THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

FAQ or flack

“Good morning – I wonder if you could tell me the price of a dental implant?” Last Friday and Saturday, practice managers and owners of our Top 20 Club were able to enjoy a detailed conversation with our friend Tracy Stuart of NBS Training. We wanted them to have “the Tracy experience” for themselves – there is no commercial relationship between 7connections and Tracy’s business – we simply want our clients to hear from best of breed in the business of dentistry. To everyone’s astonishment, during her discussion on front desk communication skills, she switched her iPhone to “speaker” and started to call some of the practices represented in the room with the above question and also: “Good morning, could you tell me how much you charge for tooth whitening please?” The tension was palpable as delegates own businesses were tested in the firing line. Even I was holding my breath whilst the calls happened, in front of over 20 stunned faces on each day. Interestingly, on Friday (the managers’ day) they were reluctant to open their “girls” to scrutiny – very protective. On Saturday, the owners were far more inclined to throw their staff to the lions. That, I suppose, comes from having your own skin in the game. What would you expect YOUR people to say? Before you start:

  1. yes – it was a short question and maybe most patients wouldn’t ask so directly.

  2. yes – mystery shopping is unpleasant and moves people out of their comfort zone

  3. yes – everyone who answered a call last week, did their level best – in the absence of a system

But sadly, the responses (with one exception – who had been on Tracy’s training course a few weeks earlier – total co-incidence) left a lot to be desired. Typical of the answers to the first question: “Well prices start at £2,000 but it could be more, depending on whether you need X-Rays or a restoration.” And to the second question: “We charge £x for internal whitening and £y for external whitening.” In none of the calls we heard, was there an attempt to establish rapport, find out the caller’s name, enquire as to what exactly Tracy was looking for, express confidence in the ability to help. Again – I DO NOT HOLD THE TEAM MEMBER RESPONSIBLE – the responsibility is with the owner of the business to ensure that ANYONE who answers that phone can deliver an agreed upon response that is on brand and likely to secure further interest. You either take the flack from unhappy patients (and trainers) or you create the FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) and work constantly with your team to perfect your answers:

  1. how much is a crown/implant/root canal/whitening?

  2. do you accept NHS patients?

  3. will you see my kids?

  4. can I come in after hours?

  5. will you put me to sleep?

Each practice will have its own FAQ’s, depending on location, size and style – and your front desk team will already know which they are. You need regular training FOR ALL THE TEAM so that if an associate, hygienist, therapist, nurse, administrator, owner happens to answer a call, they are “on brand” and able to turn an enquiry into a first meeting. Flack – from unsatisfied callers, hard-hitting trainers and frustrated owners. or FAQ – frequently asked questions – agreed upon and answered according to the protocol. To quote the late Stephen Covey: “if there’s a problem with your team – the problem is you.” To confirm something I said last weekend and was posted on social media – I have a fatal attraction for people who tear up the rule book – Tracy is one of those people and, if you can stand the heat, she can train you and your team to become front desk and telephony masters.

With thanks to Lynda Allman and Debbie Hansell at Acomb Dental near York, who inspired this post – and their receptionist Gill Reed, who won my respect for best mystery call response last weekend.
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