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[00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach. 

This podcast is brought to you by PAR.

To determine if someone is feigning a psychiatric illness, trust the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test or M-FAST. This 25-item screening interview helps you assess for malingering. Learn more at parinc.com\mfast.

In my individual and group consulting, one thing that comes up all the time is, how do I stop answering the phones.

Giving up the phones is one of the biggest hurdles for practice owners, with good reason. The person who answers the phone is the face of your practice. Client [00:01:00] conversion rests largely with that person. A lot of practice owners say, “Nobody can do it like I do it.” Does that sound familiar? I was there. I get it. Today I’m going to give you some practical tips on how to transition phones to an admin assistant.

If you are interested in group or individual consulting, you can reach out for a pre-consulting call. You can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. Groups are continually enrolling typically in March and July and November. Individually, I take about 3 to 4 individual consulting clients per quarter. I think right now I have spots open for the 3rd quarter of 2023, so feel free to reach [00:02:00] out if you’d like some coaching in your practice. I would love to work with you.

All right. Let’s talk about transitioning those phones.

Let’s be honest, y’all. Giving up the phones is all about trust, which is all about fear. Can you trust this person to do the job like you would? Now, an aside is that implicit in that question is the idea that you’re doing it the best it could be done by anyone, by the way. I don’t know that that’s always true, but I’ll leave that for now. But then the follow-up question is, if this person doesn’t do a good job, what will that mean for you, for your practice, for your family’s livelihood? [00:03:00] There’s a lot resting on trusting someone to answer the phones, but I am not here to solve your trust problems.

Trust me. I know that that is a years-long process that will take quite a bit. It took me a long time to get over this hump. But whenever someone asks, what would you have done differently when you started your practice? The first thing I always say is I would’ve given up the phones quicker. 

So I’m going to talk with you today about the idea that someone else can do this job just as well as you can, maybe better, with the proper training. There’s no push to act, of course, but you could consider it.

Let’s assume that you’re ready to consider. You’re in pre-contemplation. Maybe you’re even in contemplation. Maybe you’re ready to act. 00:04:00] Each of these steps, especially the first few, are no strings attached. You don’t have to do anything beyond these steps. You don’t have to hire someone, you don’t have to let them take it over, but you’ll be ready when you are at that point where you want to hire.

So here’s what we do. Start by recording yourself doing your intake calls.

Now, you can do this in two different ways. There are options to record the actual call, especially if you’re using VOIP software like Google Voice or something like that. You do need to inform the caller that it’s being recorded, but that’s pretty typical these days for a lot of phone calls to businesses.

But if not, you can just get another phone or any kind of recording device, an iPad would work, [00:05:00] and just record your side of the conversation. My guess is that you’ll be able to piece together what your potential client is saying just from hearing your side of the conversation if you need to. 

I want you to record yourself doing your intake calls. I would do this for 5 to 10 intake calls or however many it takes to get a representative sample of your typical callers and questions.

The next thing that you’re going to do is transcribe your intake calls word for word. If you don’t want to do it, this is a great task for a freelancer like from Fiverr or something like that. If you are in a place where you’ve hired an admin, this is a great task for that newly hired admin to do. So, you want to transcribe the intake calls word for word into some kind of document. We use Google Docs. Some kind of shareable document would be great.

[00:06:00] Next, you’re going to go through these transcriptions and distill the important components into a script. I am not going to go into detail on scripts because I did a previous episode on that that I linked in the show notes, but a script is the bedrock of admin training to have someone answer the phone. And I would encourage you, again, to transcribe these calls as closely as possible to what you actually say, because then your script is going to reflect word for word what you say.

And the reason that’s important is because this is how you capture those elements that make you, you, and ironically, you are going to transfer them to someone else. But these are the elements that you say to close the sale. The little nuances, the little inflections, [00:07:00] the reflections, the support, the phrases that you use. We all have these things that we probably don’t have a lot of awareness of or really know about consciously. We just say them because we say them. And so writing a script and making it as close to word for word is going to be the key to capturing some of those little nuances that help convert your clients.

As you develop the script, it makes sense to include a what-if section or an FAQ section to capture some of those random questions that people ask that don’t always fit into the main script. And that way if people do ask these questions, your admin can jump to that section and have an answer there.

I would also encourage you to include a [00:08:00] section where you’re very clear about what kind of work you do not do. We found that to be exceptionally helpful.

Let’s take a break to hear from our featured partner.

