Is Your Dental Practice Playing Telephone Roulette?

Even in this age of mobile Internet, most dental appointments are still made over the phone. Your staff’s phone skills are the vital link between filling appointment slots and having too many empty chairs.

Your practice can spend a lot of money marketing to attract new dental patients. That money is wasted if your staff fails to convert a high percentage of new patient calls to paying patients.

Booking appointments would seem to be a no-brainer, but there are any number of ways that the process can go wrong. If your staff doesn’t have effective phone conversion skills, you could be playing telephone roulette – missing five appointments and booking one.

Here are the 10 essentials of effective new patient phone conversion.

  1. Answer promptly

If your phone rings too many times, patients who are already leery of seeing a dentist will hang up. Don’t give them a reason.

  1. Identify the practice and the staff member in the greeting

Believe it or not, it’s possible to forget which practice you called between looking up the number and reaching speaking with a staff member. This is particularly true if the caller is older, has many distractions, or has researched multiple practices.

  1. Use a warm, cheerful, empathetic tone.

Again, don’t give patients any reason to dislike your practice. Even when stressed, the staff member who answers must make the caller feel welcomed.

  1. Take all the time needed.

Yes, patients ramble. Yes, they cover the same ground several times. A staff member who betrays impatience or frustration runs the risk of losing that patient.

  1. Ask clarifying questions.

It’s frustrating for everyone to spend time explaining a problem, only to discover at the end that the staff member at the other end hasn’t understood. Clarify as you go.

  1. Avoid putting a new patient on hold whenever possible.

There are times when the phone is ringing off the hook. Staffing should be adequate to meet the demand. Long hold times will drive impatient or nervous patients away.

  1. 8. Offer an immediate call-back if necessary

Patients sometimes have concerns that can’t be addressed without research. A call-back is preferable to a lengthy on-hold session.

  1. Offer solutions.

First-time patients have concerns about their dental health, AND about a number of other things: insurance, co-pays, appointment availability, pain, and post-treatment complications. While a staff member may not be able to specifically address all patient concern, she or he should offer reassurance that the practice has dealt with those concerns many times and that they’re best addressed in person.

  1. Book the appointment and verify twice.

It takes more time but avoids no-shows and having patients appear at the wrong time. Once the appointment is booked, repeat the time, date, and dentist’s name. At the end of the call, confirm that you’ll see the patient at their specific day and time.

  1. Offer a confirmation email, text message, or postcard.

This will vary by practice, but post-phone call reminders are very helpful to busy patients, and to you in your quest to fill those chairs.