What’s the most important piece of technology in your dental office? It’s probably not what you think

High-tech equipment in your dental practice would be worth little without the help of the phone. That's right. The phone. Without it there would be no patients, and the equipment would be useless.

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If I were to ask 100 dentists, “What is the most important piece of technology in your dental office?” I can imagine what the responses would be—CEREC, digital x-rays, Invisalign, 3-D CT, and many, many more. However, the most important piece of equipment is not what you think.

Of course those are all amazing technologies that have advanced how we practice dentistry. But none of them are the most important. To me, there’s one technological device that can make or break a dental office, and it’s not anything that was recently invented. In fact, it made its first appearance back in 1876 in the laboratory of Alexander Graham Bell. You got it ... the telephone.

Are you thinking I’m crazy to suggest that an invention more than 100 years old is more important to your office than your high-tech state-of-the-art equipment? Well, the phone is definitely not the most high-tech device in your office, but it’s the most important.

Why is the phone the most important piece of technology in a dental office?
Without it, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to use all those other pieces of equipment. The phone is the technology that keeps us connected to our current patients, and it’s what allows potential new patients to reach us. That phone is our connection to the outside world.

But my real point is this—is there any way you would allow a brand new assistant to use CEREC without training? Would you let your hygienist take digital x-rays without training on how your system works? Would Invisalign allow you to start doing cases with their technology without the required training? Absolutely not. And that is how we need to treat the telephone.

Just because the new, untrained employee knows how to physically use the phone doesn’t mean that the employee will be able to interact effectively with the person on the other end. Think of all the money and training time you’ve invested in every high-tech piece of equipment in your office. Now, start thinking of the phone as the one piece of equipment that makes possible every other interaction in the patient process. Greeting them in the waiting room, meeting with them in the consultation room, performing examinations and procedures, billing and rescheduling—none of these things will happen without appropriate handling of that initial telephone call to get a patient scheduled in the first place.

What does that mean? In a way, the person answering the phone is doing the most important job in the entire office. He or she paves the way for the rest of the jobs to happen. So are you going to trust the most important job in the office to a totally new, untrained person who just set foot in your practice? I hope not.

Instead of putting a employee on the phones the first day to “try out the person,” I suggest that you put your best front office staff on the phones, and let the new employee observe what is said and done. Have the person take notes and then discuss it with management. Then make sure the person is given a clear, step-by-step outline of what to say and how to say it, and make sure the employee continues to be monitored after training.

If your office prides itself on having high-tech equipment and a highly trained staff, then make sure that you also view the phone as an important piece of technology that requires significant training.


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Laura Hatch is the founder of Front Office Rocks, a leader in online front office training. Laura has worked with her husband, Dr. Hatch, to start and grow two extremely successful dental practices (one in Baltimore and a current office in San Diego) to million dollar, fee-for-services offices that focus on exceptional customer service and average 80 new patients per month. As the leading authority on dental front office training, Laura has developed training methods that consist of established ideas and practical training that can be easily implemented into any office. She can be reached at Laura@FrontOfficeRocks.com.

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