Optometric Management Tip # 466   -   Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A Busier Practice, Part 4: Telephone Recall

The strategy that I'm sharing this week must be done with care and caution, but with the right staff member, this technique can increase your appointment schedule faster than any other. 

The concept
A staff member from your office calls patients who are due for an exam but have not responded to normal recall methods used in your practice.  This technique can be especially effective for patients covered by vision plans or other insurance.  Many patients intend to come in for eye care, but simply procrastinate.  Speaking to a staff member from your office will be all that is needed to schedule most of these folks.

The tone of the call is one of care and concern for the patient – not a call to generate business.  The staff member should simply mention that the patient was due for an eye exam in whatever month was specified and that the call is just to make sure he received the post card or email about it.  After that, the staff person takes her cue from the patient.  See below for tips on what to say.  Since the call works with your current recall system, the exact method will vary.

The challenge
Telephone calls can be regarded as intrusive.  Asking a patient to make an appointment can be interpreted as a solicitation for business and that can annoy people.  Some may even be rude to the staff member placing the call.  This perception can actually harm the image of your practice.  For this reason, you must be very cautious about the technique used.  You need a staff member with the right personality and with careful training to make this successful.

Another challenge is actually talking to the patient on the phone.  You will connect with voice mail quite often and have to leave messages and be sure that the staff member is easily available when the patient calls back.

How to do it safely
The staff caller should take a very kind and respectful attitude.  You are only looking out for the patient's best interest.  It should be a very friendly call.  You will do whatever the patient wishes and you will not be pushy or persistent.  Review this article with the staff member you assign to the task and discuss how patients might be annoyed by phone calls they did not expect.

To be really safe, I think the doctor/practice owner should listen in on the first few calls to really understand the impression it makes.  This could be done by using speaker phone or by recording the calls.  If speaker phone is used, I recommend that the staff person lean in close to the phone so the voice quality is not diminished as much.

Be prepared
The staff member who is making the calls should review the patient's record before making the call.  Know the following:

What to say

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management