Is the Person Answering Your Phone Costing You Money?

You’re hoping that your advertising and marketing efforts will make the phone ring. But what happens when it does?

  • Who answers the phone?
  • Do they know what to say?
  • Do callers feel like someone on the other end cares that they called, is knowledgeable about the business and can solve a problem?
  • How many times a week are calls mishandled by staff members to the point where a potential customer decides to contact another business?

If you aren’t 100% certain of the answers to those questions or the answers aren’t making you too happy, then you have a problem. The person who answers the phone is often a patient’s first impression of your office. Your ability to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace is dependent on every component of your business firing on all cylinders. And the biggest misfire of all may be the ability of your front desk person to successfully handle incoming calls.

How to Successfully Manage Your Incoming Calls

Hiring the right person

Start the interview process over the phone. They could be the most qualified person on the planet for the remainder of the job description. But if they’re primary role is to answer the phone and they sound awful on the phone, move on to the next candidate.

Consider a bonus-based compensation

Money does motivate job performance. Consider providing staff with a bonus or commission for every appointment booked that turns into a sale. If you find that one in a million person who is absolutely, positively making a difference at the front desk, pay to keep them. One lost sale a month would’ve more than covered their salary and incentives.

Do not “close” during lunch

Businesses that do not take calls during their “lunch hour” make me nuts. Considering that many people use their lunch times to take care of personal business, you could be losing out on a lot of business. It’s a none too subtle sign to potential customers regarding your company’s stance on “customer service”.

Confirm call back times

Agree on a set time that the “owner or boss” will return the call. By stating clearly that the person who they really want to talk to returns calls between 4:30PM and 5:00PM you’ll cut down on the people who will inevitably call back 3 or 4 times in the hopes of catching the decision maker.

Provide scripts

You can’t script the entire phone experience. But I can’t tell you the number of offices I’ve contacted where the staff answers the phone in ways that make me cringe. “Hi, Hearing Center.” “Hearing Center, please hold.” Hearing Center, Can I have your name please.” None of these are appropriate. If the person calling has a hearing loss, they might not have heard, please hold and thought they were disconnected. A script should contain the opening lines and the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Training

The simplest way to provide training is to record the incoming calls. 90% of all problems can be identified and resolved if you and your employee just sit and listen to the calls.

Businesses that apply these strategies will notice a difference; it will make your customer’s happier, your staff more efficient and everyone less frustrated.

Don’t Post These Signs In Your Waiting Room, Ever!

There are many signs that can be purchased in office supply stores, novelty shops, and even stores like Target that you may think will spice up your waiting room and make your patients laugh or make your office more orderly. But this may not be the case. The following 5 signs are examples of what NOT to buy! Here’s why…

1. “If you are grouchy, irritable or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you.”

Ha, ha, ha…. The 3 Stooges, Roseanne Bahr, George Carlin…humor is best left to the paid professional.  Your attempt at humor will never amuse everyone so why bother?

2. “Please be aware that this office is under 24-hour surveillance.” 

Why?  If I’m your patient, I believe I may be asking myself if I really want to return to an office that has a need for 24-hour surveillance. 

3. “A No-Show fee of $35 will be billed to you if you do not give at least 24-hour notice prior to cancellation of your appointment.”

What you’re telling me is that time is money.  If I’m kept waiting, can I expect a credit on my account?

4. “The nature of our practice is to give our patients the utmost in care and service.  Please excuse any delays.”

If you have taken the time to turn this into a sign, then I guess I can safely assume that I, as the patient, will be kept waiting…a lot.  And this would be because you haven’t figured out how to provide the utmost in care and service in a timely fashion.

5. “We welcome your comments about our office and or staff.”

Really?  Would you like me to blurt it out right now, right here, in the middle of the waiting room?  If you feel a need to ask for the comments and suggestions, give them options on how.  Give the patient a form to complete and return at their discretion.

And while we’re on the topic of signs in the waiting room, if you must have them, pay attention to how they look.  There is no place in your waiting room for signs that are torn, dirty or mismatched. Signs should not be held up with pushpins, thumbtacks and/or duct tape.  Signs should serve a purpose.

Walk out into your waiting room right now.  What do your signs say about you, your staff and your office?

How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost?

You know your practice will get this question at least once a week, if not once a day. Does your staff know how to answer the question? Do you know what they’re saying? One of two things is currently happening. They are either doing a good job of answering the question or they are doing a less than stellar job of answering the question.

