With limited access to live events and networking restricted to the land of the virtual, now is the perfect time to be looking at those you can reach out to, who have already experienced your services.
Here's why recalls are such a vital yet often overlooked piece of the operational system. The reality is this; new patients will not grow you a patient base. Shocking as this may seem it's true and it’s where most people focus their efforts. In my experience of supporting clinics, the one that gets the most attention is the day one to day three processes and there are loads of gurus promoting how to get an unlimited steam of new patients. Real sustainability however comes from adding in new clients which then stay to book multiple appointments and refer in their friends and family. Key to this is the recall system. Yet recalls have a bad reputation. It is often one of those tasks that is only done "if we have time" and is certainly seen as one of the most dreaded in the office.
The top reasons I hear for not making recalls
I don’t want to bother people / it might be an inconvenient time to call
I don't want to appear pushy / salesy
They have my contact details and would call if they needed me
All of these reasons are justifiable, however they are not known facts - they are simply in our head. We are actually making up stories about what people might think of us. It’s time to stop. In reality, the biggest reason for not making recalls is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of being disliked....the list goes on. When we think about making recalls we make it about us and what we might think, but it's not about you!
I simply LOVE recalls. It's a chance to reconnect and to provide an exceptional level of customer care. It should be our aim to ensure that the patient receives the support they need to follow the recommended and agreed care plan by the practitioner. It's our mission to assist them in achieving the best results from their care. Now you may note, this intention is very different to making calls to simply ‘get them back in’ and there are of course tips that will make the experience a lot more pleasurable. Typically recalls are made for patients who have missed or cancelled an appointment, someone who hasn't been in for their scheduled appointment, someone who was going to call you or someone with no future appointment. This differs from a reactivation, these are the files that have not been in for a significant period of time and we will cover that another time.
Know who you are calling
This means actually opening their file and refreshing yourself with the person, not just picking up the phone and dialing a number from a list. Of course there should be notes on the file, and I’m not talking about the clinical and the practical. Look for what was happening in their lives. Were they experiencing a specific situation that might have caused them to forget to call? You might remember all this information when they are standing in front of you but I promise you, when when you haven't seen them for six months it becomes much harder to remember the personal details. Most practice software now has the option to record these little snippets so there is no worrying about forgetting the name of the new baby or that they were trying to buy a house! These notes also make it possible for any team member to reach out. This also works the same when we have made calls, even if you don’t leave a message, you should note the contact attempt. Then if a patient calls back as they saw the missed call you will know who called and why, secondly it allows you to track contact attempts and adjust your messaging or method.
Call to connect
This is just the best for motivation. Most people make the mistake of trying to book an appointment, when you can just connect. Please use the patient’s name; no-one likes a generic "Hi, I'm calling from ABC Practice" kind of introduction! Be friendly, be topical, be curious and find out how they are.
I also recommend you don’t make more than 5 calls before you shake it off, yep I mean physically stand up or, if you're standing already then move in any way you like. Tonality is affected by repetition and the more calls you make the more mundane you will sound. Keep messages light and remember to that person it’s the first call you have made (it is the first call to them). 5 is also my magic number for recalls, it fits into a busy shift, and when you have made 5 you can always make another 5 and another 5. It’s much easier than tackling a long list. If you are finding yourself with long lists each week then please message me and let’s put that fire out. Recall lists are a great way to assess compliance and practice effectiveness.
Don’t take it personally
Firstly before making the call have the mindset and assumption that the client will be rebooking, they do need you and are delighted you called. Try to avoid the phase “would you like to”, instead, after you have connected simply invite them to arrange the appointment.
There will however be occasions when there are reasons people don’t want to rebook, that's just a fact. Perhaps they were embarrassed they had left it for so long, they have tried somewhere or something else, they forgot and feel bad or maybe actually they don't feel right for your practice. It really doesn't matter. If the patient feels those things then you're not going to change their mind. You're calling to let them know that the door is always open; that if the time isn't right now do you have permission to call in a month or so; to thank them for any feedback as it really a helpful way for you to review your systems. Remember to make the notes and then make the next call! While you are building up the evidence why you don't like recalling someone out there needs you to reach out as they have been too busy looking after everyone else to look after themselves. You have to call until you find the person who wasn't sure if they could come back so soon or the person that simply needs to know someone is thinking about them.
Practically, in our office we would run a no future appointment report for the previous two week time period, on a weekly basis. That way if someone hasn’t yet made their appointment they will appear on the next report and can be called again the following week. Dont assume that people will receive your message at an appropriate time to respond or that they will remember to call you back. While we don’t want to hound people, it would be acceptable to make around three calls and where possible leave messages. I would always let people know if you are not planning on calling them again that way they know it’s up to them to respond now. Again make sure to record all contact attempts and if you left a message.
Remember this is a support call and each call needs to be made with love, we may never know the circumstances which could be occurring at the other end and the impact we can make by simply reaching out and checking in.