5 must-have phone techniques to increase new patient flow

Answering the phone in a dental practice isn't a job for the faint of heart. It is, in fact, one of the most important job positions in your practice, and the person or persons you choose to fulfill this role can have a significant impact on your overall productivity and profitability, for better or worse.

So what can you do to make sure you've got super stars answering your phone? Use these 5 easy tips to help you get started, or make needed improvements. 

1. Agree, as a team, how to answer FAQ's

Make a list of the questions patients ask most often and agree, as a team, how to answer them. Provide scripts if needed, especially if the person answering the phone is new to the job. In doing so, you will ensure that your patients receive consistent and accurate answers regardless of who answers the phone, and in a busy office that could be anyone.

For instance:

  • Do you accept my dental insurance? 
  • Do you offer weekend hours?
  • Will I have to pay on the day?
  • What happens if I have to cancel at the last minute?
  • What happens if I step on my bridge and break it?

Whatever the FAQ's are for your practice, make sure your team knows how to answer them in a professional, friendly and caring manner. Patients want, need, and deserve to feel special and appreciated at all times.  

2. Don't miss an opportunity to build or add value

Use phone calls as an opportunity to build and/or add value for the patient, and encourage them to choose you (new patients), or schedule appointments (existing patients).

This could include things like:

  • Your doctor's credentials, and CE.
  • Community involvement, for the doctor and the team.
  • Latest technology in use at your office.
  • Other benefits... for instance, peace-of-mind financial options like Dental Warranty (for the patients who asks what happens if they step on their bridge and break it).

Just to name a few. This all serves to help create and maintain patient loyalty and confidence in the doctor, the practice and the team.

3. Know how long patients are waiting on hold

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With the best will in the world, it will be necessary at times to put a caller on hold. Your patients understand this, and in fact may even see it as a plus, i.e. "Dr. Green must be really good if her practice is this busy."

However... don't forget that what can seem like just a few seconds to the person answering the phone can, in reality, be several minutes for the caller. If this is happening in your practice it is imperative you put a system in place to correct it and ensure patients are not on hold for more than one minute.

Solutions vary depending on your particular circumstances, but consider this a 'must do' as opposed to a 'should do'. The same applies if patients are calling and getting a busy signal, or an automated message asking them to hold, or "Press 1" to reach X, Y or Z. Whatever you do, you've got a minute to deal with their call, max. 

4. Evaluate your "Our office is currently closed" message

What are patients hearing when they call outside of normal business hours?  Is it a pleasant voice thanking them for contacting you, promising to call back as soon as possible, and explaining what to do in the event of an emergency or other immediate need?

Believe it or not,  this is not always the case. If your patients hear  -- "Our office is currently closed, please call back during normal office hours" -- run, don't walk, to re-record that message now. 

5. Be careful of "dental speak"

angry woman talking on mobile phone

It's easy to forget that patients are not experts in dentistry, or familiar with many of the common terms and descriptions you use every day. Make sure you talk to them in a way they can understand, speaking clearly and at a speed that is suitable for them. This is especially true if the caller and the person answering the phone have different accents, or are attempting to converse in a second, or less fluent, language. We've all been on both sides of a conversation like this, and know that patience and compassion are key to a successful outcome for both parties.

Answering the phone in a dental practice is a tremendous responsibility, and one that is at the heart of your practice's success. Make sure you have the right person for the job, and then also make sure that person has adequate and equally awesome back-up, when needed. Your patients will thank you, and your bottom line will, too.  

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