Believe it or not, patients will happily wait if handled properly. It would be nice if telephone callers lined up in a row like well-behaved grade schoolers and quietly waited their turn, but that’s never the case. More often than not, the phone rings off-the-hook as everybody tries to get through at the same time. Here is some advice on how to handle several calls at once without making yourself crazy or patients angry.
One Ring Rule Try and answer the phone by the first ring. If that’s not possible, never make a patient wait longer than three rings – it will only make them mad.
Ask, Don’t Tell If you are on another call and it’s not an emergency, ask them "Would you mind holding for a moment?" Before putting someone on hold, ask permission. There is nothing worse than calling into a practice and being "told" you are going to be put on hold. Also, you don’t want to put a patient on hold who is calling with a medical emergency.
First in Line Return to each caller starting with the first to be put on hold and move forward in sequence. This will ensure no one waits too long.
Thank You Be sure to thank the patient for holding. Common courtesy can go a long way to head off a patient being annoyed for holding. This may sound simple but usually works.
Take Notes If many lines are ringing at once, be sure to write down the names of the callers on hold, the line they are holding on, and who they are waiting for before pushing the hold button. This way, they don’t have the give the information more than once.
Give Patients a Choice If things really get jammed up, return to a waiting caller after no more than a minute and ask them, "Would you like to continue to hold or may I call you back?" If they want to be called back, take their name and number and call them ASAP.