We all know the power of first impressions, whether good or bad. In orthodontics, one reality each office needs to recognize is that the first and last contact most new patients have before making an appointment is the person who answers the phone. Not every orthodontist understands just how much of their business hinges on these phone interactions.
Not only are these phone calls how you earn new patients, but they are also an important part of making your office stand out. If you are looking for a way to differentiate your office from the competition without introducing a major new treatment option, start with your reception staff. As president of Communicate Excellence Amy Demas explains, reception staff create far more impressions compared to the rest of your team, setting the overall tone of your brand for new and, hopefully, returning patients.
- Learn more about Communicate Excellence, a program that helps scheduling coordinators do their jobs with courtesy
- Understand why it is crucial to teach your front desk staff excellent communication skills
- Discover how inserting "uncommon courtesy" during phone calls can lead to a better patient experience
Richie Guerzon: Hey, everyone. Today's guest is Amy Demas president of Communicate Excellence, a firm that specializes in improving the communication skills of administrative teams. Amy attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. As vice president of global fulfillment with Bank of America, she was responsible for the acquisition of over 55 U.S. patents. She is Sic Sigma certified, an international speaker, an author, a coach, and on top of that, she's a practice manager of her husband's Orthodontics practice. It's amazing she has time to be on our show, but we're glad she's here. Amy, thanks for joining us.
Amy Demas: Thanks Richie, I really appreciate you asking me.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah, absolutely. So as I see your bio, how did you get from mechanical engineering to Communicating Excellence? It must be an interesting journey.
Amy Demas: It is definitely a winding journey, but it's been fascinating. So after I got my mechanical engineering degree, I was at that time married to somebody in the military, and I ended up getting a job in Kentucky, where I design pipe stress runs for petrochemical piping. So you're talking 14 inch pipes that are at 400 degrees and you're building expansion Loops. So basically think braces on a huge scale. Which is kind of odd that that happened well, then during one of those economic downturns and crisis that was happening in the early 90s, they laid us all off. And so you're thinking, “what am I going to do now?” Well, I was expecting my first child, and I ended up being a stay-at-home mom. I began homeschooling my kids, and so there's turn number one and I was home with them for over a dozen years where I developed home schooling program or assimilated it. I loved teaching. Well turn number two. I ended up being a single parent, and at that point you're thinking, “now what do I do?” You know, so the kids are now in school, and I ended up reconnecting with a friend that I went to West Point with, that's how I got into Bank of America. So my role at Bank of America for the first part was turning your checks into images, you know, how that's done nowadays. Oh, yeah, I was in that area. That was my space. And so I worked on check products and cash products throughout there, and that's where most of my patent work is.
Richie Guerzon: You helped make it possible for that to happen, which is critical right now for everyone isn’t it?
Amy Demas: Well, and do you realize that that came about because of a national calamity? Yes because of 9/11 and planes were grounded, no planes could fly. You had all these people who had their money, but the checks could not go back and forth between banks and so money was at a standstill kind of like our businesses feel like a standstill. Yeah, and because of that Innovation had to come about and legislation, and it was what enabled us to now process and transfer money via images instead of through a piece of paper. But it was through a calamity that that actually occurred. But then turn number three while at Bank of America. I was working with a life coach and she introduced me to Dr. Don Demas, an orthodontist. And so after that period of time we dated, got married, and then I ended up starting to work for him and I was thrown in at the front desk. No training and no orthodontic training. Just please answer the phones for me. So did that and when your husband is the doctor, any other time an administrative role got emptied for some whatever reason I had to sit in that role. It was trial by fire, and I thought that's what I was going to do. The rest of my life be his treatment coordinator. Do all these different things and then my last major turn in life was I ended up having cancer. And yeah, I used to have brown hair I used to. I said this is a platinum upgrade from that. And it was at that point you say, “What do I want to be? What do I want to do as I grow up?” And I had to go back to my roots of I'm a teacher at heart. And so that's how I came about to doing Communicate Excellence. I want to empower others, teach others. That's me in a nutshell of where I wish to be. So that's that's that winding path that has gotten me to where I am today.
Richie Guerzon: Wow. So tell us a little bit more about Communicate Excellence. What are you doing?