Here are few “scripts” your staff can use to answer the question, “How much do hearing aids cost?”

“Thank you for contacting our practice. To answer your question, there are several things that influence the price of a hearing aid. This tends to be true at our practice and probably most other practices you contact.”

The first thing you need to consider is whether you want to pay a one price for the hearing aid and then pay a fitting fee or do you want the fitting fee to be included in the price.

Secondly, almost every hearing aid will need to be reprogrammed several times as your hearing loss changes. If reprogramming is not part of your original purchase price it can cost several hundred dollars each time you need a change to the programming.

Service can also be included in the price and hearing aids will need periodic maintenance and repairs and these fees can add up as well.

Finally, comprehensive programs that include things like free batteries and are also available.

Because there are so many options I would encourage you to make an appointment to meet with our audiologist/hearing aid dispenser in the office. They can talk about what level of options you would be interested in and can provide you with a realistic price that meets your expectations initially as well as over time.”

It’s important to answer the question

The exact wording that your staff will use is not as important as the consistency of the message they convey. More importantly the potential customer asked a question that they expect to have answered. Telling them that you don’t provide prices over the phone is not what they expect to hear.

The better prepared your staff is to answer the “price question”, the more likely the customer is to make an appointment. And after all that is the point of the entire exercise.

What is an Employee Bonus and What is it’s Real Purpose?

It’s that time of year when most business owners make decisions about employee bonuses.  An employee bonus is a means for the employer to express appreciation for good work behavior and performance. It is intended to instill pride among employees, to raise morale, and to encourage others to do good work.

Let’s get one thing straight.  Your staff is not a 2nd grade soccer team and as such not everyone might be getting a trophy.

Here are just a few of the questions about employee bonuses we get this time of year:

Should everyone get a bonus?

If everyone doesn’t, will that lead to morale problems among other employees who feel they deserve some of the credit?

How do I single out an employee for a bonus (who deserves it), but do nothing for my other employees (who don’t deserve it)?

Should I tie the bonuses to expectations?

How honest should I be?

Lindsay Broder from Entrepreneur wrote a great article about employee bonuses that answers these questions and a few more.

Keep in mind that a supervisor who neglects to acknowledge excellence is losing out on a great tool to motivate and keep good employees, and encourage other employees to be better.  Too often treating everyone the same results in everyone rising to the lowest common denominator.

Learn to Delegate or Else

Learning to delegating is not something any small business owner does well.  It’s not in their nature to think that anyone is possibly capable of doing anything as well they do it.  Therefore there is no purpose in delegating anything.  Instead you’ll just give up lunch, family time, a vacation and if necessary sleep to ensure that you do IT ALL.

Hence the inclusion of “or else” in the title;  doing it all is not only impossible but its ridiculous to assume that you are even the best person for the job.  I know that last part of the sentence is a shocker.  Quite possibly you’re even a little bit annoyed that I would say such a thing.  But hear me out.  You are running a small business.  Maybe, just maybe your secretary really could learn to proof an ad from the newspaper or spend an hour a week visiting your better referral sources.

Only you know what your primary goals are:

  1. Make a lot of money.
  2. Flexible schedule.
  3. Do things your own way
  4. Make a lot of money.

There are an awful lot of little things that need to be done over the course of the day in a small business.  And those things are bound to get in the way of goals 1 through 4.  There are any number of helpful hints you can Google to help you to figure out exactly how to delegate.

The point of this article isn’t to tell you how to do it.  It’s to convince you that it’s time to do it…right now.  Pick one task that know you have to do tomorrow and delegate it to someone else.  One task down, 1000 to go, but it’s a start in the right direction…one-step closer to goal number?

Protect Yourself Against Employee Fraud

No one ever wants to believe that the trust they have placed in someone else will ever be violated.  Rest assured employee fraud happens and unfortunately it happens a lot. Employee theft of customer information is a growing challenge for businesses. A number of advances in technology have made it easy for unscrupulous employees to steal customer credit information. Lax security procedures can also allow employees to pilfer or misuse the data.

Methods of Credit Card Fraud

Process a credit transaction to their own account – Employees may issue credits to their own credit card or to an accomplice’s card using the Merchant’s Point of sale(POS) device using funds meant for the merchant’s direct deposit account.

Record card numbers – Employees may pocket receipts left behind by cardholders or may copy card numbers onto a separate piece of paper. POS terminals that truncate the card number on the customer’s receipt can help your business avoid this type of fraud.

