720-344-2347
5 Steps to Shorter Scheduling Calls

5 Steps to Shorter Scheduling Calls

5 Steps to Shorter Scheduling Calls

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

When clients call your practice to book appointments, the average call length is eight minutes.[i] Client service representatives (CSRs) spend four to six hours a day on scheduling tasks. With staff shortages and high call volumes, CSRs need to shorten and make calls more purposeful. Follow these five steps to trim times and book appointments efficiently:[1] 

1) Lead the conversation immediately.

Deliver a concise greeting that puts you in the driver’s seat from the get-go. Your greeting should be around 4 seconds. Say this, “Welcome to <Your Veterinary Hospital>. This is <your name>. How may I help your pet today?” Replace the four words of “Thank you for calling…” with “welcome,” which invites callers into conversations. State your name to engage callers. Asking “How may I help your pet today?” leads the caller to share the reason for visit upfront.

Auto attendants are an efficient alternative to live operators. Benefits of an auto attendant include:[2]

  • Reduced hold time: Eliminate the average two-minute hold time for veterinary practices because callers get to the right teammate faster with a recorded menu.[3]
  • Immediate service: A CSR might spend two minutes to greet the caller, listen to the request, and then assist or connect the caller to the right department. Menus replace the information-gathering task of live operators. If the caller selects the “schedule an appointment” option, the CSR gets right to the point, “This is <your name>. I will schedule your pet’s appointment. What is the reason for your pet’s visit?”
  • Always available: Your auto attendant will have a different greeting for opening hours compared to overnight when your hospital is closed. Your closed greeting would share emergency hospital information and an option to leave a voicemail.
  • Consistently professional: An auto attendant isn’t going to have a bad day or get distracted by clients standing at the front desk. Best of all, an auto attendant never quits or calls in sick!

Put menu choices in priority order based on urgency and call types with the highest volume. Here’s an example of an auto attendant script:

Welcome to <Your Veterinary Hospital>. To best serve you, please choose from the following options:

  • If your pet is experiencing a medical emergency, press 1.
  • To schedule an appointment, press 2.
  • To refill a prescription, press 3.
  • To check on your hospitalized pet, press 4.
  • To speak with our client service team, press 5.
  • To leave us a message, press 6.
  • To repeat these options, press 7.

2) determine the reason for the appointment.

Get caller and pet names so you may access the electronic medical record (EMR). Two shortcuts to open records faster include using caller ID to look up the client in your practice-information-management software (PIMS) or installing Fetchit, a software program that integrates your PIMS and phone system for efficiency (https://schultztechnology.com/veterinary-practice-management-software/). If a client calls and the phone number is in your software, a blue bubble appears on the desktop. With one click, your CSR opens the EMR. Fetchit also provides reports on your call volume by day, hour, and CSR.

Scan the EMR to see which services are due and choose the right appointment length. Ask, “What is the reason for your pet’s visit?” Select a 20-minute appointment for an adult pet checkup while urgent care gets 30 minutes.

3) ask about doctor preference.

Progress exams should be scheduled with the same veterinarian whenever possible to ensure efficient exam time. For all other appointments, ask, “Do you prefer a specific doctor or want the first available appointment?” With today’s crammed schedules, most clients will choose the first available.

4) use the yes-or-yes technique.

Never ask the client, “What day of the week do you prefer?” and “What time of day do you prefer?” You’ll start a three- to five-minute banter trying to match up your schedules. Based on the reason for visit, offer the next two appointments that will work well for your schedule’s flow. For example, I advise pre-blocking checkups as the first appointment of the day (start your workday with an easy exam), first appointment after lunch (a reset button to start the afternoon on time), and last appointment of the day (go home on time). Say, “My next available checkup is <date, time 1> or <date, time 2>. Which do you prefer?”

 

This technique is especially important if your schedule is full for several weeks. Presenting the next two available appointments is positive compared to the negative impression of, “Sorry, we don’t have any appointments available for three weeks.” Focus on what you CAN do!

5) summarize details and set expectations.