Amy Demas: Sure, Sure. So what I did is- my husband is a great empowerer. So I've had exposure to many consultants along the way, and what I found is that our front desk people tend to get left out on there. It's more of a thought of what just tell him how to take the phone off, and I'll hold on and off hold, and isn't that enough?
Richie Guerzon: Oh gosh. No.
Amy Demas: It’s not! No, you know you realize that, you know, one of the interesting things is we put a lot of training obviously into our clinical teams. Yeah, they have a skill set and our doctors are specialized they do as well. We put a lot of money into our treatment coordinators because that's the sales part. But do you realize that your front desk, your scheduling coordinators, talk to patient-facing interactions many times, five, six, seven, eight, times more than anybody else in the office.
Richie Guerzon: I mean, they're having such a huge influence on your brand in general. They are the front line.
Amy Demas: Exactly. I mean a treatment coordinator may see 10% of the patients a day. The doctor sees less than a hundred percent because there's some people who come in for picking up clear retainers and they walk in and out. But your front desk, they greet them, they send them out, they set an appointment, and they handle all the calls. So they are easily touching and making Impressions with people five, six, seven, eight, more times than any other person in the office and so they need to be empowered, and that's why I got in there. And it's more than simply providing a book of scripts because simply because we know it, doesn’t mean we do it. I mean how many diet books do I own but it's the actual implementation of it on there. And that's where what I do shines is taking it from head knowledge to actual habits.
Richie Guerzon: So you're not just doing scripts. What else are you doing?
Amy Demas: Thank you for asking. So what I do is either on-site, or remotely I provide an initial training session, and that provides a foundation. All it is it's like filling your toolbox with all these tools but it's what I do afterwards that is where the magic happens and I do it through the coaching of actual phone calls off recorded phone calls and I have you know, the Five Points to Star success. And that is, as we take these critical parts of a phone call and teach to them with tools, and then I'm providing feedback off of that with multiple one on one coaching sessions that were actually habit upon habit, change on change, establishing a new routine.
Richie Guerzon: Gotcha. Okay. Alright. So let's kind of get down to what's happening right now as we have all these people coming back to the office many of them probably are generally on the phone. Do you have any tips for orthodontist to help deal with the situation that we're about to be in?
Amy Demas: I sure would! So one of the first things, and this is actually one of the first lessons we teach to in coaching. Yeah, but if you do this and you can get you anybody on your team doing this on the phone, it helps elevate the entire call. Let me set it up in this way. Have you ever been given a gift in the bag it was purchased in?
Richie Guerzon: I have yeah.
Amy Demas: Yeah. Yeah. Okay compared to the gift that's been wrapped and with the bow, even if it was the identical gift, does one feel differently than the other?
Richie Guerzon: Oh totally, totally, of course.
Amy Demas: Totally does. Keep that in mind as we talk about this. I say when you start a phone call and we're moving past the greeting. So you said, you know, “thank you for calling. Dr. Smiles office. This is a me. How may I help you?” The caller then says why they're calling. Whatever the reason. The very next thing you say is called a first response. I call it that because it's the first thing you answer back to. Think about when you call a doctor's office. What is usually the first response? And if you can't think of it, they usually go, “what's your name? And your date of birth?” Right? Is that not true? I mean to the point that when I call my doctor's office it's, “hello. My name is Amy and my date of birth is blah blah blah blah blah on there.” You know? And I realized why they do it, they go straight to business because I can't help you until I know who you are, so I can look you up on the computer, so I can service you. It’s so robotic and everybody does this when I start listening to recordings. We have an opportunity here to insert uncommon courtesy, and it will then take them out of their zombie zone. So, when they finally say why they're calling this is what I want you to insert, “I would be happy to help you. May I have your name?”. I would be happy to help you is what the first response that we train to. And I want you to have an emotion word or a descriptive word. So I have some gentleman that don't like to say they're happy to help, but they like to say I can certainly help you, you know, some kind of modifying word, and what is so interesting as I'm hearing both sides of the conversation without any visual cues. I'm only listening to those audible cues. But I can almost sense the person on the other line going huh? Like wow, that was that was different. It catches you off guard.
Richie Guerzon: And those are the moments you want to give your customers.
