How one top DSO turns phone calls into patients

Issue 11

The phone is often the first point of contact between your practices and potential patients. Learning to “own the phone” can make a drastic difference in the success of your business.

The phone is often the first point of contact between your practices and potential patients. Learning to “own the phone” can make a drastic difference in the success of your business.

Your team’s ability to “own the phone” can mean calls converted to patients or missed opportunities for your practices. But with a few small adjustments to your team’s phone skills, you can turn more potential patients into productive patients.

With more than 40 practices in Texas, Jefferson Dental Clinics knows the value of every phone call. According Jefferson’s call center manager, Dalia Rios, there are many simple mistakes that can turn off a potential patient when they contact your practices. But, she says, the fixes can be just as simple.

“The most common mistakes are asking the caller to repeat themselves and asking for the appointment instead of offering one,” says Dalia Rios call center manager at Jefferson Dental Clinics.

Phone skills can be learned

Rios recommends employees have several days of training before jumping on a call.

“After a day of orientation to the policy and scripts, I recommend having new employees listen in for a week at a minimum,” she says. “I find that after this period, new employees are eager to jump in and learn hands on.”

Employees should also work on their welcome. An excellent greeting sets the tone of the conversation so make an impression with your enthusiasm.

Practice your introduction (you’ll be saying it several times a day) and clearly introduce your office, perhaps by including the dentist’s name or the office location.

If you’re short of ideas, follow this formula: “Thank you for calling (office name). My name is ... How may I help you?”

And, this may sound obvious, but make sure you have a pencil and paper handy so you can gather all of the patient’s pertinent information (name, phone number, email) early in the call in case the call drops or you need to follow-up.

Make a connection

Once you’re on the phone, you need to focus on making a connection with the caller.

“Use their name at least twice during a call to create a customized experience,” says Rios. “Listen actively to the caller so that you are prepared with a solution that serves the caller and your performance goals.”

For instance, if the caller has concerns, be sure to repeat exactly what the caller said so he or she knows you’re listening.

“Allow a difficult caller to vent, acknowledge their frustration and express to them that you will take ownership of the matter,” says Rios. “Most importantly, follow up if you say you will.”

Ask about the patient’s needs so you can provide the appropriate service. Avoid saying, “Can I book you for a cleaning?” or, “Would you like to see the dentist?”

Instead, ask more open-ended questions like, “What are you hoping to achieve with your teeth?” or, “What are your goals?”

How to answer the tough questions

Callers can ask hard questions, so this is your chance to prove your expertise by answering with authority and confidence. Remember, this is your dental office; you know the answers better than the caller.

“It’s important to stay in control of the call to avoid distraction,” says Rios.

If you are stumped by a tough question, write it down and share it with your team. Your coworkers might have more information, and it offers a learning experience for the whole practice.

And remember, avoid the black hole of talking cost: Focus on procedures and goals instead of price.

Be sure to book an appointment

You should always offer an appointment – no excuses, no exceptions – and give the caller a couple of options. Offering two specific times and days increases your odds of booking an appointment by more than 40 percent.

For instance, you can ask, “Would you rather come in Monday for a morning appointment or Tuesday later in the afternoon?”

If those times don’t work, the customer will give you options that work for them. And make a note of patients’ preferences so you’ll be aware the next time they call.

This is also a chance to book more patients by asking if other members of the household would like to be scheduled for an appointment.

Prep the patient for the appointment

If the patient schedules an appointment, provide her with directions (including nearby buildings or landmarks), where to park and how to get inside.

Also remind patients of forms they might need to fill out and to bring insurance information.

You can describe the exam room experience and, if possible, inform the caller of the hygienist and dentist who will attend to them.

For instance, “When you are taken back to the exam room, our hygienist Sarah will clean your teeth and take some X-rays. Then Dr. Marks will join you for a quick exam.”

One last thing

Whether or not the patient booked an appointment, always end the conversation on a positive note by thanking them for calling.

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