Three phone tips that will bring in new patients

Feb. 22, 2010

By Jay M. Geier

There’s a right way and a wrong way to answer the phone, and believe it or not, how the phone is answered does affect your ability or inability to grow the practice. Wow people who call and they’ll stay, pay, and refer. Don’t wow callers and you may lose them and never be given another chance. Below are a few “basics” you can start with:

Tip 1: Answer the phone during normal business hours. People expect businesses to be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., at least. If a new patient calls during that time and is unable to speak to a live person, he or she will most likely hang up and call the next dentist on the list. If you miss an entire day (maybe you’re closed on Fridays), you’ll miss 20% of potential new patient calls. If you want to add an extra five-plus new patients every month, get an office cell phone and rotate it among willing staff members during lunch, after hours, and even on weekends to maximize potential. You will need to create an incentive plan for them that will make this worth employees’ time. Losing patients one at a time may not matter to you, but one a week is 50 per year. This can be the difference between funding your retirement or not.

Tip 2: Set the tone that the patient is No. 1. You’re mood comes through in the tone of your voice. Remember to smile when you answer the phone and your smile will be heard by the patient who is calling. Stop whatever you’re doing and listen. If you’re distracted or shuffling papers, that distraction will be heard in your voice. Also, you must have a “close.” Ninety percent of all offices we call simply do not have a close. But never use a close that can be answered with a no!

Tip 3: Speed up your scheduling. Don’t overwhelm patients with a bunch of details or a list of things they have to do to visit your office. Schedule the appointment, and then take care of the details when patients come in. Think about the times that you make calls. You just want a result. So stop the needless interaction and schedule the appointment quickly. Today, people want fast. Why do you think fast food is so popular? It’s fast!

Jay M. Geier is the founder and president of the Scheduling Institute. He is a well-known dental speaker and has helped more than 10,000 doctors nationwide grow their practices. Jay offers a free “mystery patient call” and 5-star review on his Web site. If you’d like him to do this for your practice, go to and click on “Take the 5 Star Challenge.” Jay can also be contacted at [email protected].