Amy Demas: The first impression, and so we're going to do that at the front of the call and at the back end of the call we're going to do the same thing. Instead of all right, “we'll see you Tuesday bye,” and we'd fall off the cliff on here. What do you say, you know, “we look forward to seeing you Tuesday. Have a great day.”.
Richie Guerzon: Oh, yeah. I'm notorious for that very thing myself. That's good advice.
Amy Demas: I want you to think of some kind of toodle doo! You think of some kind of you know little, you know, “have a great day, goodbye,” and leave the inflection of what that first and last response is. It's like taking that conversation and wrapping it in paper and in a pretty bow and handing it to them. As opposed to the plain conversation. So even if you absolutely change nothing else, if you do that, it elevates every single phone call. So that is that is your first tip for anybody who's going to be having to answer these phone calls. If they can get that first and last response and not fumble over everything else, you've got a big win.
Richie Guerzon: Okay, are there any things that are that you just hear often that you say just stop doing that.
Richie Guerzon: Yes. So, you know, I do listen to over 10,000 calls a year or so. I do get to see some patterns in that, and one of the other big things- and we're going to have to be doing it. We're having to reschedule so many people. Is how you offer appointments. I want you to give them options and authority because this is a scenario where people want to control their calendars and when people are wanting control, you have to give them controlled options and then pass the authority, so when offering appointments, I want you to do it in this way. I want you to do it as a statement. “Dr. Smile has A or B. Which would you prefer.” And I want you to keep it as a statement. What I tend to hear is I have a one o'clock, you know? One or two? And it's wish, it's not a statement. Keep it as facts. The correlation here is okay, how many times have you tried to see parents get their children off a McDonald's Playland after they've been playing. Yeah, not so good. If they go, “Johnny, we're going to go.” Okay. Yep. That's a wish yeah as opposed to, “Johnny, we're going to go in five minutes. Do you understand”? It's a different question that you're asking. And so when you're offering appointments the facts are facts, same as a statement. The follow-up question, you know, which one do you prefer, which one is the question that you want to ask at that point, and when we can get people converting to that way their calls are shortened up because there’s not this dickering on here. They're not being negotiated with they are the air traffic control person at that point.
Richie Guerzon: Oh, so you’re actually shortening the call, but you're also keeping it friendly.
Amy Demas: Exactly.
Richie Guerzon: We're gonna have so many calls to reschedule right? The practices are just going to be overwhelmed. Any efficiency the practice can gain would be great.
Amy Demas: It is a huge win, and it also makes it not so scary to have to make those phone calls. Like you know, so it's very empowering, so we actually spend a whole lesson from a coaching perspective on that because it's so important. So if you can start and end your calls, and offer appointments, Well, you’ve got about 80% of your call volume taken care of right there.
Richie Guerzon: That makes sense. Okay. So what other information do we need to let our patients know about other than the potential return date?
Amy Demas: So I actually found a very interesting research that was done as I was preparing for some verbiage to give back as we go back to work, and one of them was do we lead with an apology or appreciation as we get back on the phone with them. And so a lot of times I've seen some people with scripting starting to go around and you know, I apologize we were closed, and all this kind of stuff. I actually want you to express appreciation first because there was this study in the Journal of Marketing that was done. That was- they had seven studies within it and the results were all that offering an appreciation was more effective than offering an apology when there's been a service failure. Now it's not our fault, but us having to cancel appointments is a service failure not our fault, but it was you know, and every one of the studies within there said offer appreciation. So it would be something like this: “Mrs. Jones, Thank you for your patience as we were going through this. I will be helping to get your appointment rescheduled. Dr. Small wants to see you in the next week. So I have A or B, which one works best for you”? And the offering of that appreciation, it hits them at their self-esteem like yeah. Yeah, I was patient, you know, and it really helps with that, and the studies also show that that was statistically significant in well, let me set up the study. The study was they had a plumber who was supposed to arrive at eleven that did not arrive until 12:00, and the plumber in the control group just arrived and went straight to work. The plumber in the appreciation group said, “thank you for your patience. I really appreciate it,” and went to work. Then the plumber who offered apology, “I'm sorry. I'm late. You know, thank you. You know, I apologize,” and went to work. After the work was done, they looked at four areas: one was how satisfied were you with the plumber and how they handled the service failure? Those that were offered appreciation statistically were more satisfied. Then they ask how likely are you to use this plumber again? Appreciation was more likely. How likely are you to refer this plumber to your friends? The ones that were offered appreciation more. And then the last one area was how did the plumber handle the situation and how did they make you feel? Did they make you feel important? And appreciation was. So the first thing I want you to do as you start making those calls is to express appreciation. Thank you for your patience. As you get ready to reschedule these calls.
