Do you ever feel like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland?
We all have busy schedules, and sometimes we wake up early, go to bed late, and fill every free minute with work. It’s all part of investing yourself in your business. Today, communication is “easier” than ever; we have smart phones with email and texting; we have instant messenger; and we have social networking. While these tools make communicating more convenient, they can be a mixed blessing. If it’s easy for your patients, colleagues, contractors, employees, family, and friends to get in touch with you, you’re going to have a lot of people expecting your response.
When it comes to customer service, empathy for the client or patient is imperative. While your time is invaluable to you, theirs is also to them. Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of communication and keep everyone feeling special, without sacrificing all of your precious time:
On your website, don’t include your personal phone number or email address. Funnel calls through your office line. Hire an after-hours service so that a human handles calls when you are not in the office, or you can invest in an office cell phone and pay employees an on-call wage for answering calls after hours. If a caller has an emergency, the person answering the phone can use their best judgement for offering your cell phone number. As for emails, funnel them through a main office account. I recommend you set up a Google email account for the office, since Google never fails. Domain-based email can be a real headache.
Answer your phone. When someone does call your number, answer your phone. While you’re with patients, let the phone roll to voice mail, but make time every few hours to return important calls. Again and again, MDPM clients tell me that we have great service because we always answer the phone. We don’t have a main phone line in our office, and we never want our clients to reach a switchboard or have to talk to a screener before reaching us. If we happen to be in a meeting, we return calls within a few hours.
Answer your email. A point person in your front office should be responsible for immediately answering patients’ emails. Surprisingly, many dentist websites and blogs display email addresses that do not work. A bounce message or non-response to a potential patient’s email query could cost you that person’s business — and all of the people he may have referred. For your personal email, which you may also use for business, prioritize who to respond to and when. For instance, all of my family and friends have to wait until after 6pm for email responses (except in an emergency). Clients, however, receive a response immediately, even on nights and weekends. If ever I can’t answer clients’ calls, I make sure one of my trusted and seasoned employees can do it for me.
Follow up fast: When a client or patient makes a request, do your very best to take the next step immediately. Send the email. Hand off the message. Whatever it is you commit to doing, by email or phone, follow through with it as quickly as possible, then mark it off your list. Why is this tip grouped with communication improvement? Because, by sewing up loose ends, you’ll eliminate seemingly nagging, but actually warranted, re-requests. For instance, Dr. McHenry asked that we change a statement in a blog post. Instead of creating a task for one of my employees to handle it, I did it myself. The same amount of time was involved on my part, so what’s the difference? The difference is fast service and a client who’s impressed.
Thanks. Dr. Donnel McHenry.
Budget networking time: Social networking is very important, and simply creating a dental practice Facebook page, then going away won’t do you any good. You must set aside some time, every day or at a minimum once a week, to engage in your social networking accounts. This means, comment in forums, comment on patients’ Facebook posts, share an interesting article on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Places. In my line of work, I could easily spend 8 hours a day engaging in social networks, but that’s not a wise investment of my time. Instead, I take a few minutes during the day and in the evening to comment and share. If you’re not into social networking, have someone in your front office take the reigns for your practice. Personal engagement is the key to success in this area.
In closing, I just want to say, YOUR time is important. This statement is true for every person you and I know. Going back to the Golden Rule, if you face your days remembering that THEIR time is important, you may find that they respect YOUR time in return.