Say, “We have scheduled <pet name> for a checkup at <time, date>. Please bring a stool sample for your pet’s intestinal parasite screen. You’ll receive a text confirmation shortly. Have a great day, <client name>!” You will increase compliance for parasite testing, save technician time for sample collection, and improve patient experiences (no fecal loop!). 

Send text or email confirmations the same day so clients may add appointments to their calendars, including travel time alerts. Confirmations reinforce instructions as the appointment date nears. Confirmations should include the pet’s name, time and date of appointment, link to a patient history form that needs to be submitted at least 24 hours ahead, bring a stool sample, link to download practice app, and reply to confirm or reschedule. Get text and email templates in my free eBook on Everything You Need to Know About Reminders at https://csvets.com/reminders/.

With today’s phone frenzy and staff shortages, phone handling needs to be done differently. Share these five steps with your CSR team so they may have more efficient and purposeful phone calls.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? 

Enroll your team in the online course: Take Control of Scheduling Calls.

About the Author: Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in a specialty and emergency practice. Visit YouTube.com/csvets and Csvets.com for more.

References:

1. 6 Ways to Improve Patient Scheduling. SolutionReach. Available at: https://www.solutionreach.com/blog/how-to-schedule-patients-effectively. Accessed Sept. 14, 2023.

2. Evolve IP. Why You Need an Auto Attendant. Available at: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/why-you-need-an-auto-attendant. Accessed Sept. 14, 2023.

3. Why Silence Isn’t Golden When Your Clients Are On Hold. Pawstime. Available at: https://pawstime.com/#:~:text=Phone%20calls%20remain%20the%20primary,veterinary%20practice%20is%202%20minutes. Accessed Sept. 14, 2023.

 

Stop Leaving Voicemails For Clients

Stop Leaving Voicemails For Clients

Stop Leaving Voicemails For Clients

 By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

You call a client about her cat’s lab results and leave a detailed voicemail, explaining that you need to discuss the diagnosis and treatment. After two days with no response, you leave a second voicemail. 

Even if clients have your hospital’s phone number saved in their contacts, research shows 67 percent don’t listen to voicemails.[1] I understand why. Clients can’t skim voicemails. They must listen to the entire message, call back, wait on hold, and leave a message because the veterinarian isn’t available. 

Text is a better choice. Text dialogue can happen asynchronously. Both parties don’t have to be on their phones at the same time. Veterinarians and clients can reply when they’re available. Up to 80 percent of callers choose texting over voicemail. Millennials are the largest pet-owning segment and 60 percent prefer to communicate with businesses via text.[2],[3] 

Let’s end your frustration with unreturned calls and phone tag. Turn your callbacks into “textbacks.” Texts rarely go unread or unanswered. Ditch the 10-minute task of calling and leaving a voicemail. Replace it with a 2-minute text. Create templates in your texting platform for these common responses:

TEXT AFTER DISCHARGE

After each hospitalized patient is discharged from surgery, dentistry, or treatment for an illness, your medical team follows up with clients. Set expectations for a textback during the discharge appointment. 

Say this: “You will get a text/app message from us tomorrow to confirm that <pet name> is eating, drinking, and taking medications. If you have questions or concerns, reply to the text, or call us at 555-555-5555.” 

The next day, text this: We are checking on <pet name> after surgery yesterday. Is <pet name> eating, drinking, and taking medications? Reply Y or N. Reply with questions. 

If the client replies “Y” for yes, document the communication in the electronic medical record and reply to thank the client. If a client replies “N” for no, call to discuss the pet’s symptoms and next steps. The client’s answers may prompt an appointment for a progress exam or telemedicine consult. 

Create a series of text templates when patients require multiple follow-up messages. Text campaigns should notify, educate, support, and steer pet owners. In your texting platform, link the series to trigger in sequential order. 

