03 Mar Phone focus works wonders
Whilst apps, messaging services and webchats are becoming increasingly important in veterinary practice, the good old telephone will always play a key role in putting owners in touch with the practice team. Adapting to the pandemic has brought about five years of progress in just one, speeding up the notoriously slow adaptations to change that happen in the veterinary sector. But there will always be clients who prefer to speak to someone, or times when an emotionally-fraught conversation just can’t be had over a buffering video call. And whilst the phone is certainly here to stay, many practice teams are struggling to find the balance of where it fits amongst all the other routes for inbound and outbound communications.
In the spirit of providing what may be some much-needed practical help, we’ve put together a few tips to help you focus effectively on the phone in the new normal.
- Phone-free arrivals
When clients aren’t able to come into the building, many practices have put signs up in the car park instructing owners to call reception to let the team know they’ve arrived. Predictably, this results in a steady stream of calls through the day, tying up the phone line and all involving the same response. A more practical solution might be to station a reception team member at the door, or in the car park (wherever you are managing client flow from). This person can then greet both client and pet with a friendly face and instructions for what happens next – a better experience for the owner and a more streamlined process for the team. Similar support and direction is given as they leave.
- Telephone triage
Wherever possible, clinicians should schedule time to manage outbound calls to clients in blocks, rather than making calls through the day in and amongst other duties. Working through a list of phone consults or post-operative reviews in one go, with all the information to hand and no interruptions, takes less time than collecting individual notes and getting to the phone several times through the day. Get a cup of tea, find a quiet place and do all these calls together at set times of the day, timetabled specifically as admin time rather than lumped in with everything else. Less stressful, more effective.
- Manage expectations in advance
Practices used to tell owners to ring late afternoon to see how their pet was doing after surgery, resulting in a string of calls starting from 3pm onwards, by which time there may not even be news if the list was still ongoing, or necessitating the reception desk to find someone who knew the status of that particular animal. All very inefficient. Much better to advise owners leaving pets for procedures that a vet will call them after 4pm with news and details on the collection process.
- Phone payments
One great advantage of the pandemic has been the willingness of clients to pay in advance and in full over the phone, just as they do for other services. Make processing payments due for procedures a standard part of the phone call to clients advising of the collection protocol. No apologies needed, just a polite reiteration of the amount due (making sure there are no surprises for the owner at this point!) and a request for card details. Simple.
The phone will always remain a key touchpoint on the client journey, and with just a little focus you can make it your friend, rather than it feeling like a foe.