The Importance of the First Phone Call

Posted by Diane McCutcheon on October 9, 2019
Diane McCutcheon
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During our Administrative Power Center (APC) training sessions with rehab private practice owners and their front desk staff I always ask, “How do you answer the phone?”

Surprisingly, I have never had an entire staff, in one or multiple sites, all say the same thing. ‘Hello, thank you for calling APC Physical Therapy how can I help you?’ ; or ‘APC can I help you?’ ; how about – ‘APC Physical Therapy hold please.’; or ‘Hi, APC Physical Therapy, we are happy you called, this is Mature male patient looking at female receptionist using landline phone and computer at reception in dentists clinicDiane, how can I help you today?’; or how about, ‘APC Physical Therapy, if you want to schedule an appointment press 1, if you want to speak to a therapist press 2, if you want to discuss your bill press 3…’

Short, long, name, no name or a recording – what do you want every caller to hear every time they call your office? 

Bottom line – First impressions matter, you never get a second chance at a first impression. No matter who answers the phone, if it is the caller’s first time, the voice and tone they hear will become their first conscious thought of the business. What raises the level of professionalism in a practice is making sure everyone answers the phone exactly the same way. Make a corporate decision on answering the phone - say it, mean it and make sure everyone follows the same dialogue – no if’s, and's, or buts.

I look at the “first phone call” as the beginning of a patient’s journey and every call after that part of their experience. Regardless of whether or not you have a million things going on, when the phone is answered, the person on the other end should feel like you have been sitting around waiting for their call and are ready to help them with their questions or whatever their needs are.

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At an extremely busy time, wait for the caller to tell you what they are calling about and if you absolutely cannot help them at that moment (new patient intake can take 10 to 20 minutes) ask them if it would be alright for you to take their phone number so you can get back to them in 15 minutes or whatever time frame is going to work for you but then do it. I cannot think of a better way to get off on the wrong foot with a patient than to tell them you will call them back in 15 minutes but do not call for hours, if at all. Many patients have been lost because of this.

Answering the phone is a skill to be mastered. It is not as easy as you might think. Sometimes the front desk could use 3 arms, but no matter what is going on, do not forget how important it is to the company culture to start every phone call off with a pleasant hello.

Is your front desk staff making a positive first impression for your patients? If not, our Administrative Power Center training can help establish a front office staff that you can rely on to manage their daily responsibilities while providing an exceptional patient experience. For more information, call us at 508-422-0233 or email us at

Topics: Front Desk

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