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    How phone skills can make or break your practice

    The perils —and power—of the telephone handoff.

    Researchers from the University of Edinburgh recently published an in-depth analysis of 2009’s  Air France Flight 447 Tragedy and what went wrong.

    The whole piece is worth a read, but in the end the group boiled the problem down to a problem in the interaction between automation and humans. Automated systems are great. They save time. They give us the power to make calls, schedule appointments and communicate with our team and our patients. However, they can also lead to office disasters, especially at the point where a human has to take over from the technology.

    According to the researchers, handoffs from technology to a human are especially perilous when:

    ·  They’re unexpected

    ·  They occur during a crunch time

    ·  When the person dealing with them is startled or inexperienced

    ·  When we misread the cues coming from the system

    In these situations, the human part of the equation is likely to make a series of errors that result in a catastrophic failure of all the systems you have in place. Handoffs between technology and people can throw your office into chaos. And, in my experience, once of the biggest danger spots in most dental practices is the hand-off from the phone system to the team.

    Related reading: 3 tips for closing more patient phone calls

    Why phones are so dangerous

    Phones are a great technology. They let people communicate over long distances in an instant. With a phone, your patients can find you online and immediately dial your office, respond to your marketing, or make an appointment. You need phones to do business. But, as with any technology, the point where a person takes control leaves a lot of room for error.
    If your phone system is working correctly, when a patient dials the number from your website or an advertisement, they’re connected to your office. The phone begins to ring. It’s time for technology to hand off the caller to a real person. And at this point, in an average practice, a few things can happen:

    1. A team member answers the phone and helps the patient book an appointment.

    2. A team member answers the phone and fails to book an appointment.

    3. A team member answers the phone and puts the caller on hold for some amount of time.

    4. A team member answers the phone and transfers the patient to someone’s voice mail.

    5. No one answers the phone at all.

    Here’s the thing. If you’re interested in pleasing your patients, growing your practice, and developing your team’s abilities, only option number one counts as a successful handoff. All of the other resolutions represent a “loss of control” issue, where the handoff from technology to human failed. When the phone is ringing, absent appropriate safe guards and training, your team is more likely to miss the handoff than to succeed at it.

    Next: So, why does your staff fail? 



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