Is Using a Contact Center Right for You?

Six years ago, we began offering a phone handling service package called The Ringless Office. The idea sprang from working with smaller understaffed dental offices that were losing patients because they could not keep up with their current client calls, and had problems bringing in new patients to the practice. Our product was popular and helped rejuvenate practices stifled by the workload. Suddenly the in-office front office staff were no longer plagued with constant calls and could focus on the patients in the waiting area. They were free to make benefits confirmation calls to insurance companies and to confirm appointments. Because of the phones being answered for them, onsite customer satisfaction went up, collections went up and the front office became calmer and nicer. Suddenly new patients began filling the practice’s empty schedule slots because our trained, professional agents are taught to get them in as soon as possible.

Since then, we have helped those new practices who have yet to hire enough staff, those who have purchased practices with inept or tiny front office staffs, those who have suddenly lost their staff, or those who discover that their front office cannot convert callers into new patients. When medium and large practices sign up for our service packages, we do not offer our Ringless Office option because they usually have numbers of trained call handlers. Typically, they sign up for the corporate rate and use us as a backup during peak hours, during the workday, and for all after-hour and weekend calls. What occasionally happens is that for the first month the plan works out as expected. Sometimes, however, the staff realizes that they are no longer losing calls and that our agents are rescheduling current patients and scheduling more new patients. The front office becomes complacent and begins to relax. They let more and more calls rollover to us. The second month there will be an overcharge because they have given in to the temptation to let-the-call-center-answer-it attitude. We always call when a new client is about to exceed its prepaid plan, and that will usually get the staff to snap out of it and return to taking their own workday calls. There have been a few times when the front office just doesn’t care, and by the third month we are handling most of their calls, as if they had subscribed to the Ringless Office plan. When practice owners receive the third bill that has swelled in the volume of minutes, they call us upset.

This puts us in a bind because we have warned them when they are about to exceed the prepaid minutes and either they do not ever receive this warning because the front office not passed on to the owners our warning about exceeding the prepaid minutes, or they see how many new patients we have scheduled in the first two months and have calculated the slight increase they got in the previous month was worth the extra cost. But when the office staff uses us as a Ringless Office instead of a supplemental service (as originally intended), then higher overcharges may occur.

So what are the options for the practice owner? First, make certain we have your direct email, personal text number and a phone line that no other staff members can access. We promise we will communicate with you when you are approaching your predetermined limit. We will let you know if your limit is about to be exceeded, until your monthly usage stabilizes. We have experienced situations when the emails we have sent and the calls we have attempted to make have never reached the owner. Second, look at your results. What many practices find is that new patient numbers increase when we take over. If this is the positive effect you wanted, then either let us get you a dedicated “new patient” phone number to attach to all your marketing material) from your mailers to your webpage and conventional and social media campaigns. Then during the workday, your staff can answer all the other calls, and we will handle the new patient calls. That way they can better handle their peak hours themselves, while we relieve them of the important work of scheduling new patients. After all that is in our area of specialty. We will still cover all after-hour, weekend and holiday calls to your office and for marketing campaigns 24/7. (And of course, in the event of an emergency in the practice, we will be there as your fulltime call service until your practice can return to normal operation.) The weekday minutes will shrink to expected levels, your staff will be doing the work they are paid to do, and you will increase your number of new patients.

John Ross