By Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO
May 31, 2017
First impressions of your business are made by your new patient before they speak with your receptionist. Maybe it was a friend who referred after a positive experience. Or your four-star Yelp reviews that brag on your stellar skills. Or the awesome front-window displays and curb appeal that invite the newbie to step inside and make their appointment for an eye exam.
But it’s the second impression that is key to confirming this new patient has made the right choice in choosing your office. The Way Your Staff says “Hello!” in person, or by phone, often is a make-or-break new business opportunity.
Powerful greetings turn into positive experiences that play out in sales, returns and revenues.
I have worked as a manager and optician in optometric offices for over 30 years, and have witnessed first-hand the importance of the right patient greetings.
Scenario of a Bad Intro (true story)
A person (potential faithful patient) walks into your office. The receptionist has her back to the front desk, and is busy with paperwork. Instead of turning to greet the woman with a smile and a cheerful “Good morning!” she says “I’ll be with you in a second,” and never turns to make eye contact with the patient. The person who has entered is treated as a disturbance, and your employee’s paperwork as so much more interesting.
Through body language, your employee has said to this person, “You are not important enough to me right now to turn and see you and acknowledge you. You are not the star of this show. I am. I’m doing something more important than giving you attention right now. You will wait until I’m ready.”
The better story: A person (potential faithful patient) walks into your office. The receptionist is busy with paperwork in hand with her back to the front door. She immediately turns to greet the patient with a warm hello and eye contact. She puts down her paperwork and moves closer to the person and gives her complete attention to find out how she can help. Her body language says, “You are here! You’re important to my work. I’d love to help you!”
A Much Better Intro…
The simplest and most efficient greeting is “Good morning (or “Good afternoon”), how can I help you?” The “how” requires detailed information. It’s a humbler greeting than asking “Can I help you?” Without the how, it becomes an authoritative question. I’ll go so far as to say it’s a rather stupid question. People don’t want to feel they’re being tested to be sure they know what they’re doing. Of course they need help. Kind and friendly help.
As a consultant, it is my belief that the subtlety of a kind, humble and friendly hello does more to increase your business’s bottom line, and overall office well being and easy flow, than all the money spent in your ad budget and social media posts combined.
If the phone is ringing while the receptionist is greeting the patient, and finding out their needs, someone else should answer the call. Or let it go to voicemail. Answering the phone at that moment is like helping the next person in line when you haven’t finished with the first person.
The person who has taken the time to get dressed, leave the house, drive through traffic, choose parking, and make the appointment on time, deserves complete attention before the phone call. A friendly voicemail message that promises a quick return call, and then is called back promptly, takes best care of this scenario, if a second staff member is not immediately available to pick up.
Here’s How a Good Phone Greeting Sounds
Make a phone greeting easy to understand, and quick. People are in a hurry, and listening to a drawn-out greeting like this: “Hello, and thank you for calling Doctors Brown, Green and White Optometry, Contact Lens Center and Hearing Aid Center, where the focus is on you, how can I help you?” is a tedious advertisement.
You do your patients and your staff a big favor when you get to the point: how you can help! “Good morning, Excellence Optometry, this is Teresa!” Greetings over the phone can sound like your receptionist is smiling if they’re done properly. Patients like to know who they are talking to immediately, so they can respond, “Hi Teresa, can I make an appointment?” Or: “Hi Teresa, do you sell contact lenses?” Boom. Get to the point. Business is at hand!
You’ve immediately established a personal contact in three seconds by letting your caller know who they’re talking to. Don’t make your patients play the guessing game with whom they’re speaking. Business is handled quickly and more efficiently when your staff takes the lead in helping to meet your patients’ needs quickly.
Ask a trusted friend to call your office with scripted questions about your services, and see how your staff handles the questions. A few secret shoppers and phone calls can provide you with accurate reviews of how your staff is handling their greetings.
Does your receptionist listen to callers completely before answering questions? Even if they know the answer before a caller completes their question, it’s best etiquette to wait until they’re done asking before an answer is given.
We all know how we prefer being treated when it’s our turn to be a patient, or have to make a phone call to get information.
The training needed to be sure your staff is making five-star second impressions doesn’t require expensive seminars or business coaching. You can easily do it yourself in 10-minute role-playing training sessions at regular staff meetings.
Colleen Hannegan ABOC CPO, is a licensed optician, and owner of Spirited Business Advisor, a consultancy that works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org