Let’s say you perform a dental treatment with several extractions. Send this series of texts after the dental discharge appointment:

  • 1 day later: We are checking on <pet name> after oral surgery yesterday. Feed a soft food, no hard treats or chews, and refrain from brushing teeth for X days. Is <pet name> eating, drinking, and taking medications? Reply Y or N. Reply with questions.
  • 4 days later: <Pet name> may eat regular food now. No hard treats or chews for X days after oral surgery. Reply with questions.
  • 7 days later: You may gently brush <pet name>’s teeth with pet toothpaste and a soft toothbrush now. Click here <link> to watch our video on how to brush your pet’s teeth. Reply with questions.
  • 14 days later or based on next appointment date: <Pet name> has a progress exam to check on healing from oral surgery on <date, time>. Reply C to confirm or RS to reschedule. 

TEXT AFTER SICK OUTPATIENT EXAMS

Let’s say you saw an urgent care patient for loose and watery stools. You determine the gastrointestinal upset was due to high-fat table scraps at the family barbeque, and radiographs confirm no bones were ingested. You prescribe medication and instruct the client to feed a bland diet for several days. The outpatient technician who assisted the veterinarian with the exam will be responsible for follow-up communication. 

Text this: We are checking to see if <pet name> is feeling better. Feed a bland diet for X days. Is <pet name> having normal stools and a good appetite? Reply Y or N. Reply with questions. 

The client already has a relationship with this technician, who is familiar with details of the case. If the health concern has not resolved, schedule a progress exam.

TEXT PREVENTIVE LAB RESULTS

Share lab results for intestinal parasite screens that you send to your reference lab. I provided consulting and onsite training for a 10-doctor hospital where the medical team told clients “No news is good news” for intestinal parasite test results. Being busy isn’t a good excuse and may harm compliance for preventive diagnostics. Pet owners are paying to learn results. Clients will be more likely to accept screening in the future if they understand today’s results. 

Text clients about negative results and reinforce timely dosing of preventatives. Call clients about positive results so you may discuss treatment and medication. 

Text this: <Pet name>’s intestinal parasite screen was negative with no egg cells or parasites seen. Give <brand> each month for heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention. Click here to view lab results <link to patient portal on your website>. Reply with questions.

TEXT AS BACKUP TO VOICEMAILS

A client calls and tells your client service representative, “Someone from your hospital just called me. What do you need?” While you might find the answer in the electronic medical record, the staff member may not be available. 

Whenever you leave a voicemail, send a backup text to lead the client to listen and promptly call back. Your text should include the best time to return the call based on the staff member’s availability. 

Text this: “Dr. <Name> left you a voicemail about <pet name>’s lab test. Please listen, and then call 555-555-5555 to discuss the diagnosis and treatment. Dr. <Name> will be available between 2:00 and 2:20 p.m.” 

Veterinarians need administrative time blocked in their schedules to review lab results, update medical records, approve prescriptions, and call/text/email clients and vendors. Learn how to add doctor-client communication blocks so veterinarians can batch tasks. Read my blog on Overwhelmed With Callbacks and Emails?

Clients will get cranky if they leave multiple messages without returned calls. Watch my 2-minute video on  “I need to talk to the doctor now!” Find out what to say when a client demands to talk with the veterinarian, but he isn’t available.

Have a doctor and technician list the top callback scenarios at your hospital. Identify which callbacks could be converted to textbacks, which will improve your team’s productivity and increase response rates from clients. Write templates for your texting platform to save time and have consistent messaging from your hospital.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Enroll your team in the 1-hour course: Technology Tools Every Practice Needs.

About the Author: Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in a specialty and emergency practice. Visit YouTube.com/csvets and Csvets.com for more.

References:

[1] 22 Business Phone Statistics. Numa. Available at: https://www.numa.com/blog/22-business-phone-statistics. Accessed Aug. 11, 2022.

[2] Share of Pet Ownership in the United States in 2021-2022 by Generation. Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1130651/pet-ownership-by-generation-us/. Accessed Aug. 11, 2022.

[3] Svyrydenko A. Why Millennials Love Texting. TextMagic. Available at: https://www.textmagic.com/blog/why-millenials-love-texting-infographic/. Accessed Aug. 11, 2022.

