Dental office dynamics: Four elements of a great phone call

October 22, 2015

When a new patient calls your office, do your staff members give them a great phone experience?

When a new patient calls your office, do your staff members give them a great phone experience? 

Do they even answer the telephone call? The telephone is often your first point of contact with new patients. If you make a mistake on the call, you’ll never see that patient in your office. Does your staff need more training on phone calls? Here are simple elements that can help you capitalize on this huge lost opportunity and get more new patients in the door.

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Element 1: The call gets answered promptly

New patients often lack patience. If the phone rings repeatedly, the patient is put on hold or if the call gets dropped during transfer, you’ve lost that patient forever. Make sure your staff knows to answer calls promptly. For rush times, have your back-office staff ready to help front-office staff meet high demand. Avoid transferring new patients or putting them on hold. Deal with them immediately so  they can see  your office runs efficiently and takes their needs seriously.

Element 2:  Get more tasks/duties off their plate

Many times, we find offices don't answer the telephone because the staff is tied up either verifying insurance benefits or confirming appointments for the next day. Many times they will be on hold for more than 20 minutes trying to verify those insurance benefits. Confirming appointments can take more than two hours of their time on any given day, especially if you have them confirming appointments two weeks and two days out. Why are they doing this? There are plenty of automated services out there that will send out text and email alerts to your patients and confirm them. Many of these companies will even make phone calls on your behalf if you can’t text or email your patients. There are also virtual assistants and other businesses that will do all the insurance verification for you. Why not spend a small investment here and free up this time for your team to handle your new patient phone calls? Their ability to answer will far outweigh any cost you would incur for these services. 

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Element 3: Get patients to an appointment with positive reenforcement

Many people who don’t already have a relationship with a dental practice are nervous about coming in for an appointment. Even after they make the call, they may try to avoid committing to a date and time. Overcome their anxiety and hesitation with positive, upbeat statements. “So can I schedule you for some time next week?” “Do Mondays or Tuesdays work better for you?” “What time of day would you prefer for your appointment?” Positive, helpful phrases like these encourage new patients to move past their fears and make that first appointment with your office.

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Element 4: Use commitment language that prevents no-shows

Great phone skills can  prevent no-shows, and it’s a fact that the main reason patients “no show” on you is that we don’t get enough of a commitment out of them for that appointment. People need choices, but when we dictate specific times, they are not committing voluntarily to that time and are more likely to not call you if they can’t make it. Instead of saying: “Friday at 2 p.m.? No? OK. How about Monday at 3 p.m.?”  you should instead say, “What works best for you? This week or next week? Morning or afternoon? This Tuesday or next Tuesday? 8 a.m. or 10 a.m.?” Giving people choices like these means they are more likely to make a true commitment and show up for their appointment. Train your staff to use phrases like, “Will you please call us 24 hours before the appointment if you have to cancel or reschedule?” or “I’ll let the other staff know you will call us if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment.” If you can get a new patient to actively commit to a precancellation call in this manner, you’ll reduce the risk that they’ll skip the appointment. People who feel obligated to show up are more likely to arrive at their appointment. That’s the power of getting more commitments from our patients. 

Remember, every new patient you get into the office is worth thousands in procedures and referrals of family members and friends. Start your new patient relationships off right by helping your staff members learn to make great phone calls. If you’re unsure of how your staff is doing on the phone and want more information on new patient calls, contact Call Tracker ROI and teach your staff how to give new patients a great first experience with your office.

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