You text, email, Facebook, Instagram, and Tweet. These are now standard forms of communication and there are countless articles in recent years detailing how to use these outlets for your business. This is all well and good but it’s leaving out one big and very important mode of communication. The telephone. For all too many businesses, the customer experience over the phone has taken a back seat, or no seat at all, doing damage to patient/pharmacy relationships before the relationship even truly begins.
Today, not everyone seems to be taught the basics of proper phone etiquette. It’s hit or miss as to whether you’ll receive a cheery “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?” or a sullen “Hello” when making a call to a business today. Sure, it’s easy to forget because the phone is overshadowed by the myriad of other communication methods available today, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of proper phone conduct. Here are a few things that should be a part of every phone conversation in your pharmacy.
A standard cheerful greeting: If you call the main line at Retail Management Solutions, you’ll likely hear something very close to “Thank you for calling Retail Management Solutions. This is Lori, (or Brooke, Rebecca, Laurie, or Robin), how can I help you today?” You’ll notice there are a few key components to this greeting that should be a part of every businesses greeting. We include the businesses name, so customers know they’ve called the right place, and we make sure that customers know the name of the person they are speaking with. We also open the doors to the conversation by asking how we can help our callers. If you’ve ever called a business and gotten a “Hello” or a flat “ABC Systems” you’ll know that it can be off-putting. Before they’re even in the door, customers could potentially feel like they are being bothersome or that your pharmacy staff is lazy. Or worse, they won’t even think they called the right place because your staff didn’t announce the business name upon picking up the phone. Even if your IVR system has a standard greeting, making sure your staff are warm, friendly, and informative, when they answer the phone is still important. Although I sit down the hall from our admin staff and I hear our phone greeting dozens of times each day, it never gets old because I can hear through those greetings that our admin staff is warm, friendly and genuinely eager to help.
Use the customer’s name:
We will always respond to our name being used. It’s the most important word in our vocabulary. And no, that doesn’t make us self-absorbed. We’re just programmed from the time we are babies to respond to our names, so when someone uses it, we automatically pay better attention. When a customer calls, train staff to ask the customer’s name and use it during that conversation. It will not only personalize the interaction, but allow the customer to better absorb the information given during the call.
Set expectations for hold times:
We know that pharmacies are often crazy busy. The ringing phone can just be one more stressor to an already overwhelmed staff. As such, staff may often have to put customers on hold to either research a question, help a customer at the register, or have someone else pick up the phone. Politely asking a customer to hold is fine. Just make sure to set expectations. “I apologize but I need to look something up in regards to your question. I’ll be back in about 5 minutes” is much better than a curt “hold please” and a 5 minute wait the customer wasn’t expecting. If it’s going to be longer than expected, make sure to take a second to pick up the phone and let the customer know you are working on their request. Otherwise, you’ll risk them thinking they were forgotten and hanging up.
Make sure the customer doesn’t have to explain themselves twice:
We’ve all been in this situation more than once. We call a business, explain our needs, and are promptly put on hold so we can speak to someone who can better help us. Seems logical, but yet something gets extremely lost during this transition. Person #1 doesn’t tell Person #2 what the call is regarding and you have to start all over again. It’s not only frustrating to the customer, but a waste of valuable time on both sides. A little bit of communication goes a long way towards keeping your customers happy, particularly if they are ill.
Because so much of our interaction with pharmacies is over the phone, we know just how important it is not to compromise the level of service we provide over the phone. We know that even these seemingly small things can make a huge difference. Give them a try for yourself.