Telephone Communications—You Had Me at Hello!
by Veronica Brattstrom
Tuesday, November 06, 2018
Physician offices are busy. You continue to feel overextended with a myriad of practice management concerns on your mind. It’s no wonder you may be unintentionally short with patients while on the telephone. Good telephone skills are often overlooked but are key to building good rapport with patients.
The telephone remains one of the most used communication tools, aside from your exam, between you and your patients or colleagues. Follow these easy tips to ensure you have your patients at hello make a consistently good impression on the telephone:
- Answer calls before the third ring and answer with a warm greeting. Smile—it comes across the telephone in your tone of voice.
- Identify yourself: It’s important for the caller to know to whom they are speaking.
- Always ask how you can help.
- Practice active listening skills. Be in the moment; be attentive to the caller.
- Repeat back to the caller the reason for his/her call ensuring you have heard the caller correctly.
- If you are going to transfer a call explain the need to transfer and ask permission. Nothing is more frustrating to a caller than having another person pick up the call without having been forewarned. Before you complete the transfer, ask if the caller is okay with leaving a message and being connected to voicemail if the other party is unavailable.
- Prior to placing a caller on hold always ask permission to do so.
In the case of abusive callers,diffuse the situation and advise the caller that to be helped, he/she must use appropriate language. If the caller continues, tell the caller the call will be terminated.
In the case of sensitive calls or complaints, don’t argue, contradict or interrupt the caller. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention. Advise them that the situation will be looked into immediately. Share with the caller the name of the designated staff person, typically an office manager, that will be calling them and provide a time when that typically might occur. For example: “I understand you are unhappy with ________. I am very sorry this situation upset you. I will share your concerns with our office manager. She will get back to you _______ (by the end of the day).”
Remember to document all clinically relevant telephone calls including a time and date. Provide sufficient details in the documentation to ensure that the reader of the entry will have a clear understanding of the reason for the call and how the call was ultimately handled.
For insights on other risk management topics, see our blogs.