Use a card skimmer – A dishonest employee can steal valuable information off a customer’s card through use of a small, battery-operated “card skimmer.” This hand-held device reads a card’s magnetic stripe and records the cardholder data for later download to a computer. From there, the numbers can be used to make unauthorized purchases or create counterfeit cards.

Other Suspicious Employee Activity

Employee fraud can take other forms as well. Sometimes, it doesn’t directly involve processing a card transaction, but is suspicious nonetheless.
Here are some clues to potential employee theft:

    • Deposits not made within normal time frames (i.e. daily deposits not occurring daily), or deposits not received by your bank.
    • Credit card receipts not retained as per company policy.
    • Frequent errors in applying customer payments
    • Customer complaints of payments not being applied to their accounts or only partial payments being applied when the customer paid in full.
    • Discrepancies between deposit receipts obtained from your bank and deposit receipts kept internally.
    • Decrease in volume of cash received while other payment type volumes remain unchanged.
    • IOU’s in cash reserves or “petty cash.”

How to Combat Employee Fraud

Despite the opportunity for employee fraud, you as a merchant are not totally without protection. Most terminals or transaction software tools allow you to require a password in order to process a credit transaction, and there are a number of other tactics you can use to prevent employee fraud:

  • Reconcile your work daily rather than monthly.
  • Password protect the credit function on your POS device, or the POS device itself.
  • Secure your POS device during non-business hours.
  • Have a separate authorizer of credits in addition to the person who physically processes a credit.
  • Make sure all credits have accompanying internal documentation of customer information (name, and contact information) and reason for return or dispute.
  • Match credits to returned or disputed goods or services, verify with customers that they did actually return / dispute goods or services.
  • Have more than one person review monthly statements.
  • Review credits daily.
  • Fully investigate credits without matching sales.
  • Review any batches with negative dollar amounts (more credits than sales).
  • Conduct regular internal audits at random times and intervals.
  • Audit bookkeeping and accounting processes quarterly.
  • Track credits by card number, terminal number, employee, frequency, and dollar amount (exception based reporting).
  • Review any volume spikes in credit / return / dispute activity.
  • Protect your passwords and verify internal access controls for online account reporting, and checking account change requests.

It’s okay to trust your employees, just make sure you have a system of check and balances in place to ensure not only your peace of mind, but the financial stability of your practice today and tomorrow.

 

 

Teaching Your Front Desk Employee to Make You Money

What is the job of your front desk employee?   If you ask them, my guess is that nothing on their list of responsibilities would include making you money.  It would probably look like this:

  • Answer the phone
  • Mail batteries
  • Take messages
  • Enter data into the computer
  • Recall patients

If this is the case (and I’m sure that it is), it’s time for an employee/employer chat.   The majority of practice owners want to make money.  The majority of front desk employees want to get paid to do their job.

Make it clear to everyone you employ that your number one goal and therefore their number one goal (while employed by you) is to make sure that your practice is as profitable as is humanly possible.   The concept may seem simplistic, but the goal should be to change the mindset of your employee’s so the next time you ask them for a list of their responsibilities it’ll should look like this:

  • Answer the phone and make an appointment or solve a problem
  • Mail batteries – as quickly as possible to increase patient satisfaction
  • Take messages and make sure they get to the correct person and make sure all calls are returned.
  • Enter data into the computer making sure that the information is complete, accurate and up to date.
  • Recall patients with a plan to exceed the required monthly goal.

In a perfect world you wouldn’t need to explain the primary goal of your business.  We don’t live in a perfect world, so take the time to make it clear to your staff what’s important to you.

 

 

 

 

A Better Way to Schedule Patients

A new patient calls for an appointment.  Where are they placed in the schedule?  If your office is like most practices the patient is given the option of the first few available time slots with little regard to the patient being seen immediately before or immediately after their visit.  If a new patient walks into a waiting room full of somewhat unhappy patients waiting for repair service your new patient sale could be over before it begins.

Scheduling for Efficiency

When scheduling patients your staff should take two things into consideration.

  1. What times of the day are ideal for the professional staff to see different types of patient’s.
  2. “Like” patients should be grouped together.

Scheduling in this manner will accomplish a lot more than you realize.

