Getting patients on the calendar can be a task easier said than done. Patients research multiple providers, and if their needs aren't met or if they aren't provided a good initial experience, they will be quick to call the next practice on their list. With the stakes being that high, proper phone handling skills could be the determining factor in whether an appointment is scheduled or not.
After reviewing thousands of calls from practices in our 2021 data study, one phone trend stood out in particular in regards to scheduled appointments. In 2021, only 56.3% of patient appointment opportunities were scheduled for both new and existing patients. With nearly half of patient opportunities not being scheduled, what is causing this significant gap?Well, there are three main objections — service availability, calendar availability, and price. We at Call Box want to assist you and your staff in overcoming these objections. That's why we put together the three top tactics to combat these objections and boost appointments scheduled:
If a patient calls in inquiring about a service your practice doesn't offer, the easy option would be to hang up and wait for the next patient to call. However, the easy way is not always the right way. Instead, view this type of patient as a long-term opportunity. Rather than hanging up and letting them call the next practice on their list, offer a number of recommended providers that can perform the requested service. Perhaps you even have an affiliated location that can assist with the visit type. Patients appreciate a knowledgeable referral, leading to a positive experience with your staff. Plus, the practice that receives that patient's business may return the favor one day. Furthermore, take down the patient's information and save it on record in your practice management system. You can then provide ongoing communication such as e-newsletters and mailers to promote your practice for services they may look for in the future.
Just because your schedule could be full one week, doesn't mean that'll be the case the next week. If a patient calls in, and the appointment slot they requested is filled, provide specific alternative days and times that are available. For instance, respond to the patient with, “We unfortunately don't have an opening at that time. I do see we have a spot available next Wednesday at either 10:00 AM or 1:00 PM. Will either of those times work for you?” Also, cancellations do happen. Make sure you make note of the conversation with the patient in your practice management system and inform the patient you'll give them a call if their original requested day and time opens up. This can help keep the calendar full with backup options for unforeseen cancellations.
We want to deliver a top-notch experience over the phone, but sometimes dealing with the objection of price can be tough. Overcome this objection by having your staff avoid getting into pricing details. Urge your staff to communicate that the best next step is for the patient to come in. This way, the patient can be examined and provided a more accurate price. For example, you could answer with, “It's difficult for me to give you an exact price without seeing you in person. It would be beneficial to have the doctor do a consultation and determine the best course of action. Are you free this Friday at 9:00 AM to come in?”
Scheduled appointments took a hit in 2021 — but that doesn't need to be the case for 2022. By using these three methods, the phone will become your greatest resource in overcoming common objections and filling up the schedule.
If you'd like to learn more about the other trends found in our 2021 data study, you can check them out here!