Years ago, one of my favourite TV programmes was Open All Hours. The stars of the show were Ronnie Barker, who played the tight-fisted shopkeeper and his lackey/delivery boy, played by David Jason. The programme was mainly played out in his shop, well known for the amount of hours his shop was open.
I was reminded of this programme this week while I was delivering a programme in my training centre for a practice over two days. After the first day, a Tuesday, they wanted to have a team night out and asked me for a recommendation for somewhere to eat. I suggested my local pub, which always serves good food and has a great atmosphere. I called to make a reservation, only to find that the call went straight to answer machine, which did not even have its own personalised message. So I contacted another pub, equally as good, except this time I got straight through and so I immediately made a reservation for 15 people. My local pub missed out on a booking of 15 on a Tuesday night, which is probably one of the slowest nights of the week, because they did not answer the telephone. Pretty basic stuff, wouldn’t you say?
I am still surprised by the amount of times I call dental practices at lunchtime to be met by an answer machine. If you have read my articles over the years, then you will know how I find this bizarre, as you could potentially be missing out on new clients. This is the only time of day when many people can undertake their personal business.
However, I do know of a few practices who also answer their telephones after work hours. The team adopt a rota system so the practice telephone number is connected to a mobile telephone. They are finding that they receive calls from new clients making enquiries about their services. They will put on their website that they are open for telephone calls after work hours and guess what happens – they get them. If you think about it, most people do their internet surfing between 8.00pm and 10.00pm. If you state on your website that you are open, you will receive calls and potential new opportunities.
I also know of practices that will have their telephone answered by a 24-hour answer service. They will answer your calls on your behalf, take a message, and will text and email you the message for you to deal with at your leisure. Although it is not ideal, at least it is a person answering the telephone and not a machine. When you telephone anyone and they don’t answer, do you leave a message? I very rarely do. If you think about it, every new patient that stays with you for 10 years, without spending any money on treatment, is potentially worth around £3,000 to the practice. This does not include any introductions to friends or relatives.
A little imagination
Although I am not preaching that you should open all hours, you need to be aware that, with a little imagination, you can still operate flexibly and pick up new clients after work hours. That’s got to be good business.
This year’s Practice Plan Workshop Tour began on 4 September in Manchester, visiting 11 cities in all. If you want help improving team communication, increasing treatment plan acceptance and creating more opportunities between practice and patient, book by visiting www.bodhub.co.uk/events or call the Events team on 0845 003 0048.