Richie Guerzon: That makes sense. Do you have any other tips to make a really good first impression?
Amy Demas: So the other one is, you know, making sure that we have that smile because even though even though you cannot see the person, you can hear that smile while on that phone. The other one a lot of these calls that we're going to have to make are actually going to have to be outbound calls instead of inbound calls because you know, they don't know when we're actually going to get back to work. I want you to make sure your outbound greetings are effective. So what I tend to hear, you know Richie how many times has this happened? How many times have you picked up the phone? You're like “hello,” and they go, “Richie you're like, “Mr. Jones”? What are you what are you up to? I hear so many people in the orthodontic office calling up, “Mr. Jones”? And you're like, wait a minute. So give yourself a full introduction up front when they say hello, like, “Good morning. This is Amy Demas with Communicate Excellence. How are you today? May I please speak with? Mr. Jones”? Don't assume so have a full greeting so that you aren't playing gotcha, like you’re a telemarketer on there. So that would be one of the other ones. And then Richie if I may what are the other things? I have noticed several offices. Haven't thought about is I want you to get word out to your clientele who have insurance. Yeah because orthodontics and those who handle the financial insurers coordinator know this better. We don't receive the payment for benefits in one lump sum like a medical office does. You know you go to the doctor today, you get service paid for service today. We are actually getting that insurance payment over the entire course of treatment. So Insurance cannot lapse in order for them to maximize those benefits and it is very highly likely that we have patients who've had a lapse in their medical insurance or dental insurance. I would rather you get a word out proactively and asking your patients to let you know if they have any lapse in insurance coverage, so that we can help them cover that potential lapse. As opposed to a bad surprise on the back end, bad surprises are never good.
Richie Guerzon: Surprises in general. We're trying to get all of this situated under control later is not going down with that time management.
Amy Demas: It is not, and you don't want somebody to get done with treatment and all of a sudden, you know, after the insurance has finally caught up with their backlog and they maybe even paid you thinking there was no lapse and you've had to repay the insurance and now you've got to go find and hunt down the patient for however many hundreds of dollars that were not covered. Let's not have that be a surprise and to be the last impression potentially that your patient is going to have of your office.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah, that's true. That's something helpful. They're looking at your staff and you're not sure what they need to be doing right now, but you've got that PPP loan.
Amy Demas: Exactly, exactly. So many of our practice Management Systems will allow you to isolate those that have insurance contracts that have a balance over zero because you don’t need to get that kind of message out to the entire populace population, but you need to get a subset of that. Yes, segment the message. Just a heads up, you know doing it as a favor to them on there.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah it's anything that you're doing to show the value as the practice that you care about the customer. That's one of those are the types of things we should be doing right now. Then I think you have something you wanted to show us, I think of some visuals.
Amy Demas: I did, I did. So one of the other things- I'm an engineer, I'm a little bit of a nerdy kind of kind of person like that. One of the things that I like us to see sometimes we've heard about the leaky bucket of what happens from our calls to start. What I want to- and I'm going to share my screen in just a moment here- is talk about it in a term that we actually use in banking called straight through processing. And first, let me share what this screen is going to do. And why first of all, it is so important. It's going to be so important to go from call to start as efficiently as possible. Obviously the need for speed on here. But if this term or this metric is called straight through processing we're going to shorten it to STP, and let me first tell you why it's important. The things that it decreases. I want you to think of that happy path. I mean is that person who calls today comes in tomorrow and they start the same day. Well that obviously decreases operating costs because you're not having to touch it so many times. Which decreases the airs, you know, and it decreases as term of shrinkage. It means that they don't get lost between the cracks. You know, that is so straight through processing is a wonderful thing on here. That the other things that it increases though or this- it increases the ease of doing business. I mean you why did we go from three visits to make a start down to one because it makes it a lot easier for the patient, for the customer. Yeah, but in these days it also is acceleration to funds. The faster we can get start the faster we have contracts and we've got money to the bank on here.
