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o you want your dental practice to grow? For a dental practice, growth comes from new patients.
Do you want your dental practice to grow? For a dental practice, growth comes from new
patients. If you want to see growth, you must understand how new patients find your
practice, what makes them schedule appointments and how you can ensure new patients
show up for those appointments. You may think you understand the processes that take a
new patient from spotting an ad to showing up in one of your chairs, but unless you have
hard data to back up your assumptions, you may be wasting marketing dollars and losing
Most dental practices suffer from a lack of hard data. In my work, I’ve discovered several
key areas where more data can spotlight problems and drive practice growth.
Where do new patients come from?
Most dental practices use a range of marketing tools. They put ads in newspapers and
magazines, advertise on television or radio, run a web page and even sponsor community
events to connect with new patients. Do you know which ads bring in new patients and
how much those new patients are worth?
To get detailed marketing data, you can’t just track calls to the office. An advertisement
isn’t working for you if it doesn’t bring in patients who actually make appointments and
bring in revenue. To track the actual return on investment of your marketing campaigns,
you need detailed information on whether the people who respond to an advertisement
end up as patients in your office and where they actually heard about your office.
When I ask doctors if they are asking patients, “How How did you hear about us?,” most
tell me they are. However, they are often asking the patients the question when they come
in for the appointment. The challenge with asking weeks after the patients have scheduled
is that they have likely forgotten the true source of the information. They will give you an
answer such as “a friend” or “the Internet,” but it may not be accurate. Another mistake is
asking the patients if they found the office as a result of a specific campaign. The team
may say, “Did you hear about us from our new TV commercial?,” and the patients will
agree they did even if they didn’t.
You will get the most accurate information if you ask the question during the scheduling
call. As soon as you figure out there is a new patient on the line, ask them how they he or
she heard about your office; it will be fresh in their his or her mind and likely true.
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When do you miss calls?
Did you know that 87 percent of new patients won’t leave a message or call back if their
calls get are sent to voicemail? That means for every 10 calls that go to voicemail, you’re
only getting one potential new patient to leave a voicemail message. Those few patients
who do leave you a message are likely referrals, willing to go the extra mile because their
friend told them to call. The fact is this: Ppotential new patients do not leave messages.
Another fact is they will then be Googling the dentist down the street if you don’t return a
call within seven minutes. That is a tight window of opportunity and requires someone to
be paying full attention. Unanswered calls are a costly missed opportunity to for your
practice. Nationwide, the data coming out of Call Tracker ROI reports that the average
dental office is not answering 33 percent of its marketing marketing-based, potential new
patient appointment opportunity phone calls. That’s one-third of the calls they spent good
money on to generate new patient leads!
How often do calls go to voicemail? If you ask your staff, they’ll say rarely. That’s because
calls go to voicemail when the office staff doesn’t notice them. If the new patient doesn’t
leave a message, it’s as if the call never happened. You can’t reduce missed calls if you
don’t know that they exist.
Once offices start tracking missed calls, they will begin to see patterns. Many offices miss
calls during or immediately after the daily lunch break, on Fridays and on weekends.
Other offices miss calls during peak hours. They don’t have the front-office staff and
physical phones to deal with patient intake, billing, insurance and patient check-out while
also paying attention to incoming calls. Data on missed calls can help practices streamline
procedures or add phones to deal with peak times.
If you still don’t think you are missing calls, think about this age age-old conflict:
No one is more important than the new patient calling the office, BUT no one is more
important than the patient standing in front of you trying to make an appointment.
We know the caller likely won’t leave a message so what does your team member do?
They will honor the person standing in front of them-a hard choice and a missed
If you have the hard data on calls missed and the data justifies the expense, you can
choose to stagger lunches or rotate team members so the phones are always covered.
Some smart offices get the office staff a cell phone for insurance queries to keep the land
line phones open. Others have different team members with a cell phone on Fridays ready
to answer patient calls. Again, if the data justifies the expense, it is 100 percent worth it.
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Does your staff ‘close the deal’?
Does your staff know how to turn a new patient contact into a scheduled appointment?
Only about 5 percent of dental offices train their support staff in answering the phone,
dealing with insurance queries and scheduling appointments. While some of your office
staff members may have a natural talent for handling new patients, most need training.
You need data that tells you what happens when someone calls your office, how each
staff member responds to difficult questions and how often each staff member manages
to convert a new patient phone call into an appointment. In addition, if they are struggling
to convert calls into appointments, you need to the data on why this is occurring.
Research I conducted through Call Tracker ROI shows 34 percent of potential new patient
calls are not converted into appointments. So if we are missing 33 to 35 percent of calls
altogether and then 34 percent of the ones we do talk to don’t turn into appointments, we
miss the opportunity to schedule 76 out of 100 people that who call our office. That’s a lot
of lost opportunity that could be costing you tens of thousands of dollars every month.
To get in-depth data on staff/new patient interactions, you’ll need to record calls and track
results. Each month, schedule a meeting to go over the previous month’s data with your
office staff and respect the challenges they face on the telephone. Schedule training
sessions to teach them how to respond to questions about insurance networks,
emergency appointments and scheduled appointments. If you do not have the time or
capacity to record and go through calls by hand, services such as Call Tracker ROI will do
it for you and provide detailed analytics showing exactly what is happening––invaluable
information for offices that want to see growth. It is imperative to find out what challenges
the team members experience that prevent the calls from being converted. That answer
will change everything.
Small changes can make a big difference in how many new patients make it into the
office. For instance, a subtle change in the scheduling dialogue can virtually eliminate noshows.
Research in the restaurant industry found that changing the scheduling dialogue
from “Please call if you need to cancel or reschedule” to “Will you please call us if you
need to cancel or reschedule? (Pause for answer.) Great! I’ll let everyone up here know
that you’re going to call us if you need to cancel or reschedule” dropped no-show rates
from 50 percent of reservations to 5 percent of reservations. Dental offices that employ this
tactic have seen a similar drop in no-shows.
Slight modifications in office management and advertising practices can lead to big gains
in income and new patient retention. If you don’t have data, you can’t make smart
decisions about marketing, staffing and office routines. With detailed data, you can spot
problems and craft solutions that will help your practice grow and thrive.