I was recently at a doctor’s appointment for myself, and spent the time in the waiting room doing my favorite thing – listening and observing. I love being a patient and using my own medical visits as an opportunity to see how other offices are run, just being an observer from the patient’s perspective. One of the biggest phrases I heard from the receptionist was “no.” This was never said rudely or meanly, but I heard it repeatedly in reference to many different conversations.
This led me to think about what is happening every day in our offices – on the phone, at our front desk, in our pretest rooms, in the exam rooms and in the optical. Can we change every “no” to a “yes” without giving everything away? I wondered, “Can we turn a closed off, negative response into an opportunity for communication and working together?” I challenge you and your staff to look carefully at what you are saying, and see if you can go an entire day without saying “no”” to a patient. Can you do it? (Of course, the answer here is yes!)
Yes at the Front Desk
What are some instances where we can turn a “no” into a “yes”? A great place to start is your front desk. Routine, comprehensive exams with me are currently booking out three months or more in the future, so a new patient calling in to try and see me would likely get a “no” (hopefully a polite one). As many of us are booked out way in advance, making sure we turn this into a positive opportunity and train our staff members on how to approach this is key. One great response could be, “While we don’t have an appointment for that day and time with Dr. Stewart, our wonderful associate Dr. Smith has availability that day. She is my doctor and wonderful. I really think you’d like her! I’m happy to schedule you with her on your preferred day and time!” This both takes away the possibility of losing a new patient to another office and helps to fill your associate’s schedule at the same time. And while my front desk person in essence was saying that the patient couldn’t see me, they truly never said no.
Yes in the Optical
Another place we commonly hear questions that will elicit a “no” answer is the optical. We have all had the patient who has a five-year-old frame that they really love, and want to put their new prescription in that frame instead of purchasing new. There are a few ways our staff members are trained on handling this. One is to do a careful, complete inspection of the frame with the patient, being sure to point out any weaknesses or dry areas in the plastic or metal of the frame, and looking carefully at hinges, temples and nose pads. If a defect is noticed (and likely can be found in a previously used frame), the optician will discuss the risks of reusing that frame and the likelihood of breakage. “Mrs. Jones, I remember how much you loved this frame when we picked it, and it certainly looks like you have worn it a lot over the past two years. While we could reuse it again, I worry that these areas that are dried out have compromised the frame, and when new lenses are inserted, it could snap. This frame is a perfect backup- so lets keep it just in case!” While the optician was in essence telling the patient no, we cannot use your frame, they never worded it as such.
Yes to Maximize Benefits
Another way to handle the above question from a patient is to include any managed care benefits a patient has. “Mr. Johnson, you have a great vision care benefit which entitles you towards coverage towards a new frame. While we can certainly use your benefits towards lenses for your current frame, the best way to use your plan is towards a new, complete pair. Your current pair will be a great backup in case something was to happen to your new pair. Let’s take a look!” Again, instead of saying no, the optician can smoothly change the conversation from using a patient’s own frame to buying a complete new pair (and benefitting the patient by having a backup pair as well).
As you go through your day, take the time to be an observer. Anytime you hear someone say no, or you yourself start to say “no, but…” is there a way to turn that answer into a yes? This is a great activity for your next staff meeting, and can be a lot of fun. You can give your staff a “no” response, and see how many creative ways they can turn that into a “yes.” They can also go out and observe other businesses and see how a “no” is handled> Some great places to watch this in action are high-end clothing stores, jewelry stores, and hospitality.
How many ways can you change a “no” into a “yes?” Starting today, ban “no” from your language and the office. By turning a negative into a positive, our patients and staff will benefit from better communication.
Yours in success-
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD