Receptionists: Stop playing doctor and start hooking new clients

That first phone call is the most important point of contact your practice will have with a client. But receptionists who overstep their boundaries or demonstrate poor phone skills do more harm than good. Here's how to respectfully get pet owners off the phone and into your clinic.
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May 01, 2011


Jennifer Graham
Veterinary medicine is a service profession. Our most important relationship is with clients, and the client service team is the practice's most important tool for offering exceptional service—and phone skills are a critical part of both. Why? Because one of receptionists' crucial tasks is converting phone calls into appointments. After all, if the pets don't visit the veterinarian, we can't take care of them.

When today's pet owners make decisions about their cats' or dogs' healthcare, they're not just looking at location, facility, and menu of services. They're looking at the quality of the experience you provide.

Many callers, especially potential clients who haven't visited your practice before, will ask about prices. While some phone shoppers are really only interested in prices, many are paying attention to how the receptionist handles the call: Does she sound friendly and helpful or short and rushed? Does she seem knowledgeable and willing to help? Are there a lot of background noises and distractions?

Phone shoppers provide an excellent opportunity to talk about your services, as well as the service you offer. Most clients rank excellent service above price when they're considering a veterinarian. So whether on the phone or in person, create a welcoming environment, treat clients like family, and keep the focus on the pet, and you'll be well on your way to hooking clients. Here are a few more tips:

1. Leave an impression

The first step to getting clients off the phone and into your clinic: Wow them right away. Receptionists repeat their greeting many times daily, and it creates a strong first impression—good or bad—on callers every time. Don't take it for granted. Every call is a potential appointment.

Ask yourself: Does your standard greeting need some polishing? Can clients understand you? Are you speaking slowly and clearly?

Great phone skills can be learned. Work on greeting callers warmly and with a smile. Never give a rushed greeting. Develop a relationship and create rapport with callers by making a connection. One easy way to do this is to get the caller's name early and use it throughout the call. You can also say something like, "Congratulations on your new puppy! I bet he's really cute!"

If you're quoting prices for services, be sure to get the pet's pertinent information first. Here's an example: "I'd be happy to help, Janet. Let me get a little more information about your kitten so I can give you the most accurate estimate."