 

Get 100+ courses

Phone Frenzy? 7 Ways to Cut Call Volume

Phone Frenzy? 7 Ways to Cut Call Volume

Phone Frenzy? 7 Ways to Cut Call Volume

Phone frenzy? 7 ways to cut call volume

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

Call volumes have more than doubled at practices nationwide, according to GeniusVet survey data (1). Front-desk teams are struggling to answer the onslaught of calls to schedule the three-month backlog of checkups and elective procedures, refill medications, and curbside arrivals. Clients’ phone experiences have rapidly deteriorated, with calls frequently rolling into voicemail when employees can’t keep up.    

You need to fix phone experiences now or risk losing client relationships and revenue. Here are strategies to stop the phone frenzy: 

1. Have clients text (not call) when they arrive for curbside appointments.  

Signs instruct clients to call your hospital upon arrival for curbside care, resulting in more call volume. Switch out the “Call us when you arrive” sign for “Curbside appointment? Text this: ARRIVED, your name, your pet’s name, parking spot #.” Reply to confirm the arrival and explain you’ll text again when your nursing team is ready to go to the client’s car. 

2. Reduce prescription refill calls.    

You get 50 or more calls a day for prescription refills. Why do clients wait until the last pill is gone before calling for refills? Because you don’t remind them! Turn on refill reminders in your practice-management software for every drug that clients will need to repurchase, from preventatives to allergy medications.   

Text this: “Max needs a refill of <brand> for flea and tick protection. Click here to refill in our online store with home delivery OR reply Y to refill and get curbside pickup at our hospital.” 

The nurse who fills the medication will send a text to the client when it’s ready: “Max’s medication has been refilled and is ready for pick up. Please park in our curbside pickup spot and text us when you arrive. We’re open until 6 p.m. today.” 

3. Designate a parking spot for pick up. 

Just as restaurants have reserved parking for to-go orders, do the same for clients picking up medication and food. Post a sign instructing clients to text you upon arrival for contactless pick up. Clients can push their trunk release buttons for your staff to load items. Have a local sign company print your curbside parking signs. To design your sign, use free websites such as www.canva.com.   

4. Get text- or email-to-pay solutions. 

Don’t take credit card numbers over the phone and get slammed with the extra 2 percent merchant fee for manually entered credit cards. Ask your practice-management software or third-party providers about text- or email-to-pay options. Also check with your local business bank about mobile payment devices.  

A Weave survey found 30 percent of small business customers would “frequently or always” pay with a text from their phone if they could (2). Among buyers under age 35, customer preferences doubled to 62 percent.   

5. Offer online and app scheduling.  

The average veterinarian sees 30 patients daily. That’s 30 scheduling calls at eight minutes each, totaling four hours of talk time. Update text and email reminders with links to online scheduling or prompt clients to download your clinic app.  

Many hospitals are scheduling appointments two to six weeks out. To end the backlog chaos, send reminders six to eight weeks in advance and use forward booking. Text this: “<Pet name> will be due for a checkup Feb. 15. We are experiencing increased appointment requests. Book now to ensure your first choice of time, day, and doctor. Click here to book online or download our app.”  

Email reminders need powerful subject lines that motivate clients to forward book. Use the pet’s name and a benefit statement. Here’s a strong subject line:<Pet name> needs a checkup soon | Book now for best availability.” The body of your email would explain: “Because many pets became overdue when COVID safety guidelines limited us to urgent care and emergencies, we are experiencing increased appointment requests. <Pet name> will be due on Feb. 15. To ensure your first choice of doctor, time, and date, we need to forward book your pet’s appointment now. Click here to book online or download our app.”  

6. Update your voicemail greeting to set expectations. 

A generic voicemail greeting may be leaving clients confused and even angry. Clients think, “Why aren’t they answering phones during business hours? My pet is sick, and I need to talk to someone NOW!” 

To stop the disappointment, update your recorded greeting. Tell callers what specific information they need to leave in their messages and when to expect returned calls. Record this: “You’ve reached the voicemail of <Hospital Name>. Our client care team is helping other clients and is unable to take your call. Instead of putting you on hold and taking up your valuable time, please leave your name, pet’s name, phone number, and how we can help you. You also may text us at 555-555-5555. We will return your call or text within 15 minutes.”  