Richie Guerzon: That’s the ideal situation. They go straight to start exactly why it's called a happy path. Well here is what typically happens. Here is our typical STP, straight through processing in Orthodontics. We're gonna start from a hundred calls. We have some kind of input and we actually end up with only 36 start straight through that's okay. That's 36 percent. I mean, there's this black box in here. We're going to expand what that black box is and uncover it but it's like wow. Okay. So we're having to do a lot of work to get to these starts. Let's see where they fall out from. So where does everybody go? Well, the first thing is, will they even come in on here? The no-show rate, you know. Now you may be surprised that I put 15% here but you know many places will have an industry standard of missed appointment rate goal as 5%. Well that's active patients and new patients all together. I want you, if you do nothing else during this downtime begin to think about how you're going to separate that out. You need to look at your active patient no-show rate mystery, and your new patient no-show rate or mystery.
Richie Guerzon: Oh, yeah, they should be dramatically different.
Amy Demas: They are, they actually are Richie. They are it I have seen anywhere from three to five times higher no-show rate, or missed appointment rate for new patients than active. And it makes sense, doesn't it?
Richie Guerzon: Of course, you don’t have a relationship with them already. Contract or not.
Amy Demas: Exactly. You got the contract. I mean if there's a no-show for an active patient, they don't get toward their goal of getting done with treatment.
They will they eventually work their way back in but for a no-show for a new patient where they didn't have to put any money down. No skin off their nose. So it exactly and be about as high as 15% if not 20%. So there's our first drop out. Well, then you have to consider are the even ready for treatment. So we've got about 35 percent that drop out because they're not, they're not old enough for treatment, they're not dentally mature enough for treatment from their dental tooth alignment where they are. And the thing is, this number has gone up because we are now emphasizing ages 7 and up. Yeah. So hey, okay I track this data for a long time for my husband and it used to be near 25 %. But as soon as the ages 7 and up started to get emphasized where we can get as high as 40% are going into this up. Yeah, which is a whole other group of patients that we've got to hold onto so we don't get that shrinkage out of ya. But it’s still a factor if it's not straight through processing. Then we come to will if they offer a treatment will they actually accept it and that's that pending rates on there. So you'll 35% go to pending now, pending can be looked at so many different ways the way I'm looking at it is I offered you an appointment and I offered you treatment, and do you say yes. There’s a 1:1 ratio on here and I'm looking at that as whether they say they start today or they put an appointment on the calendar. That's a win. But if they go home and have to think about it even for a day, that's not straight through processing. Because you still had to touch them again. So that's how we get all the way through that. So it's dramatic. Now, you may be interested, how do I calculate this for myself on here? Because it's in but it is an important metric to keep track of. There is a very simple math way here instead of counting on your fingers and toes on here. So keep this in mind as we go away from today. So we want to see how many people keep through the funnel so if 15 percentage is your no-show rate. That means 85
Percent, that 85 I showed, is how many are still going through. And then you have the same thing for my observation which is if 35% go to observation that means 65% are still funneling through, and we do it again for the pending rate. And if you remember basic math, you know 35% of, that means multiply, if you multiply those three percentages together is what you get to 36%. Okay. Now the cool thing is we really can't do much about observation. I mean they are what they are, you know, they're either ready or not. But these two dials on the end that's where we've got some leverage and you know, we talk about that first impression. I want that first phone call so impactful, so different I would be happy to help you. So much making that connection that even if that parent has called three or four places and let's say you happen to be the last one in the line that they're going to actually make an appointment and see. Even if they go to place one or two and they're like, that's a good prize. That's pretty good. I want to keep you in the game. But I'm going to wait because if that first phone call was that much different, I wonder what the rest of the place is like. That's what I find is, through these better phone calls, we have reduced that no-show rate by 40%. I mean, that's-
Richie Guerzon: Really because I was wondering how you're measuring your effectiveness for your office.
