​Reception Training - Specific Scenarios

Below are some of the most common reasons where new patient bookings are lost on the phone and how to solve these them.

Scenario Recommended Solution
No appointment Offered 
Reception does not offer appointment during the call.

Phrased in a positive way, and mention available dates so the patient has immediate options to consider: E.g. ‘’I have a spot open this afternoon at 3pm, can I book you in for that appointment?’’.
No Alternative Time Offered
(incl. cancellations and no show) patient wants to book in for a particular date/time.Date/time not available.

Reception does not offer alternative dates/times.

Always offer alternative appointments. These often turn into bookings when multiple options are offered. E.g. ''Our next available spot is at 4pm for you tomorrow. Would that suit you? ''When appointments cancel: ‘’I’m sorry you have to cancel. I’ll reschedule your appointment to another date/time, when suits?’’

When patients FTA, these need to be followed up on: call and text to reschedule the appointment.

Work Hours
Patient wants to book in, around their work hours. No available time.

Offer a medical certificate or offer alternative dates/times. E.g. ‘’We can provide you with a medical certificate. Would that help you?’’Open up additional time slots for new patients, most existing patients will be happy to wait, new patients need to be booked in ASAP, the sooner the more likely they will show, and go ahead with treatment.

Call Back Needed
Patient wants to make an enquiry or wants to book in. Reception says they will call back.

These people usually don’t wait around to be called back, they will simply call another practice who has time for them. Make every effort to book them in on the first call. E.g. Transfer the call to another receptionist who’s free to take the call or put them on hold for no longer than 1-2 min.
Hold Time
Patient wants to make an enquiry or wants to book in.Reception puts them on hold for too long (2 – 3 min), this leads to patient hanging up and going elsewhere. 

Keep hold time to 1 - 2 min max, and not at beginning of the call. These leads will call other practices if it takes too long.
Missed Calls
The call was missed by reception and goes to voicemail.
It is critical to have reception staff ready to take calls at all times of the day the practice is open. If there is no receptionist on during lunch breaks, we need to know so we can adjust the campaign. Missed calls can result in not only thousands of dollars in wasted advertising spend, but 10’s of thousands of dollars in missed opportunity of lost new patient revenue.The practice should have 2-3 phone lines and enough receptionists on to avoid calls going straight to voicemail. The ring time should be no more than 10 seconds as enquiries usually hang up if the phone is not answered within this time and as a best practice receptionists should answer all calls within 3 rings.

No questions asked
Reception answers their questions. Patient has no more questions and decides to end the call, and reception lets them off the phone.

Reception does not ask any questions or not enough questions. Usually, no appointment is offered.

Some patients try to lead the call by asking questions and gathering information. Its important for reception to gain back control of the call and start to lead it themselves. This can be done by asking the patient a series of questions and ultimately offering an appointment. E.g. If the patient asks what the prices are for an extraction, instead of reception giving the prices straight away, reception should open up the the conversation with questions and gain back control: ‘’Can you tell me more about the problem? Are you in a lot of pain?’’ (show compassion). “Are you with a health fund?”

‘’Prices for an extraction can vary, however we can book you in for a consultation with the dentist, so he/she can have a look and give you an exact quote. A check up consultation only costs $55. I have a free spot this afternoon at 3.30pm or tomorrow at 2pm, what works better?’’

Price Enquiries
Patient enquires about prices. Reception provides worst case scenario prices (most expensive) and phrases this in a negative way. 

Patient becomes disinterested.

Phrase the prices positively and mention the starting price. Additionally, ask the patient if they’re with a health fund. E.g. ‘’Extractions start at $150, and it could go up from there. For an exact quote, it’s best to come in for a consultation with the dentist. Are you available tomorrow?’’“Are you with a health fund? Then you’ll be less out of pocket.”
Medicare / Bulk Billing
Patient asks if practice bulk bills or accepts Medicare.Reception says they do not and, usually, refers them to a public hospital nearby and, sometimes reception provides the phone number. This is turning new patients away.

Reception should not promote or refer to the services of the public health system straight away, as there is still an opportunity to book the patient in:  E.g. ‘’Medicare does not cover dental treatments, only medical. In Australia, we have private health insurance to help cover some of the costs for dental treatments. What are you looking at getting done?’’
Health Fund
Patient asks reception if the practice accepts their health fund.Reception is negative about accepting patient’s health fund e.g. ‘’We are not preferred providers’’

As long as the practice has a HICAPS machine, it can accept all health funds. Keep the response phrased positively: “Yes we accept all funds/your health fund, when would you like to come in?”Only mention you are not a preferred provider, if the patient specifically asks if the practice is a preferred provider for their health fund, and then still explain HICAPS availability.
Practice Location
Patient enquires about the location of the practice. Reception says they’re in a different area/suburb than the patient had in mind, which is often mistaken for a wrong number, and they end the call.

Effectively the reception does not explain the practice is in a nearby area e.g. 5-10mins away.

Most of the time these can be turned into bookings if receptions opens up the conversation with the patient: E.g. ‘’What suburb were you looking for? We are in SUBURB NAME, which is only 10 min. from there, so you are quite close to us. What are you looking at getting done?

Check Before Booking

(1) Patient wants to book in.
Reception identifies patients’ health fund and suggests to check how much the out of pocket expense is before booking in.

No booking is made on the call.

(2) Sometimes patients are told they will be called back after checking with the dentist on the costs, or whether they can do the treatment.

(1) Never let patients off the phone to check their health fund, or suggest to check their health fund and then call back. These patients will be lost.Reception should first try to book the patient in, and organise the health fund when the patient comes in for the appointment. If a patient is concerned about out of pocket differences, the patient would mention it and organise it themselves.

(2) We recommend regular review for reception on the various services, treatments and costs for the practice.
Tone of Voice
Reception has a negative tone of voice and seems disinterested and stand-offish.
As reception staff is the first point of contact for any new patient, it is vitally important they have an excellent experience and a professional impression of the practice.On each and every call reception should use an upbeat, happy and friendly tonality. They should also offer the appointment like its no big deal and the logical next step, here's some real examples at the end of this articles: 
Excellent Phone Skills for your Receptionists
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