How to prevent patient ‘phone rage’

Unavoidably, even the most well-trained, courteous phone staffer will need to put some calls on hold to deal with others. Studies show that two-thirds of telephone callers say being put on hold makes them very angry. The result: They put off calling again—sometimes forever—rather than risk getting mad again. So train all your staff to handle on-hold calls carefully. Follow these rules:

Ask permission: Say, “May I put you on hold for a moment?” not, “I have to put you on hold.” And, absolutely don’t allow anyone to brusquely announce, “Hold, please” without waiting for a reply.

Promise brevity: Depending on what’s going on in the office, tell callers either “I’ll be right back” or “This will take some time.” The rule of thumb is not to leave a caller more than 30 seconds without speaking again, even if just to reassure the caller you haven’t forgotten him or her. If involved in a time-consuming task, get the caller’s name and number and call back within the hour.

Be appreciative: It takes just seconds to say, “Thank you for your patience.”

Offer an explanation: If possible, tell the caller why she or he must hold; for example, “Mrs. Byer, Peggy is our insurance expert and she can answer your question better than I can. May I put you on hold a few moments while I get her to help you?”

Acknowledge the caller’s time: No matter how short the wait, always apologize: “I’m sorry to keep you holding; how may I help you now?”

This nugget was adapted from Customer Service for Successful Medical Practice, from Advisory Publications, a division of HCPro, Inc. To order, click here or call our Customer Service Department at 800/650-6787 for more information.

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