Amy Demas: Yeah, you're measuring that no-show rate, and even down the way it has echo effects on your pending rate because if we can better on that first phone call, tell them what to expect when they come in. Then they're better ready to make that decision when they come in either because we've invited all the responsible parties there. We've told them what to expect what to happen. So I've seen are pending rate, you know those that go to pending decreased by 5%. So, you know, it makes a huge difference on how we set this up, even from that very first phone call. It's our first moment of truth.
Richie Guerzon: That's so true. From our side, we do a lot of marketing automation. So you can put them in these buckets in your system. It can kick off a series of email messages, which could contain video if you're going to be very sophisticated and if you combine those two efforts, I could see it having a dramatic effect on these.
Amy Demas: And you can see which dial is working, and which dial is not working on here, and you've got that straight through processing easily calculated as opposed to its something out there on there. Now by the time those observation patients come around really your your acceptance rate on those should be 95 to 99% I mean if they've stuck with you that whole time. And so that feeds your starts, but boy if we can get that straight through processing more effective. It's an amazing thing.
Richie Guerzon: What would you say is a goal- what percentage should we shoot for that you've seen as reasonable?
Amy Demas: I have gotten it to 45 percent. And that’s out of every hundred on there. So when you take that, let's see gauge, you know who tracks how many new patient phone calls in a single doctor practice across all their practices was over 800 hundred new patient calls, so you keep multiplying that and that adds another $300,000 to your bank account. And that's no more money on marketing. You know, those are the patients, those are the people who expressed interest to you that you finally fulfilled all the way.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah, I tell people because we when are doing my pitch to someone about what we're doing, a lot of what the majority of what you're doing is to get people to make the phone call. But a lot of marketing companies, that's where they stop and you know, are we got you got you the phone call? If you will just give you the ball. Like no, you have to convert those people into scheduled appointments. You've already paid thousands of dollars to get them to call you. Why would you neglect all the stuff that's going to help with that conversion from call to a scheduled appointment. So it's great to hear someone talking about that conversion aspect of the business because you've already paid for it. Why are you going to try not to make this more efficient? Because it's just money you're leaving on the table.
Amy Demas: Richie, I liked how you said you saw my website, you know, if you don't have them at hello, you might as well be saying goodbye to them because they already have the interest, they're likely to spend some money somewhere and so with you on here. You know, so one thing on that straight through processing as we have all these different channels of ways they can come in. So we talked about it overall. But you may want to start- we use different procedure codes so that we can separate out Invisalign concierge versus maybe through what was your primary referral source. How are your online ads working? How are your chat working? How your Virtual Consults working? Because this day and age there's going to be many ways people can get on and off the highway to you, and so you need to find which one's the most effective or maybe have it available. But how much are you going to pour into it? It is so important. So I'll turn that off, and if we have something else, I'll share it back on there, but now straight through processing keep that in mind as you're looking at your metrics.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah I hadn't heard someone use that term with it, but it makes a lot of sense. Ready to go. Yeah, I really do like that you're focusing on conversion because to me if you've already paid the money to get them to call you, then maybe it wasn't an online ad maybe it was just because we spent whatever money on our website, and it looks great. So they convert, or that billboard, or just word of mouth. One way the other, you paid for that service pay, for that phone call. So you need to optimize that conversion to a scheduled appointment.
Amy Demas: It is. The other thing you need to think about though is- and those who have voice over IP will have better data points on here- is to think about are you missing calls? Are you are you abandoning calls? You know, our old ways of to plain old telephone and digital or if there are cable companies. We don't get really rich data points, but when I bet when they use service such as yours.
When you use some working services, or you have a voice over IP, you can really get some really fascinating data points in there to find, am I missing calls.
Richie Guerzon: That's a good point. I hadn't thought about using the voice over IP data. We know when someone calls through one of our numbers we’re tracking it’s missed, but that'd be great to actually use.
