Handling telephone calls with courtesy and tact is a vital factor in building goodwill and a customer-focused reputation. Enlist your employees' help in devising a telephone protocol and be sure it's shared with everyone who answers the phone. Here are some suggestions:
Answer immediately—by the second or third ring—with an enthusiastic greeting and identify yourself and the name of the laboratory.
If you insist on having your calls "screened" by a receptionist, be sure it's done politely so that the caller doesn't feel as though you're being selective. Never allow a customer to feel he's gone through the third degree in order to reach you.
Always give the caller the option of holding or having the person return the call. Never ask a customer to call back later; this puts the burden on him.
Never leave someone on hold for more than 30 seconds without checking back with him.
If you've sent out a promotional brochure with a special offer or are sponsoring a clinic for your dentist-clients, make sure those who answer the telephone are aware of it and know who gets the calls.
Try to identify the personality style of frequent callers. For example, Sue from Dr. Smith likes to chat, but Dan just wants to get down to business.
Be sure that when staff members take messages, they repeat the telephone number and spell the caller's name to ensure both are correct; it's embarrassing to return a call and use the wrong name.
When handling requests for faxed information, be sure that employees get the telephone number in case the fax doesn't transmit successfully.
If you can't answer a question, don't try to bluff. Instead, say, "I'll get back to you in 10 minutes"—and be sure you do, even if it's only to let them know you're still working on getting the information.
If a caller is disconnected and has to call back, be sure to diffuse his frustration by apologizing immediately for his trouble.
Include your fax number or e-mail address on your voice mail or answering machine so that the caller has other options for getting his message to you.
If you have a voice mail menu system, provide a "0" prompt so that callers can easily reach a "live" person. During business hours, be sure that the "0" prompt doesn't roll over into another voice mail.