The Phone in the Healthcare Practice: Ongoing Training and Development

By Spencer Peller
February 23, 2022

Your callers need to develop a long term trust that your healthcare practice is committed to treating them right on each and every phone call they make to your practice—and that can only happen with excellent phone handling demonstrated over a long period of time.

 

Speaking properly with patients on the phone needs to become a pillar of what you do at your practice. In fact, you may even want to refer to it within your practice’s mission statement so that everyone in your organization understands its value and your patients see your commitment to it when they look at your mission statement on the walls of your offices.


For excellent customer service to become a staple of your practice, you need to devote yourself to ongoing training and development of your staff in this area. That means holding regular team meetings and one-on-one sessions with each of your staff members, listening to calls, performing role play, making mystery shopper calls, keeping an active scoreboard of how people are performing, etc.


Your team needs to know that your practice is committed to delivering excellent customer service for as long as they are in business, and that can only happen if you show them that you will never stop looking for improvement and that you are never satisfied with status quo.


Now that you have taken the proper steps to invoke change in how your team talks with patients, the next step in the process is to engrain the newly found great habits so deep within your staff members that those bad habits never make their way back out again.


Let’s discuss how to implement your ongoing training and development at your practice. The key is to keep it fun and interesting. You don’t want your staff to dread meeting with you about this topic since it is so critical to the overall success of your practice. Therefore, I will show you some great ways to work with and motivate your team to constantly improve how they answer the phones.

Conducting proper role-play sessions


There’s nothing more beneficial to learning than making someone demonstrate in front of others that they know what they are doing. While it may not have been fun to stand in front of the class and perform a role play when you were in elementary school, there’s really no denying the overall effectiveness of the technique, and that is why role play is used in countless businesses, and should be used at your practice as well.


If you are not using role play to train your team on how to answer the phones, you need to start immediately. If you are already performing some sort of phone-handling role play, I will provide you with some techniques you may not have thought of that can make your role-play sessions even more effective.

The first rule of thumb in role play is that no one in your practice is above it. That means that everyone from the doctors to the clerks needs to participate in role-play sessions. This is important because the people on the front lines who are taking calls each day need to know that everyone in the practice is committed to the same level of excellence when speaking with patients on the phone. Furthermore, as a leader in your practice, you will be instrumental in showing your team members how to handle the various situations correctly.

Be advised though, that role play is harder than you might think, so if you haven’t practiced the proper techniques or been involved in your team’s roleplay sessions before now, don’t assume it will be a cakewalk! On the contrary, you might actually discover that your staff members are better than you at handling the various situations that may come up on phone calls (which is a good thing, as you want your staff to be the best at what they do so that you can focus on being the best at what you do).

The best place for you to host role-play sessions is in your team meetings. I will now share a technique you can use that will allow you to maximize your phone-handling role-play sessions in your team meetings:

  1. Divide your team into groups of three people (if the numbers don’t work out so that you can have groups of three, go with groups of four). Each person should also have a notepad on hand at all times.

  2. There will be three jobs played within each individual role-play team: the caller, the call handler, and the referee. So start by assigning a job to each of the three members in the role-play group (if there are four people in the group then two people should be the referee in each role play). Don’t worry so much about who starts with what job, as the jobs are going to rotate after each individual role play so that each member of the group will perform each job several times.

  3. The caller will pretend to call the call handler, and will act like a particular patient type that your office needs to work on. For example, let’s say that your team meeting for that day is focused on handling calls from Price Shoppers. Therefore, the caller will pretend to be a Price Shopper and the call handler will have to use the proper techniques to handle the caller and will get the appointment booked. Take detailed notes as to what was done right and what was done wrong.

  4. Once the role play is finished, the referee will read his or her comments to the caller and the call handler.

  5. Next, the jobs will rotate and the caller will become the call handler, the call handler will become the referee, and the referee will become the caller. Then you will repeat the role play with each person holding a new job.

  6. You can continue on for as many times as you think is necessary, but I suggest that each team member handles each job at least three times (or until you feel as though they have demonstrated the ability to handle that type of call properly).

By performing your role play in this manner, you accomplish several things:

  • The referee is actually the one who probably learns the most in the individual role play because when you have to judge others, it’s amazing how focused you are on the proper techniques that should be used in the call.

  • By rotating the jobs after each role play, none of your staff members feel singled out.

  • Practice leaders (doctors, office managers, etc.) should be members of the groups of three and shouldn’t sit on the sidelines watching others participate. They need to be callers, call handlers, and referees for your team to get the most out of your role-play sessions.

While the easiest way to perform these three-person role-play sessions is to sit together in a room, a more effective way to get the most out of the sessions is to record the role plays. You can do this if you have your call recording set up properly. You should be able to take one of your tracking numbers and point it to a particular phone in your office. You can then have the caller call the tracking number and the call handler can answer the phone—that will allow the call to be recorded. This is nice because nothing will be more realistic than actually performing the role play on the phone; the recording of the call allows the referee to play the call back as part of his or her commentary.

Furthermore, the caller and the call handler will be able to hear themselves on the call so the comments are even more relevant and undisputable.


If you don’t have tracking numbers with your call-recording service, you can always use some sort of audio-recording device or video camera. However, that won’t be as effective as having the caller and the call handler actually on the phone talking to each other. Either way though, recording the role-play sessions is much better than not recording them at all. It will also be nice for you to have documentation of the performances so you can go back to the old recordings to show your staff how far they have come due to the hard work they have put into improvement. Your team members will feel great about their progress and continue to devote themselves to getting better in handling the various types of calls they receive.

 

 

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Excerpted from Own the Phone: Proven Ways of Handling Calls, Securing Appointments, and Growing Your Healthcare Practice, by Spencer Peller.

 

 

 

 

 

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