Amy Demas: Yeah. And here's one thing I found is the call length. So what I find is if people are going to do I need another person at the front desk or not. Where is that tipping point? What I have found is if calls, calls that are 10 minutes or longer. Okay, if they're 10 minutes or longer, once the percent of the inbound calls are more than four percent, or 10 minutes or longer. It's not good. What was usually making them that long is not the new patient call what's usually making that happen is you know, “thank you for calling my place you on hold”? And they're going on hold so that they could take care of somebody at the front desk, the other phone call, or otherwise eventually getting back to them. And here's the thing that's just like mind-blowing makes good is those calls that were ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, minutes long the actual transaction took less than two minutes. Yeah and hold for eight, nine, ten.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah how just every second is hurting your brand.
Amy Demas: Keeping it under 2% is really a safe zone, but you can see that when you start looking at- and that's correlating the data points with me actually listening to recordings and making that connection that I found on there.
Richie Guerzon: How many- if we know how many calls we are getting a month, how many haven't we really given ratio because a hundred calls a month equal this many people in the front desk that is needed.
Amy Demas: No, I have not I have not made that correlation on there. So it's not necessarily a direct correlation on there. You would also need to look at what times the day they're coming. Yeah, you know what one of the offices I was looking at their data points as they were getting this surge at eight o'clock in the morning when they turned on the phones and the surge at 2 because they closed from 1 to 2. Yeah, and these ended up being long calls during that time. Once they finally opened up over lunch and let somebody handle it, it normalized, it level loaded the call volume across there. So looking at data points can really help you and your best data points come off of your voice over IP components or you know marketing services where you have a number tied to a place that is monitoring that, so-
Richie Guerzon: Our calls per hour chart. I love that chart and then sometimes you're combining that way like when were the missed calls? Then you realize yes, I need to stagger lunches because everyone's going at lunch, and the whole team is at Subway at the same time. You know, so those little things are huge.
Amy Demas: They they're very insightful as to what's actually going on.
Richie Guerzon: So walk us through when you're working with a client, what is happening over a six-month period? How are you interacting with them?
Amy Demas: So over that six-month period, I divide it into three phases. So actually when I work with an office, I set it up for nine months. It's very heavy loaded up front. So you're going to see those changes within the first three months. You have phase one, that training- tools in the toolbox- my remote training or on-site training there. Then you have three months of coaching, one-on-one coaching sessions where I will have listened to phone calls one-on-one coaching and I provide a report for each person, to each person and back to the doctor after every coaching sessions. Yeah every single time.
Richie Guerzon: It's totally transparent.
Amy Demas: But yet it's a high trust station with that individual and coaching because we're sitting here eyeball to eyeball on Zoom which we're all familiar with nowadays. And so there's five sessions within that first three months, then after we've gotten these habits put in, take a step back, almost like your hands off the personal with training wheels, not on let's see how you go and I check back in and a maintenance phase. That's phase 3 at month six and month nine. What I find is when I check in at months six, you might see a slight degradation, you know, 85% of what's going to still be there. At month nine usually be back in place where we want it to be. That also lets us go through a stress cycle because stress impacts performance. So you're going to get through a summer. You're going to get through the New Year insurance change. You're going to get through somebody out sick or a maternity leave. So allowing them to go through that stress cycle at that. So you're going to see the changes in the first three months of time.
Richie Guerzon: Are you- so are you listening to the calls to kind of make sure that at every day for every person-
Amy Demas: I listen to about an hour's worth of phone calls before every coaching session for every person. So it's a lot. That's why I get 10,000 calls to listen to a year. But after listening to so many, you learn where the critical points are, and that's why we divided into five sessions because we're talking two or three habits each time, and it's the five critical ones after listening to so many phone calls are where they are. And yet, the thing is people know the right answer, you know, people know the right answer, but they don't realize that they're not doing it. And so then providing the recording clips and playing it back to him, it's like a mirror, and they go, “Oh, you know, I didn't realize,” and so it also helps them to self-correct in some of that way as well.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah hearing a recording. It's just like watching yourself do a presentation. It totally changes the game. Even if you have this call tracking software, it will tell you how much you're talking versus listening in a conversation. And that even that is very eye opening I think because some people just they're talking way more than they shared, or maybe they're not talking enough, and you can just say, “hey, there's a percentage you spoke and here's the percentage they spoke, you need to fix this,” because you should be listening to them, you know.
