Transitioning Dental Patient Phone Calls into Scheduled Appointments

As dental marketing consultants, we know the acute importance of answering the phones in a dental office. You can invest thousands of dollars in marketing, and your efforts may lead many potential patients to call your office. Though you, the dentist, don’t answer your phones, the successful transition of potential patients to scheduled patients relies on how well you train your front office team. Unfortunately, many dentists do not know how to educate their administrative staff in this vital skill.

We’ve identified three common scenarios that turn new patients away, before they book an appointment. Steer clear of these traps, and you’ll see your new patient numbers grow.

Recordings & Message Centers

Do you like recordings? Do you like call centers? Of course not. Neither do your prospective patients. Big companies can get away with recordings and message centers; small businesses cannot, and your dental office is a small business. Studies show that patients place great trust in their dentists. Think about the people in your life whom you trust. Do they answer their phone when you call? Nine times out of ten, the answer is probably yes. Why? Because they value the trust and respect your friendship warrants.

When I interview dentists, I always ask what sets them apart from their peers. Most dentists tell me that the personal relationship they establish with their patients is different, better, more sincere than that of other dentists. If this is true of your dental office, then don’t send your patients to a recording or message center. Instead, answer your calls a few nights a week and pay your hygienists to answer the phones after hours when you can’t. Before pagers and cell phones, being on-call was standard fare for healthcare professionals. Your potential patients will know that you care if you make sure their calls are answered by one of your team members any time, day or night.

The Wrong Person on the Phones

Who answers your phones? If you’ve hired an $8 per hour high school student as your receptionist, you’ve made a tragic error in judgment. Like the mouth is a portal to the body (all you oral-systemic docs), the phone is the pathway to new patients. The person you put on your incoming calls is as important to the success of your dental practice as what you put in your mouth is to the health of your body. Your reputation is at stake!

The person who answers your phone should sound friendly, mature, sincere, and as if she has been waiting for the caller all day and is pleased as pink punch that they called. She should not type, file, and/or talk to others while on the phone. Neither should she put a call on hold. She must give the caller her undivided attention. She also has to  know how to properly triage calls…

Proper Responses and Triaging Calls

The person who answers your phone should be able to answer the following questions, without hesitation:

  • What appointment times are available?
  • Does the doctor offer sedation?
  • Does the doctor use digital x-rays?
  • Will the doctor see children? How young?
  • Does the doctor do his own root canals? Orthodontics? Extractions?
  • Does the doctor pre-medicate heart patients?
  • Does the doctor offer dentures, bridges, implants, partials?
  • Does the doctor do implants, extractions, bonding; does he place amalgam or composite fillings?
  • Does the doctor accept insurance? Which ones? Is he in network?
  • What cosmetic procedures will insurance cover?
  • What credit cards do you accept? Do you work with CareCredit?
  • Where online does a patient apply for CareCredit?
  • What is your address? Fax number?
  • What are the closest cross streets to your office?
  • What businesses are around your office?
  • If in the city, what’s the closest bus stop? Where should a visitor park? What’s the cost?
  • If in an office building, what’s the building’s name? Do you validate parking?
  • Are new patient forms online? Are they secure?
  • Does the doctor see emergencies?

I recommend that you create a quiz based on these questions and your dental website. The person who answers the phone in your dental office should have to pass the quiz before she answers a single call.

For more information on marketing your dental office, call Modern Dental Practice Marketing today at 972-781-8861. We provide dental marketing consulting, as well as dentists’ websites, microsites, blogs, SEO, and social networking. We also offer complete graphic design and copywriting services for our clients. Let us help you turn potential patients into booked appointments, starting today!