Imagine this, it’s Monday morning. Dental patients on hold have been waiting all weekend, some with real tooth pain, to call your office to make an appointment. They’re impatient and fearful that they won’t get relief soon….and you’re getting more calls than you can possibly answer.
This happens to dental practices every Monday morning in every town in America. It can be overwhelming…and it simply doesn’t make good business sense to add more staff to handle the large number of early morning calls. You have several options when this happens to you. You can:
- let the phone ring until you have time to help them make an appointment
- let the patient go to voice mail, or
- put them on hold.
We all know that patients would rather you answer their call and make the appointment, but it’s not always possible. The best option is to put them on hold until you can get time to listen to them and make the appointment. The other two options tell the patient, “your pain isn’t important to us”.
On the other hand, the messaging be heard while On Hold could be telling them in a calm and soothing voice that they’re not forgotten and will be helped….engaging the waiting patient with calming music and messages that assure them they will receive the best in professional and compassionate care.
The right design of messages and music choice has the effect of making patients feel like they are receiving some recognition and not completely ignored. The engagement is calming. Occupying the patient’s attention with an engaging dental on hold program also has the effect of distracting them from the duration of the wait, making the wait time seem shorter than it really is.
A poor on hold experience would add to the patients existing pain with the frustration of feeling neglected. I would not want to be the receptionist answering this call!
What about the content of the messages?
Here’s another area where you exercise control over the patient’s “on hold” experience…and a bonus when it comes to informing patients and marketing your practice’s offering. The content of the messages is the key to engagement and distraction. Your patients want to know how you will help them, so let’s use information you want the patient to know as the content for the messages. You could be informing them about the many dental procedures that make great smiles and healthy teeth and gums. Examples include:
- disease prevention
- importance of periodic check-ups
- directions to your offices
- accepted insurances
- web site
- community involvement
- specialties, staff
- office hours, and
- payment methods
The right content shifts the patient’s attention away from the wait time and toward the benefits of your practice…and in every case the focus is on a pain-free experience.
What music is right for my dental on hold program?
Great question, because it matters, but music isn’t the star of the show. The content of the messages is what creates real engagement and distraction … music has a supporting role. The background music must match the mood set by the messaging.
Imagine a calming narrative about your practice that’s been mixed with rocking music popular with car commercials. It would be jarring. Your patients wouldn’t be able to tolerate it for more than a few seconds….and you’d quickly hear complaints. The desired mood for motivating car buyers is miles apart from easing the frustration of dental patients on hold…and matching the background music to the mood of the narrative combines to create the right patient experience…calming…professional…assuring.
The “Patient Caller Profile” and the case for updating content.
When designing your custom production, your writer/producer is taking several elements into account such as your calling audience, average hold time, repeat call frequency, their mood or anxiety level, and the purpose of their call. We call this a Caller Profile. The caller profile helps your producer set the mood of the script, choose professional voice talent, and music mix.
The Patient Caller Profile is key to planning when to review your message for relevance, impact and accuracy.
Here’s an example of a typical Patient Caller Profile:
- Patient profile: cosmetic patient (but could be surgical, family dental, etc)
- Average hold time: 45 seconds
- Call frequency: High/sporadic
- Caller attitude: Often stressful; anxious; impatient
- Recommended updating plan: Annual Script Review
If you have individual patients that call more frequently, that’s an indication that your dental on hold program should be reviewed with more frequency to insure that patients on hold don’t tire of your messages. If you’re seeing mostly patients for annual check-ups, reviewing your script annually is likely a reasonable plan.
How does On Hold Messaging play into my telephone system?
Telephone system types vary more widely than ever before…and how you play an on hold program to patients is dependent on the phone system’s capabilities. Many telephone systems have an audio input jack to accept audio from an external audio source. VoIP or Hosted telephone systems usually require an audio file. Yet there are variations to every rule so asking your telephone dealer or your on hold provider is the best way to find out what your telephone system can do.
For more information, just call at 800-342-0098 during business hours and we’ll answer the phone…and your questions or visit our dental on hold page: www.SmilesOnHold.com.
I’m one of five seasoned professionals here at On Hold Marketing where we all have over 10 years’ experience. Our Smiles On Hold service is helping dental practices reduce patient hang-ups and frustration, reminds patients about the benefits of regular visits and procedures that enhance their appearance and dental health.