Amy Demas: The rule of thumb to think about that is never talk on the phone for more than 30 seconds at a time without a break. The reason that's so important is especially on that first phone call. Sometimes we go into this verbal vomit area, and 30 seconds where you start here and then you fade out otherwise.
Richie Guerzon: Yeah. I mean to me people on the front line are just so important for the brand of the practice and that's taken- I think they're taken for granted. I remember one of my first jobs was working at Pella Windows and I had this inside sales guy, and I didn't know what I was doing and you're talking people who get Pella windows are generally at least upper middle classes are like the most expensive window, and it was in Connecticut actually there for a little while. I didn't know how to take a message properly. This is after college. Like they just you just don't learn this stuff. Sometimes you don't learn this stuff. No one taught me.
Amy Demas: It is trial by fire. I know my husband, you know with us being close, he's going into the office a couple times a week and collecting the messages and then having to document in the things. He's like, I can't wait till we get back to work. So the scheduling coordinator can do that. He's like this is tough and I don't even have people coming in and out at the same time. You know, it's tough work, and when you leave those messages Richie, I would- one of the other tips for those because we if we're outbound calling or probably going to end up with lots of leaving of messages. Make sure say your name and phone number and the reason for calling twice. You know, this is Amy at da da da da da da da da. Again, this is Amy with Dr. Demas at da-da-da-da-da-da-da because it's so frustrating when you miss the number the first time, so say it twice. It's a consideration for your caller on there. Yeah, we may be having to do that a lot these days.
Richie Guerzon: How do you feel about- we were just talking to Ruby recently and they have the virtual receptionist. How do you feel about that idea?
Amy Demas: During this time when we can't have somebody and I was going in and listening in on that discussion you had. I can totally see how that is an appropriate component when we can't be in the office so that somebody can reach someone, as opposed to an answering machine on there. So it really fits the bill during this time. When we're back live, I would have that on the off hours, which is what I was feeling is intended for, but there's still that component that they need to contact and connect with you. You know, what is you, what is the face of your practice on there?
Richie Guerzon: Yeah, because your message, it's always going to be more customized to the fact (?). So you're saying it's like kind of the lesser of the two evils that I rather have someone answer the phone then just going to voicemail and off-hours.
Amy Demas: Right, and feeling like it's not going to get to Never Ever Land and not be answered for three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine days. Whatever the case may be.
Richie Guerzon: Oh yeah. That's the worst. Someone calls and then they never hear back from you. So if someone wants to get in touch with you, schedule something, learn more about what you do?
Amy Demas: Oh yeah sure! My website is CommunicateExcellence.com. Just how it's spelled. And the other thing is if you want to learn more. I did publish a book that came out in January. It's under the title with the same name, Communicate Excellence, and it's a guide to front desk communication and you can purchase that off of Amazon. So you'll see a lot of these tips even in there.
Richie Guerzon: Oh, perfect, but we do have a question. So you have someone who respect that people missed appointments that have rescheduled might be upset, do you have advice for dealing with difficult people?
Amy Demas: So if you've called, you've done that expressing appreciation, they're still a little hot under the collar. One of the first things I would have you do is if they're expressing the frustration let them vent. Think about you have an instant pot Richie? You know, the pressure cookers? What is the thing they say when you're venting it? Never put your hand in front of the venting pot because you're gonna get burned. But once it's vented, you can safely put your hand there. And so basically in the conversation where somebody is venting, don't interrupt them let the vent happen, and then you can safely get into the conversation on there. And make sure you express that you heard them and you understand, you know, I hurt, you know, “Mrs. Jones. I understand how that would be frustrating. What we're going to do is and then turn the conversation is you know, what we're going to do is we're going to get you in as soon as possible. So what dr. Smile has is A or B which one works best for you”?
Richie Guerzon: That's great advice. Thank you so much. I did learn a lot, and I'm not the best person in the world on the phone. So it's great to hear how to be better on the phone. Yeah. I really appreciate your time today.
Amy Demas: Oh, my pleasure. I'm so glad I was able to be here today. Thank you for asking.
Richie Guerzon: Yep, and we'll put all the information on a recap if anyone wants to talk to Amy a little bit more. Thanks again, bye-bye.
Amy Demas: Bye-bye.