  1. Grouping “like” patients together increases the professional staff’s ability to focus on the task at hand, especially important during sales situations.
  2. By not scheduling “sales opportunities” during the professional staffs low points of the day (mine was always 2:00 – 3:00 when I really just wanted a nap), the negative impact on the closure ratio is lessened.
  3. New patients are much less likely to overhear complaints and problems…never a good start to a first visit.
  4. Service patients will realize that they aren’t the only patient who has problems with their hearing aids.

While there are exceptions to every rule, sometimes a patient has to be scheduled in a less than ideal time slot.  It’s important to remember what you’re trying to accomplish.  Every new aidable patient who leaves your office without amplification is a lost sale.   Worse, that patient will typically wait another few years to try again.  You and your staff should do everything in your power to prevent that from happening.

Exit Interviews, Why You Should Do Them

Kathy, your long time administrative assistant just gave her two-week notice.  Whether you saw it coming or not, (and I’m sure you’ll take little comfort in this next statement), you can learn something from every experience.

An exit interview is typically a meeting between at least one representative from a company’s human resources (HR) department (in most small offices, the owner) and a departing employee. (The departing employee usually has voluntarily resigned vs. getting laid off or fired.)

What’s the Purpose of an Exit Interview?

Human resources departments conduct exit interviews to gather data for improving working conditions and retaining employees. However, a hidden purpose is to help employers avoid costly litigation down the road, caused by “disgruntled” employees. In other words, limit your comments and take good notes.

About Exit Interview Questions

Employers ask exit interview questions verbally or in questionnaire form. These days, it’s not uncommon for exit interview questions to be in electronic questionnaire form on computers.

Exit Interview Questions – Samples

Listed below are samples of the types of exit interview questions that employers commonly ask departing employees.

  • What is your primary reason for leaving?
  • Did anything trigger your decision to leave?
  • What was most satisfying about your job?
  • What was least satisfying about your job?
  • What would you change about your job?
  • Did your job duties turn out to be as you expected?
  • Did you receive enough training to do your job effectively?
  • Did you receive adequate support to do your job?
  • Did you receive sufficient feedback about your performance between merit reviews?
  • Were you satisfied with this company’s merit review process?
  • Did this company help you to fulfill your career goals?
  • Do you have any tips to help us find your replacement?
  • What would you improve to make our workplace better?
  • Were you happy with your pay, benefits and other incentives?
  • What was the quality of the supervision you received?
  • What could your immediate supervisor do to improve his or her management style?
  • Based on your experience with us, what do you think it takes to succeed at this company?
  • Did any company policies or procedures (or any other obstacles) make your job more difficult?
  • Would you consider working again for this company in the future?
  • Would you recommend working for this company to your family and friends?
  • How do you generally feel about this company?
  • What did you like most about this company?
  • What did you like least about this company?
  • What does your new company offer that this company doesn’t?
  • Can this company do anything to encourage you to stay?
  • Before deciding to leave, did you investigate a transfer within the company?
  • Did anyone in this company discriminate against you, harass you or cause hostile working conditions?
  • Any other comments?

It’s always a sobering moment when an employee decides to leave. The end of any relationship is usually an uncomfortable moment for everyone involved.  Use the information you gain to your advantage and hopefully you can limit the number of exit interviews you ever have to do.

Vacation Days, Personal Days and Holidays, Oh My!

It doesn’t really matter what time of the year it is, scheduling around vacation days, personal days and holidays is a pain in the neck.  Productivity can take a hit when employees take vacation at the busiest times. And scheduling employees during the holidays can cause logistical headaches, dampened morale (no, not every can leave early the day before the holiday) and legal risks (it’s not fair that everyone can’t leave early the day before the holiday).

You wouldn’t dream of having informal payroll policies, right? Yet too many employers treat vacation time  (a form of compensation) as a casual entitlement. And getting too informal can cost you.  The first year everyone has Thanksgiving Day off (the actual legal holiday).  Year Two, everyone leaves the Wednesday before Thanksgiving by noon (do you want to deny me the opportunity to get a head start on over the hills and through the woods to grandmas’ house).  Year Three, “Patients never want an appointment the day after Thanksgiving, too many great sales.  Why don’t we just take that day off too”!

You can minimize holiday scheduling hassles with some smart preventative measures, and adopt a clear policy for vacation request procedures.

Please visit this link SME Toolkit Build Your Business.  It’ll provide you with a wealth of ideas about how to create a paid/unpaid leave policy for your office.

With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to make sure your vacation policies are clear and fair.  And more importantly, designed to take one more headache off your plate!