Introduction of a new virtual reception service to one of my dental clients has had a real impact on service quality, work-flow and securing of new business.
Whilst working with the client it soon became clear that at peak times, and when reception staff were busy with patients already in the practice, phone calls were often left unanswered. Missed calls diverted to an internal voicemail after a set number of rings but few messages were actually left – typically around 5 or 6 a day. An unknown number of callers chose to leave no message and others would have received the frustrating engaged signal.
We all know how precious time is for us – you want to ask a question, make a purchase, arrange an appointment but the last thing you want is to be kept waiting. As a new customer how impressed would you be if there was no-one available to answer the telephone the first time you ring? I suspect you would move straight onto the next business on your list.
A real alternative to taking on extra reception staff at peak times was to consider a virtual reception service which can take calls when the practice is busy using a simple call-divert-when-engaged service and/or divert after 5 or 6 rings.
The first step was to understand how big a problem we actually had – just how many calls were being missed, how many customers were being left frustrated and how many new customers were we potentially losing. This was easily done by taking advantage of the free trial period offered by many providers of virtual reception services. Over a two week period, 229 calls were taken by the virtual reception centre including 20 new customers looking to move to the practice and 56 making new appointments with the clinical team.
Previously over one week the practice would typically have responded to maybe 25/30 voice-mail messages suggesting that around 85/90 calls a week were being unanswered leading to lost business and potentially unhappy customers. Admittedly, many existing customers were likely to call back again later but is this really the level of service we want to give and what about those 10 or so new business enquiries per week which were probably lost?
The decision was soon taken to continue and since then diverted calls have settled down to around 60 a week and over the last 6 weeks 36 new patient enquiries have been taken by the virtual reception team.
The virtual reception team answer calls with the same greeting as the main receptionist, take full details of the enquiry and call-back information which is then immediately categorised and sent to the appropriate staff member at the practice for action by e-mail. An easily updated, on-line information base about your business is readily available to the team to ensure they are up to date with offers, opening times, business jargon, vip customers and other local things only your receptionist knows about.
Real-time dashboard reporting of categorised call volumes by time of day, working-day, week and month together with records of all conversations give management a valuable insight into what is happening and a useful sample of incoming calls for training purposes.
Customer feedback has been positive with many praising the reception team for the speed and efficiency of call back, greatly helped by the right person making the call-back and always being fully prepared with answers and solutions based on the information taken during the initial call.
If you would like more information about using a virtual reception service or help with implementing it in your business, drop an e-mail to VR@msginterim.co.uk