Telephone Manners Still Matter

First impressions are important and that first touch-point patients often have with your hospital can be via telephone. Having said that, giving a second look at how your team members are answering the phone can be a critical element in patient and visitor satisfaction.

In an era where much attention is given to Internet marketing, a lot of focus has been lost on some of the traditional, core vehicles of communication. Your team’s telephone manners are a critical reflection of your hospital and brand.

Since your call volume is likely to be higher than the number of patients walking in through the emergency department, I encourage you to make reviewing telephone manners with your team a priority.

There are four key points to cover when discussing the matter with your staff. From answering calls to respecting privacy, each of these elements can “make or break” the call.

Answer the call promptly.

Imagine you were calling a business for whatever reason. One of the things you might find annoying is having the phone ring endlessly until someone finally answers. Not a great start to your call.

As a general rule of thumb, no matter what line of work you’re in, try to answer the call within the first two rings. Even if it’s to ask the caller to please hold, letting them know that “you’re there” can make a difference.


Just as you would smile to greet a person walking into your hospital, smiling while on a call can also set the tone. Remember to smile when greeting the caller and never sound as if they are inconveniencing you.

Listen closely to the caller’s request.

When I’ve sat down with team members in a hospital, one of the things that I’ve often discovered is the caller is not always listened to closely. Sometimes they are even cut off because we “think” we know what is going to be asked.

Always remember to listen very closely to the caller and what is being asked. Repeat back your understanding of their request if necessary. Doing so will ensure you understand their need/question, and help cut down call time, and improve the overall communication process.

Ask before you put people on hold.

Sometimes you may need to put a caller on hold to track down another team member or find an answer to their request. Whatever the reason might be, if you need to put a caller on hold, kindly ask if you can do so.

Sometimes the caller might not have time to hold. If necessary, take their information and call them back as soon as you can answer their question or when it’s more convenient for the caller.

When we think of customer service in a hospital, it’s more than how we present ourselves to patients and visitors in person. It’s important that we put our “best foot forward” while answering the telephone as well.

Listen in on how your team is answering the line or even try “secret shopping” yourself to see how you’re treated. In a time when healthcare competition is fierce, don’t let something as basic as a telephone call ruin your hospital’s image.