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Dental Office Phone Etiquette: Does Your Practice Make the Cut?

You only have one chance to make a first impression.

When a new patient seeks out your dental office, it may be for any number of reasons. She is likely a woman, and she is probably calling you for one of the five following reasons:

  1. She is new to the area,
  2. She had a bad experience somewhere else and needs a new dentist,
  3. She has avoided the dentist due to fear/anxiety, but now she can no longer ignore her situation,
  4. She has put off her dental visits until now because of dental costs,
  5. She does not perceive a need for dental work.

After she sees your website, her interaction with your office over the phone will be the first in-person contact she has with your team. Whatever the reason for this woman to have looked up your office and taken the time to pick up the phone, it is critical that your staff is equipped to answer the call and make a stellar first impression.

There are 5 key aspects to handling phone calls expertly and professionally. In this blog post, I talk about the first three. Does your office make the cut?

Aspect 1: Greeting

Within the first five seconds of the phone call, the patient will have an impression of your office. In her mind, she will decide if your office is friendly, caring and professional and whether you have the ability to provide what she needs in a dental office.

Be enthusiastic. No one wants to go to a place where the person who answers the phone sounds like she’s just passing the time until her lunch hour. The patient needs to know that you are happy that she called and that you can help her.

Here’s a sample script:

“Thank you for calling the office of Dr. Smith! My name is Jane, how can we make you smile today?”

Friendly, welcoming and direct is the best way to answer the phone.

Aspect 2: Ask and Answer Questions

At this point, it’s important to gather some information from the patient. Is she an existing patient? A new patient? This is also a time where the patient has an opportunity to ask some questions of her own.

Listen carefully. It’s best to keep a pen and paper next to the phone so whoever answers can take notes on the patient’s needs.

It is very important to carefully listen to what the potential patient says so you can best serve her. Offer short, positive answers to her questions. If the patient starts asking about insurance, fees and scheduling, use your office’s scripted answers* and then firmly take back control of the conversation by moving into the Transition portion of the call.

Aspect 3: Transition

Once you have welcomed the new patient via your greeting and answered any preliminary questions, it’s time to transition them into scheduling their first appointment. Remember: the objective is to get the patient in the door feeling really good about her first appointment.

Take control of the call. At this point, whoever answered the phone must have control over the call to get an appointment scheduled.

Here is a sample script:

“How did you hear about our office?”

 Once, she responds, move immediately into scheduling an appointment with:

“That’s great! Let me be the first to welcome you. Which do you prefer, Monday or Tuesday of next week?”

A confused mind says ‘no.’ When speaking to potential patients over the phone to schedule an appointment, avoid giving them too many options or asking open-ended questions. Present them two choices (“Morning or afternoon? 10 am or 11 am?”) and they will more easily be able to say yes to scheduling an appointment.

There is so much information about phone etiquette that it couldn’t possibly be covered in a single blog post. Next week, I’ll share two more keys to great phone etiquette that will increase the success of your office.

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