Von Hansen, an audiology consultant based in Lebanon, Ore, is convinced that the proper receptionist or patient care coordinator (PCC) phone script is nothing short of a game-changer for hearing care professionals’ offices. He reasons that it does no good to be the best audiologist in the state if the receptionist is scuttling any hope of a consultation. Given that, by some estimates, it can cost up anywhere between $300-$800 to acquire a new customer (depending on the hearing care practice), calls that don’t turn into appointments are a drain on resources and can impact your bottom line.
Hansen contends that a receptionist or PCC should be able to provide professional and well-versed responses to commonly-asked questions so that a caller feels confident in your abilities as a practitioner. They should be comfortable and confident in their manner and able to advance the conversation without coming across as pushy. They should strive for a high conversion rate of calls to appointments, with the overwhelming majority of visits including a significant other (ie, a friend, spouse, or family member accompanying the patient).
Hearing Review sat down with Hansen to hear more about his phone script philosophy and why it’s so important.
Hearing Review: How do you view the role of the receptionist and/or the office manager?
Hansen: The phone is the front door to a hearing aid office. I don’t rely on impractical concepts. Any good business manager doesn’t want to leave things to chance; they need concrete solutions. I have a script. When the phone rings and a potential patient asks, “How much do you charge for hearing aids?”, a minimum-wage worker who doesn’t know how to negotiate that phone call may respond by saying, “The price for two hearing aids is $3000 up to $7000,” and then stop talking—not knowing what else to say.
The receptionist or PCC must be able to ask follow-up questions and move the conversation forward to a solution—which in almost all cases is an appointment for a hearing evaluation. It’s not unusual for an owner to have 10 to 12 offices. Every time he/she hires a receptionist, they must be trained on the finer points of appointment creation. If they have a script, the receptionist or PCC simply has to be shown how to make it work and become adept at employing it.
In too many cases, the poor receptionist has been told, “When they call, make an appointment!” Well, that’s like saying, “When they call, do brain surgery.” They just don’t know how, and you can’t expect them to without proper training and a script.
HR: What are some misconceptions about the role of the receptionist or PCC?
Hansen: Most owners don’t understand that receptionists have their hands around the throat of the business. The receptionist or PCC will help patients decide if they are going to come in and be evaluated. No evaluation, no sale, no revenue, no business.
If they are able to convert these calls into appointments, in some sense they are almost single-handedly responsible for the success of your office. Many owners don’t recognize the huge importance of receptionist training.
And it’s not just about the receptionist. Sometimes even the hearing care professional will answer the phone poorly! Owners can benefit most from the new appointment, but often they stumble through the introductory call. In truth, handling the initial phone call from a potential customer is as important as programming a hearing aid. Because you don’t have to worry about programming a hearing aid, or verification and validation, or aural rehabilitation, or anything else, if you can’t get the patient to come into your practice!
HR: When should a receptionist talk about financing?
Hansen: That should be at the end when patients—along with the significant others—see how they can succeed with hearing aids, and they actually experience it. That’s when the hearing professional makes their recommendation.
Then the hearing care professional says, “These hearing aids cost $6000, however, you don’t have to write a check today for that…” and at that point you can walk them through several financing options and scenarios, ranging from paying for the devices in full to low- or no-interest payments over time. In my view, it’s best to talk about financing when they—in many cases, both the patient and the spouse—have decided what equipment and services they need to enhance their lives.”
For more information on hearing aid financing solutions for your patients, visit Ally Lending.
About the author: Greg Thompson is a freelance writer and a former editor of Physical Therapy Products and other publications. He is based in Loveland, Colo.