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Are you Making the Best First Impression? Part One: The Phone

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

It is instinctual for us to make judgments about whether the people we encounter are friends or foes. This instinct was vital to us in prehistoric times, but it persists today. We make judgments about other people in as few as four seconds, and we can finalize those impressions in as few as 30 seconds. And that’s as long as it may take for people to form a judgment about your practice. Are you making those four seconds count?

The two most likely places where potential patients will form a judgment about your practice are the over the phone and on your website. So it’s important that your practice show itself at its best at those contact points. This month, we’ll talk about your phone impression. 

According to Albert Mehrabian, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, tone of voice accounts for about 40% of the impression we create when we meet somebody in person. Over the phone, the percentage doubles to 80%, with only about 20% of the impression created by the informational content of the conversation. Obviously, what we say is less important than how we say it. The most important aspect of any conversation we have with potential or current patients, then is to be cheerful and welcoming.

Some common-sense advice can help create the best first impression. Frankly, it’s the sort of thing your mom might tell you:

  • Smile. Callers can’t see you smile, but believe it or not, they can hear it. When you smile while talking, you sound more cheerful and energetic, and therefore more welcoming.

  • Sit up straight.  Good posture is always a good idea. When you’re speaking, sitting up straight gets more air into the diaphragm, making your voice sound stronger and more confident.

  • Speak properly.  Enunciating clearly helps create the impression of competence and professionalism.  The same goes for using proper English; for example, “going to” instead of  “gonna.” And no matter how often you say the same thing over the phone, it should sound fresh every time. If the caller hears “Thank you for calling XYZ Eyecare my name is Bob how can I help you?” they’ll feel like you’re just going through the motions. As Mom used to say when making you apologize for something, “say it like you mean it.”

As I said, this is nothing more than common sense. But it all counts toward that favorable impression that we only have four seconds to make, and it may be the most important four seconds of the patient’s experience with the practice. That isn’t really fair, but it’s reality. Mom knew a thing or two, didn’t she?


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