Giving callers two options of leaving a message or sending a text will have them feel in control and confident that they’ll promptly hear back from your team. Front-desk employees should watch for the flashing red voicemail light like it’s a siren. When you provide timely answers, clients will reward your practice with loyalty and positive interactions. 

7. Add direct-dial lines to reduce phone traffic on your main number. 

Set up direct lines for pharmacy, ask-a-nurse, boarding, and grooming. Have voicemail on each direct-dial line in case an employee isn’t immediately available to answer. You’ll spend $30 to $50 per month for an additional phone line but save time for clients and your front-desk team. 

Here is a sample voicemail greeting for your pharmacy direct-dial line: “You’ve reached <Your Veterinary Hospital>’s pharmacy line. Please leave your name, your pet’s name, the prescription you need refilled, dosage, and phone number. Leave your cell number and let us know if you prefer a text response. We will review messages at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Thank you!”  

Talk with your client care team about strategies that will save their sanity while improving client experiences. Embrace technology tools that will become long-term solutions. Hurry, the phone is ringing!

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Enroll your team in the 1-hour course: End the Phone Frenzy. 

References: 

  1. GeniusVets to Host “Defeating the Phone Frenzy” Webinar to Help Practices Improve Communication During COVID. PRWeb. Available at: https://www.prweb.com/releases/geniusvets_to_host_defeating_the_phone_frenzy_webinar_to_help_practices_improve_communication_during_covid/prweb17351746.htm. Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
  2. A New Payment Solution Is Taking Over: 30% of Customers Prefer Paying With Phone Texts. Weave. Available at: https://www.getweave.com/a-new-payment-solution-is-taking-over-30-of-customers-prefer-paying-with-phone-texts/. Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

Enroll Now Latest Webinar Training

Lead clients to book overdue pets

Lead clients to book overdue pets

Lead clients to book overdue pets

LEAD CLIENTS TO BOOK OVERDUE PETS

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

Did you know a dog owner will spend $700 annually on preventive care while a cat owner will invest $600? Having your client care team call clients about overdue pets DAILY will have a significant impact on patient care and hospital revenue. Here’s what they should say and why. 

When you call clients about pets that are overdue for preventive checkups, lead them to schedule now with a yes-or-yes choice. Say, “This is <name> calling for the doctors at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. <Pet name> is now overdue for his preventive exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing, and preventatives. We’re worried about his health. When is a convenient time for you to come in for an appointment this week? The doctor can see you at 3 p.m. Thursday or 9 a.m. Friday. Which do you prefer?” 

Let me break down the power words in this script: 

1. “For the doctors” brings credibility and authority to the call, showing veterinarians are genuinely concerned about the pet’s health.  

2. “We’re worried about his health” is a call to action because the pet could now be exposed to parasites and diseases due to overdue care.  

3. “When” followed by two appointment choices is stronger than the yes-or-no option of “Do you want to schedule?”

 

Are you Grumpy or a Golden Retriever Over the Phone?

Are you Grumpy or a Golden Retriever Over the Phone?

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

Your client service representative is the first impression that callers have of your veterinary hospital, whether they are returning clients or price shoppers who are about to become new clients.

If Grumpy Gloria answers calls with negative or rushed tones, she could create negative impressions with pet owners who plan to spend hundreds with your hospital. Did you know that 42 percent of customers would switch businesses because of an unhelpful or rude employee? (*1)

Here are three phone skills for your reception team:

1. Project a Golden Retriever personality.

Golden Retrievers are one of America’s favorite breeds. Their smiling faces, loyalty, and eager-to-please social skills turn strangers into instant best friends.

While callers need to hear that you love your job of helping pets, remember that half of what you care for is on the other end of the leash—people. Pets can only get needed medical care if you effectively communicate with their owners. Answer every call with a warm, inviting greeting. Say, “Welcome to <Your Veterinary Hospital>. This is <name>. How may I help your pet today?”

Sharing your name lets callers know who is helping them. Develop personal relationships with clients so they will have the same trust and confidence in receptionists as they do in the medical team. Asking how you can help is an invitation for service.

