Patient retention: Initial phone calls can make the difference

You've likely heard all about the power of first impressions, but you may not have realized just how important they are.

Phone calls are often the first connection a patient makes with a medical practice and they can make a critical difference, according to a study by the Baird Group. In fact, 35 percent of callers are not likely to return to a medical practice if they have a negative experience the first time they call, the study found.

So you might lose potential patents as a result of a less-than-positive first encounter, the Wisconsin-based consulting group warned in the report. "First impressions by phone happen within seconds and they can quickly determine if the caller will become a customer," the report said.

Based on the study, here's some of the lessons learned:

  • Make sure staff members answer the phone promptly, hopefully within three rings. Staff who answer the phone must introduce themselves, give the name of the practice and offer assistance. They should ask patients questions to determine their needs. Staff attitude, such as friendliness, empathy and knowledge, are equally important.
  • Don't interrupt a potential patient while he or she is speaking. Train staff to also speak slowly and clearly.
  • Try and schedule appointments with potential new patients sooner rather than later. Callers who were offered an appointment more than two weeks out were 4.4 times less likely to stay with the practice.

The report also advised practices to train staff to provide good customer service and then monitor for ongoing quality assurance. Physicians who want to see good patient satisfaction scores and patient engagement need to ensure that they and their staff treat patients politely.

 To learn more:
- read the report