Number Four: Ask the right questions at the right time in the right way

Now that you’ve comfortable establishing rapport, conveying empathy and exuding enthusiasm, it’s time to place yourself firmly and squarely in control by asking the right questions in the right way at the right time.

In other words, knowing what to ask is only half the recipe for success: the other half is knowing when to ask.

There’s no doubt about it. Questioning is an art. The best anyone can do to help another master this skill is present some basic guidelines.  The rest is up to the person whose job it is to convert the caller into a solid patient appointment.  The good news is that to become a good questioner, one need to become an excellent listener because only by listening can you learn what needs to be asked.  By listening, your questions are simply little taps and tugs on the organism that is the conversation in the direction you want it to go.  That direction, by the way, is and should be getting the prospective patient to come to the conclusion for him/herself that it is in their own best interest to visit your practice.  If you, on any more than a very occasional basis, do not yourself believe this is the case, you need to closely examine the reason(s) for this.

Silence IS Golden
Sometimes, people become uncomfortable when the other person is not talking. It’s almost as though the conversation is a fire that needs to constantly be stoked by fanning it.  Carrying the fire analogy a bit further: too much stoking, too much fuel, too much of anything can quickly extinguish a flame, and it’s the same with a conversation.  Here’s  where the art of the call comes in.  It’s essential to ‘read’ the person early in the call to determine if they require time to process information. If they do, then expect a lot of silence, and be comfortable with it.  The caller will appreciate the ‘space’ you are giving them.

Open (And Closed) For Business
There are two general types of questions.  Closed-ended questions involve a simple, usually one word answer.  Examples include:

Are you ready to make an appointment?
Do you know how to find our office?
Who may we thank for referring you to us?
Does it help your aunt that our office is wheel chair accessible?

Open-ended questions invite the person being asked the question to elaborate. It’s an excellent way to learn what you need to know to help the caller, for example, by providing them with the options that are most likely to satisfy their want or need.  Examples include:

Why did you decide to call us today?
Are you familiar with the Cerec system?
How would “xxx procedure” help you with that?
Is there anything else I answer for you?

A final point worthy of restatement is that knowing what to ask is no more important than knowing when to ask it.  In general, avoid the temptation to qualify before selling the caller.  Questions about insurance, forms completion, ability to pay and the like must come only after the patient has been presented with all the wonderful reasons for wanting to become a part of your happy and growing family of patients.  Only in this way do you avoid the  self fulfilling prophesy of turning a perfectly good patient into a ‘price shopper’ ‘second opinion seeker’ ‘out of network insurance holder’ and other terms which, while accurate on paper, do not automatically mean this patient is not a ‘fit’ for your practice.

If you disagree, would you mind telling me why???


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