Headsets reduce the pain of calling

Last month, we discussed how voice mail plays a vital role in making the practice more efficient, facilitates communication throughout the office and frees up staff to spend more time caring for patients. The second step in SITEM (Seltzer Institute Telephony Excellence Model) takes the headache out of telephone work by using headsets.

Steven M. Seltzer, MBA

Last month, we discussed how voice mail plays a vital role in making the practice more efficient, facilitates communication throughout the office and frees up staff to spend more time caring for patients. The second step in SITEM (Seltzer Institute Telephony Excellence Model) takes the headache out of telephone work by using headsets.

The conventional telephone handset is an ergonomic disaster waiting for an accident to hap-

pen. Front desk people have told me that when they started using headsets, they stopped going to the chiropractor. One practice had a physical therapist mandate the use of headsets to prevent work-related injuries!

Telephone headsets are more comfortable to wear and make people more efficient. The best headsets, made by Plantronics, are available in a variety of styles ranging from traditional headbands to slim-line models that rest on your ear. While the initial investment may seem high at $175, a headset will pay for itself in a few weeks. Don`t bother with the less expensive models. They break easily, are uncomfortable and have inferior sound quality.

Plantronics headsets quickly disconnect so you won`t feel "chained" to the telephone. The universal modular adapter works with any telephone and has a button that toggles between the headset and handset, allowing you to use either device.

A major benefit is hands-free, neck-free and shoulder-free operation, which means you can easily talk and type on the computer simultaneously. Consider the "dead time" during the process of confirming appointments. Most practices leave messages on answering machines more than 50 percent of the time. There is approximately 45 seconds of "dead time" as you listen to the phone ringing and wait for the answering machine`s outgoing message to finish. When you wear a headset, you can post payments, print letters or do other meaningful work on the computer during this dead time. If you confirm 25 patients a day, this frees up nearly 20 minutes of productive time or 60 hours a year to improve the practice. This analysis assumes you know how to type at least 40 words per minute. Maybe it`s time to take a typing course!

The four major obstacles, as well as their solutions, to using headsets at the front desk are:

- The headset will ruin my hairdo. The "over the ear" bandless headsets eliminate bad hair days.

- I will be chained to the telephone. The quick disconnect takes a small amount of adjustment and allows you to roam at will.

- Other people will talk to me while I am talking with the headset. Others will talk to you while you are on the phone because you are looking at them. For example, the polite way to greet a patient when you are on the phone is to look at the patient and smile. When wearing a headset, look at the patient, smile, and immediately point to the headset with one finger while raising your index finger to ask the patient to wait a moment. Then immediately break eye contact. The patient will feel acknowledged and stop talking.

You may also have team members who approach you from behind and begin talking if nobody else is around. To communicate that you are on the phone, purchase a ObusyO box ($10) from Hello Direct [(800) hi-hello]. This nifty little black box has a backlit sign that says ObusyO with a little red light on top. The sign and the light are illuminated when you lift a small lever attached to the telephone handset that takes the phone Ooff hookO whenever you are talking. You can put the busy box on top of the counter or on top of a computer monitor.

- I can?t hear because the headset amplifies the ambient noise. If there is a lot of ambient noise in the office, which is common in larger practices, pediatric or orthodontic practices, purchase a noise-canceling headset. Ambient noise is filtered out so you can hear others and they can hear you better.

Are you ready for cordless headsets? We don?t recommend them yet because of the high cost, logistical problems and quality issues. If you are determined, Hello Direct sells cordless headsets for around $400. They have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

To determine which headset is right for you, look in the Yellow Pages under telephone systems and arrange for an in-office demonstration. Or, you may prefer to call Ahern Communications at (617) 471-1100 and order a headset with a 10-day return privilege. If you don?t like the headset for any reason, return it for a full refund.

I have removed all the barriers to trying a headset in your office. It is more comfortable, efficient and risk-free. You know how to resolve the four main problems associated with headsets. Pick up the phone right now and get a headset in your office, if you can?t stand the pain of cradling that phone between your head and shoulder.

Steven Seltzer is the president of Seltzer Institute and publisher of DDRT (Dentists` Desktop Reference to Technology). The Seltzer Institute offers techno-marketing consulting services. He can be contacted at (800) 229-8967, ext 103. E-mail: sseltzer@hitecdentist.com. Internet: www.hitecdentist.com.

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