Mary Jane, otherwise known as The Phone Lady, has worked with over 400 clients training over 10,000 individuals how to communicate more effectively on the telephone.
As soon as you get a chance, I'd recommend you watch the recent webinar we had with The Phone Lady covering: How to Get More Patients by Fixing Your Call Performance.
Recently Mary Jane and I caught up for a phone chat about some of the simple phrases people can use to get more out of their conversations.
One thing we know is: Call performance is an underestimated skill.
But when it comes to call performance, the words that are spoken can literally make or break your business. Think about it.
Your front desk only has to say the wrong thing and you'll never see those patients again. This goes for new patient callers or dealing with existing client appointments, issues and problems.
All this can add up to big fat mistakes that close down the channels of communication. Not to mention, they cost you time and money. And these mistakes not only affect you but leave these patients upset that their problems weren't solved, which isn't so great for your reputation either.
While everyone is far from perfect, there are a number of phases to keep in mind that can rescue you should things go bad. And often, all it takes are some simple words to clearly express yourself, inspire conversation and build effective relationships.
Today's post will cover:
- 5 powerful phone scripts you need to include in your front desk phone training
- How to build relationships with patient callers over the phone
- Plus get instant access to the phone training webinar by The Phone Lady
Powerful words and phrases that create clarity, lead to conversation and build relationships
1. “I’m sorry”
RICK: "Thanks for joining me Mary Jane to talk about the powers of conversational persuasion. We all know that we need to connect with patients. And from time to time we can make mistakes too - it may be that your clinic is going through a massive change and you're trying to get your team to "Buy-In" to internal changes. It may be that you just hired new front desk staff or never trained the front desk staff you had. In any case, as we both know, there is great power in the words we say."
MARY JANE: "That's right Rick. But often times we overcomplicate those words, especially in instances where say, front desk staff might be busy and under pressure to answer more patient calls. So in situations like these all we need to say is something plain and simple."
"For instance, saying something as simple as “I’m sorry” goes a long way."
RICK: "Right, it indicates you recognize your responsibility for the situation."
MARY JANE: "Exactly Rick. Not only that but simple words can have a major impact on the person receiving the message. In the workshops that I run, I've received a lot of push back over the years from individuals who absolutely refuse to use the phrase "I'm sorry." Yet saying sorry for a mistake is a humble thing to do and like you said, recognizes the responsibility on your part."
"More than this, it allows you to express empathy and compassion."
"For instance, if you're really busy when answering the phones you can say "I'm sorry but we're really busy right now, would you mind if I put you on hold or can I give you a call back within the next 10 minutes." Or it may be that you hear patients in difficult situations, so you can say “I’m sorry you’re in this situation” or “I’m sorry to hear that …”
"Showing empathy is a great way to connect with the caller. And if things do get slightly heated, a sincere “I’m sorry” quickly and easily defuses a highly emotional situation."
RICK: "Great advice Mary Jane. People just really want to be heard so by saying sorry you are acknowledging the situation and that's the most important thing."
MARY JANE: "Exactly, the words "I'm sorry" are very powerful. So let's move onto the next set of simple words..."
2. “Thank you”
MARY JANE: "As children we are taught to use the phrase "thank you" often. We're taught to say thank you when we're given something. We're taught to thank relatives, parents, and teachers for all they did for us. We're taught that saying thank you shows positive character and politeness."
"But, as we grow older, we tend to forget its importance. We forget that saying something as simple as "Thank you for sharing your situation" or “Thank you for your time” or “Thank you for your understanding” or “Thank you for sharing your thoughts” means a lot to a person.
"Those simple words "Thank you" not only express appreciation, but they support strong and honest relationships with patients."
RICK: "Thank you for sharing that Mary Jane. What a fantastically simple communication tip, yet so easy to overlook."
MARY JANE: "Definitely. So the third word is..."
MARY JANE: "In my early years of learning how to sell, I used this word several times an hour. It can be used in several contexts and helps to open the conversation wide up."
"For instance, phrases such as "How can I help you" or "What can I do to help you resolve this" or "This is what we can do to help you" or “I’m wondering if you can help me” or “I’m hoping you can help me” or even “I need help.”
"I’ve found the word "help" to be the easiest way to dissolve defensiveness, gather information and create relationships. You can literally engage anyone by using the word help."
RICK: "In terms of patients, that's one thing they always want to know - that you're in it to help them all the way. So the word help can really zone in and inspire them to reveal their needs and desires. Once you know what they are you can service them in a way that matches their ideals."
MARY JANE: "Yes, it really inspires superior customer service and it's such a simple method to use to open up those conversations and build effective patient-centered relationships. So, moving onto our next word..."
4. “Tell me more”
MARY JANE: "This is my “go to” open-ended question. When we want to hear and learn more about a customer, specific questions can be tainted by our assumptions and expectations and/or limit what will be shared. The phrase “Tell me more” gives the other person complete freedom to express themselves in a way that suits them."
RICK: "Fantastic advice Mary Jane. It leaves the starting point in their court"
MARY JANE: " Right. It serves, and is most often accepted, as an invitation to express what’s most important to them. From there it's your job to listen and respond to engage them more in the conversation. And guess what, you can listen and follow up by using some of the words and phrases we've already mentioned. "Thank you for sharing your struggles and I'm sorry to hear you're in pain. This is how we can help you."
RICK: "Great stuff. Keep it simple, straight to the point and it's highly effective. So what's our last phrase?"
5. “I hear you”
MARY JANE: "The last phrase is, "I hear you." This one can be critical. It’s one thing to inspire conversation. But, it's another thing altogether to truly listen."
"As we said earlier, everyone wants to be heard. And when we genuinely say “I hear you” and share a quick summary of what we’ve understood, we demonstrate a deep respect for the person on the other end. When we do that, it builds a very strong foundation for long-lasting relationships."
"The key here is you must truly listen. Hear what people say - not just the words but the emotion and struggle behind it, especially with patients. When you can understand their struggles, empathize with them and truly help solve their problems, you're going to have a strong business where patients keep coming back again and again."
"These words and phrases aren't difficult but in a clinical situation, keeping that patient-centered approach in mind is key. Then use the words to open the conversation and build from there."
RICK: "Brilliant. Great stuff Mary Jane. Thank you for joining me for this quick chat and sharing these great conversational tips that people can apply."
MARY JANE: "You're welcome Rick. I hope people use them and see how simple yet powerful they are. Simple, clear, effective communication is a great way to get people raving about your business, leaving positive Google reviews, and telling their friends and family about you. Great communication really does amplify your customer service and as a result propels your business forward."
Awesome stuff there from Mary Jane! I hope you learned some easy methods to get more out of your conversations. Let's just do a quick recap.
Use the words and phrases:
"I'm sorry" - it shows empathy and understanding
"Thank you - it shows appreciation and gratitude
"Help" - it shows person-centeredness, gathers information and can diffuse defensiveness
"Tell me more" - allows patients to start with what's most important to them
"I hear you" - shows a deep respect and genuine caring
When it comes to effective communication and phone etiquette, all it takes are simple words and phrases to make all the difference!