Is Your Phone Bleeding Your Dental Practice?

Your office phone is your connection to the lifeblood of your practice – new dental patients. The slightest kink in that connection can starve you of the new patients you need to grow and succeed.

That “slightest kink” isn’t so much technical glitches with the phone line or system, although those are annoying. Rather, the most frequent kinks are in how each new prospect is greeted and served during that all-important first call.

SmartBox works with over 550 dentists on three continents, and almost without exception, those dentists think that their staff do a fine job with new patient calls.

A recent analysis of all the calls to SmartBox’s Elite dentists discovered that, on average, 54-77 calls a month during business hours weren’t answered. That includes hangups while on hold, the phone not answered at all, or callers who were rolled to voice mail.

That’s not a fine job in anyone’s book.

No practice will convert 100% of new patient callers to scheduled appointments. But conversions should, at a minimum, be upward of 60%. Ideally, you want to be in 70-80% range. If that sounds impossible, you might want to take a look at the protocols your staff uses for new patient calls.

First, how many calls to your practice during business hours go unanswered?

You might think that the answer is none, or only a very few. If you’re staffed with enough dedicated phone answerers, that may be true. For most practices, though, the people who answer the phone do at least double duty – greeting patients, double-checking insurance, and notifying the clinical staff that the patient has arrived at a minimum. If the patient has questions or concerns, the amount of staff time required goes up considerably.

A double-duty staff member might well answer the phone when it rings, and the promptly put that caller on hold for any from 15 seconds to several minutes. Will that new prospect still be there when staff get back to him or her? If that caller’s no longer on the line, that should count as an unanswered phone call during business hours because that’s a missed opportunity to put a new patient in the chair.

If you call a company for the first time, spend too long on hold, and hang up out of frustration, how likely are you to call back?

Second, what’s your conversion rate?

Out of the calls that are answered, how many new patients are actually appointed? You may be able to answer that question with some certainty if you have tracking mechanism in place. Most attempts to track conversion rates, though, rely on the staff to self-report. Poor performers will be motivated to over-report their numbers.

Consider the 60% conversion rate mentioned before. If your practice is similar to SmartBox’s Elite clients, you’re losing 32-46 new patients a month. Multiply that by your average case value and you’ll be dismayed by the money you’re not getting.

The only way to accurately track your monthly new patient calls and your conversion rate is with a phone tracking system. SmartBox offers its dentists our exclusive Zetetics® phone tracking system and includes review of every phone call coming into the practice every month.

If you’re not sure you’re getting all the new patients you could, visit to learn more.