Determining if a person is feigning psychiatric illness is critical in certain evaluations. It’s essential to have an instrument that you can trust and provides fast and reliable results. The Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test or M-FAST is a 25-item screening interview for adults that helps you assess the likelihood that an individual is malingering. Learn more at parinc.com\mfast.

All right, let’s get back to the podcast.

Now, if you’ve gotten to the point where you have hired an admin or you’re ready to hire an admin, my recommendation is that you do a phone interview with that person first before you meet them before you see them over Zoom and cloud your judgment by visuals. I would encourage you to do a phone interview first to get a sense of [00:09:00] this person on the phone because that is their job. And if they are not easy to talk to, if there’s awkward silences, if their voice doesn’t sound like what you want it to sound like, they’re probably not a good candidate to be your admin.

Once you do find someone, you can start training them by having them read over the script, but you really want them to shadow you for a few days. So you can have your admin sit there, put the call on speaker phone and have them listen to the way that you navigate these calls. We usually do it for two days. That’s enough time to get plenty of experience with intake calls.

And when they’re ready, and I always push for sooner than later just because people typically learn best by doing, when they’re ready, you shadow [00:10:00] them for two days. So you turn it around, put the phone on speaker, you listen to them navigate those conversations. They have the script in front of them, and they work through the script.

Now, during this 4-day training period, you’re both going to be tweaking the script until you’ve really got it dialed in. You’re going to gather more info during this period and you can update the script appropriately.

As you’re doing this, do not forget the manners and the nuances. So make sure that your admin is on the phone greeting people graciously. Little things like instead of saying, I don’t know, say, let me find out, or I can get that answer for you; always asking to take a message if you’re not available instead of having you call them back; and then always ending on a positive or hopeful note. These are basic phone etiquette [00:11:00] sort of things. 

Now, as you’re transitioning to the admin, I found it helpful for a lot of folks to develop a bit of a safety net. So if the caller wants to talk to a clinician, this is like the nuclear option, the admin person can’t convert the client but the client is interested, we do offer a complimentary 30-minute consult with a psychologist if the client wants to talk to a clinician. The conversion rate on these is 99.99%, so I don’t consider them a waste of time because they’re going to convert really well.

Other little tips. You want your admin to bookmark the script on their browser so it’s easy to pull up during calls. You don’t want them searching at any point for the script. And I apologize if you can hear my dog sighing in the background. She’s getting a good nap.[00:12:00] Bookmark the script so it’s easy to pull up.

One strategy that some practices use that I am totally okay with is to have confederates call your admin over the next two weeks and give you feedback about their demeanor and the way they handle the calls. So this might be your partner, your spouse, your kids if they’re old enough, it could be your relatives, sister, whatever. So you can have Confederates call, pretend to be a client, go through the process, and then give you feedback on your admin. That can also be helpful to get feedback about your general script and process. It doesn’t have to be related just to the admin and their skill.

Two final tips. Deliver feedback quickly and directly if the admin is not doing what you want them to do on the phone. That’s just a general principle of delivering feedback or [00:13:00] feed-forward as my friend Niki Ramirez says, from HR Answers. Deliver the feed-forward quickly and directly so they can know exactly what they need to be doing differently and change that as soon as possible.

And the last thing is hire slow and fire quickly if it is not going well. Again, just another HR principle. If someone is not taking feedback and they’re not a good fit on the phones, it’s okay to say no. You may even put in place a 60-day trial period before they are fully employed.

Giving up the phones is tough. There’s a lot of trust involved. I hope that some of these strategies will help at least give a structure to starting to gain some trust in this individual. And over time, having [00:14:00] an admin who you trust who can really answer the phone and do a good job is one of the most valuable things that you’ll have in your practice.

I will throw y’all a bone though. If there’s anybody who, well, if there’s anybody, what am I saying? For those of you who don’t want to give up the phones yet, totally okay, what I would recommend is at least implement some kind of calendar or scheduling software that allows people to book screening calls with you at set times so that you’re not constantly worrying about calling people back or how long the phone calls are going to go.

You can use any number of things. If you use IntakeQ as your EHR, you can set it up in IntakeQ. You can set it up in TherapyNotes. You can use something like Acuity or Calendly. There are all sorts of options.

With that said, I hope you may have moved a little further in your contemplation[00:15:00] in your stages of change, and think about giving this a shot.

Alright, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes, so make sure to check those out.

If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist Mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check [00:16:00] out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com /consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you.

Thanks so much.

The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or [00:17:00] guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with an expertise that fits your needs. 

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