A perfect telephone greeting is a combination of the right words and an upbeat attitude. Smile before you answer the phone and speak at an easy-to-understand pace rather than a hurried greeting. Even though you say the greeting hundreds of times each day, you create first impressions with callers every time you answer the phone.

One of the best ways to assess your personality over the phone is to record calls. Listen to multiple calls to see if you were friendly, a good listener, efficiently answered callers’ questions and turned 70 percent or more of inquires into booked appointments. You want callers to have a five-star telephone experience, whether they called on a busy Saturday morning or a calm Wednesday afternoon.

2. Personalize the call experience with caller and pet names.

Ask for names at the beginning of the call and then repeat them throughout the conversation. This allows you to establish rapport with callers and communicates that you’re listening. When a price shopper asks, “How much are shots for a new puppy?” respond with “I would love to share that information. May I ask your name and your new baby’s name?” Once the caller shares names, show you’re listening by saying, “Thank you, Bonnie. Let me ask you some questions about Marley so I can give you the information you’ll need.”

To assess the patient’s needs, ask questions such as:

  • How old is <pet name>?
  • Where did you adopt <pet name>? (shelter, breeder, stray, etc.)
  • Which vaccines has <pet name> received?
  • Has <pet name> had an intestinal parasite test to check for worms?
  • Which flea/tick and heartworm preventatives are you using?
  • Has <pet name> been spayed/neutered?

The price shopper’s answers will let you efficiently and confidently communicate your hospital’s protocols based on the pet’s life stage.

3. Set expectations during scheduling calls.

If the caller is a returning client, ask questions during the scheduling call to determine needs and select the right appointment length.

Let’s say a caller explains, “I just got my dog’s reminder postcard and need to make an appointment.” Respond with, “Thank you for calling to schedule your dog’s preventive exam. May I ask your name and your dog’s name?” Saying “thank you” shows appreciation for the caller’s loyalty to your hospital. Asking for names let’s you locate the correct medical record in your practice-management software. Scan the electronic record to confirm which services and products are due. This technique sets expectations and increases compliance. For example, you might say, “Max is due for his exam, vaccines, intestinal parasite screen, heartworm/tick screen, and refills on flea/tick and heartworm preventatives. Does Max have any health or behavior concerns you want to discuss with the doctor?”

Summarizing the services and products due will set expectations for care that will be delivered during the visit. Asking about other health concerns may have the caller share a sick-pet problem, which could change the length of the visit from a 20-minute checkup to a 30-minute sick-pet exam. If the caller shares that her senior dog has been having trouble with stairs and limps occasionally, schedule a 30-minute exam to allow time for x-rays, a diagnosis, and a conversation with the client about treatment choices. This technique lets you efficiently plan exam time, ensuring the doctor and technician won’t run over and cause a domino of late appointments the rest of the day.

Provide training for your front-desk team so scripts and techniques become second nature. You want employees to be confident communicators so you can deliver the medical care that every pet needs.

Reference:

*1 – Why lousy customer service costs millions every year. Retail Career Hub. Available at: www.retailcareerhub.com/blog/entry/why-lousy-customer-service-costs-millions-every-year. Accessed March 27, 2019.

Enroll Now Latest Webinar Training

SHOW COMPASSION WHEN SCHEDULING EUTHANASIA APPOINTMENTS

SHOW COMPASSION WHEN SCHEDULING EUTHANASIA APPOINTMENTS

SHOW COMPASSION WHEN SCHEDULING EUTHANASIA APPOINTMENTS

SHOW COMPASSION WHEN SCHEDULING EUTHANASIA APPOINTMENTS

Euthanasia is one of the most difficult decisions a pet owner will make. When clients call your veterinary hospital to schedule a pet’s attended euthanasia, share your compassion and kindness. Use names to make an emotional connection. Say, “<Client name>, I respect your decision to say good-bye to <pet name>. We want to provide a peaceful passing for <pet name>. Do you prefer a specific day and time? I can suggest times when our clinic is quieter. Once we set the appointment, I will share what to expect.”