How to turn a caller into a lifelong patient for your dental practice

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Imagine that, sometime today, a man in your community will place a phone call to your dental office. He doesn’t really know anything about you or your practice. All he knows is that he needs a dentist and (pick one) you’re located near where he works, or a friend mentioned you, or he liked your website. He’s just calling to find out more about your practice, figuring he might check out some other dentists before making a decision.

The first question is: Will he make an appointment to see you?

The second question is: Will he become a loyal patient of yours, sorry to see you go when you tell him, years from now, that you’re about to retire?

In the new dental economy (hear more from Dr. Levin on this here), the average dentist faces more competition for fewer patients, and insurance reimbursements keep shrinking. So when that phone rings today, your practice needs to be ready to capture the caller as a new patient. And when he comes in for his first visit, you need to set the stage for a lasting relationship. Here’s how:

Perfect your handling of the new patient call. The first contact with a prospective patient should be carefully orchestrated so the front desk coordinator can accomplish several important tasks…

Project the impression of your office as a pleasant and welcoming place.

Begin building value for the doctor and practice in the mind of the caller.

Gather information from the caller, not only what’s needed for the records but also personal facts that will be used to build a relationship.

Find out where the caller found out about the practice.


Schedule an appointment within seven days.

Make sure the person knows how to get to your office, and where to park.

Indicate that she and the rest of the staff are looking forward to meeting the new patient.

HOT READ:What one author thinks is the second-most important question to ask a new dental patient

Make the new patient visit a memorable one.
Several staff members will probably interact with the new patient during the first visit, so prep them during the Daily Business Meeting™, not only identifying the new patient but also mentioning some personal facts that can serve as conversation starters. When the patient arrives, the front desk coordinator should provide a warm welcome, pointing out amenities in the reception area, helping with any forms and making introductions to other staff members. The level of personal attention and service should make a strong and lasting impression. The hygienist and dentist, in the course of providing clinical care, should also work to establish personal rapport … the foundation of a lasting relationship.

Follow up with helpful communication and continuity.
Use social media and occasional direct contact (such as with emailed practice updates, newsletter, etc.) to keep the practice-patient connection fresh. Gather more personal facts when the patient comes in for hygiene visits or other services. And even if visits are less frequent than you’d like, stay in touch. In the new dental economy, a patient may cut back on routine care yet still remain loyal to your practice. When care is needed or financial pressures ease, the patient will turn to you.

Every person who calls to check out your practice represents a lifetime of potential dental production. Treat that first call … and everything that follows … as something of great value.

More from Dr. Levin: 4 steps to greater case acceptance in your practice

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