Woman With Headset

3 tips for increasing new patient appointments: What to say and do on the phone

Jan. 28, 2013

We have a reason to be enthusiastic. The U.S. economy showed a true improvement at the end of 2012, and people are starting to reallocate money for their smiles. Now, more than ever, dental offices should focus on their phones.

Every phone call that comes into your dental office should be handled with extreme care because there is much at stake. I’m not just talking about a potential appointment – the person answering your phone represents your entire dentistry, and word spreads fast. What happens after the phone rings is just as important as getting the phone to ring.

Don’t waste your advertising dollars – book more appointments!

1. Gather information about the caller

Your focus at the beginning of a phone call into your office is to gather as much information about the caller as possible. Writing down names and phone numbers should be a consistent habit for all receptionists. If, for some reason, your call is disconnected, you will have no chance of reaching back out to secure an appointment without their phone number. If you forget to write down their name, how embarrassing will a follow-up call be when you start with, “Was I speaking to someone who was interested in booking a dentist appointment?”

Three tough questions for your dentist marketing plan
A five-step behavioral approach to grow your dental practice

Gathering their name and saying it back to them shows you care. I also recommend gathering the caller’s email address when it is appropriate. It is so easy and inexpensive to send powerful marketing materials through email when you have their attention and you understand what their goals are for their teeth. Which leads me to…

2. Why did the caller reach out to your office?

Asking why they called is half the battle; the other half is truly understanding the caller’s needs. Avoid asking, “Can I book you for a cleaning, or would you like to come see the dentist?” It may seem appropriate, but there are more variations of this question that helps you capture the caller’s goals and expectations. “What are you hoping to achieve with your teeth?” or “What are your goals for your smile?” are great ways to figure out why they really need to see a dentist.

Dentists and receptionists always want to focus the conversation on the procedures and goals that make sense to the patient. If you are unable to focus on their needs, conversations always tend to stray towards pricing. When I’m talking about my smile, I really don’t want to think about price shopping. Try, “If you want to get rid of that pain in your upper molar, I highly recommend coming in to see the doctor and having X-rays taken.” That is how you can focus on their goals.

This may sound like common sense, but listen to the caller’s responses. If you hear that the caller is in pain, try to show some sympathy. Get as much information about the sensitive area as possible so you can better help them. If the caller hasn’t had a cleaning in years, ask them if they have sensitive teeth or why they are now reaching out to a dentist.

3. Book the appointment

Make sure you ask for the appointment every time. Do not end a call without at least trying to get that appointment. Even if you think the potential patient will never say yes, just ask. I have seen conversations completely turn around when a receptionist said “I’m sorry we don’t take that insurance, but I would love to have you come meet the doctor and we can come up with a payment plan.”

When they agree to come in, offer multiple time slots. Ask if the caller has a preference: Morning or afternoon? Early in the week, or late in the week? Even better, offer two specific time and days so they feel more compelled to make a choice. If those times don’t work, they will be able to give you more options for when they will be available. This builds rapport with the caller and suggests that you care about their schedule. When you have found a time, share with them your location and address. This helps them prepare so they will not be late.

If you are unable to book the appointment on the first call, make a note. Remind yourself to call them back later. I recommend asking the caller if it would be appropriate to follow up with them to see if they have been able to make a decision.

In conclusion: 1. Get the caller’s information. 2. Understand their needs and goals. 3. Book the appointment.

Please reach out to me if you are interested in hearing more about how to own your phones! You can go to PatientPursuit.com if you want to learn how I help dentists grasp what is happening on their phones. I am here to help dentists increase the number of new appointments by creating better habits on the phone and making marketing decisions easy.

Keaton Marks is the Dental Marketing Consultant at Century Interactive. He helps dentists understand which marketing tactics are driving patients and what happens on the office phones. Keaton grew up in San Diego, attended Cornell University, and now lives in Dallas. He can be reached at 214-377-0704 or [email protected]. Check out his blog.