manner. Remember that other patients in the waiting room can often hear your staff on the phone.

Use hold sparingly

Staff answering the phone should use the hold button as little as possible. The best way to avoid putting callers on hold is to learn to solve callers’ problems in a quick and efficient manner. Keep calls as brief as possible without being pushy or abrupt.