Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 02 Receptionist 1

How to work your way to the top of the phone chain in your dental practice

Feb. 17, 2016
In this computer-driven age, it's more important than ever for a courteous and understanding person to answer the phones in your dental practice. This will lead to more people becoming your patients.

Human contact is becoming more important as more people are met with computers when they make a phone call. Making sure your front office staff is equipped to make the most of the phone calls will lead to more new patients through the door.

In today’s competitive world, dental practices rely on different strategies to get patients through the door. How prospective patients book their appointments has evolved dramatically, with many now turning to the Internet to schedule their first visit.

Computer-mediated business interactions remove another human element from our daily activity, that is, the voice of another person. Those who do call your office get to talk to a real person, and this can become an opportunity to establish a real connection and develop a true relationship.

Therefore, a phone call is a great opportunity to get patients into the practice, and acquiring the right phone skills to do that doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes the right person, as well as patience, time, and practice. The person answering calls should be personable, knowledgeable, and eager to help. Once you find the right candidate for the job, it should be easy to refine the person’s professional voice.

Here are three ways that you can improve and masterfully craft your call conversations.

The single most important thing you should invest your time and money into is making sure that the person answering the phone is properly trained. This person is the gateway to the business’s success. Make sure that they know how your practice functions, the office hours, fees, and important insurance information.

The person answering calls should be trained on how to answer (the tone of their voice) as well as on what to say to callers. Keep in mind that the front office person will set the tone for the practice and provide a glimpse of how it is run. This person is the first contact a patient has with the practice, and he or she is responsible for getting the patient to schedule an appointment.

Training should also include worst-case scenarios (role playing activities) and rehearsed strategies to help deal with difficult patients. This will give the team member the confidence needed to deal with all types of patients, and most importantly, to get patients through the door!

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Provide a script
Everyone in the office needs familiar steps to follow. Scripts provide this, and they allow the front office team member to gain control of a call with intention. Keep in mind that the goal is to never let a patient lead the conversation. Having a script will keep everything organized and keep the conversation moving from one question to the next.

The script should set a direction with the patient and include material pertinent to the practice. Most importantly, it should serve as a guide for sharing the right information. For example, it should have space to add the patient’s name, phone number, e-mail, insurance information, and the reason for their visit.

Record calls
Recording calls gives the team the opportunity to go back and review them. How will you know if the front office staff is doing their job effectively and following office protocol if there is no way to monitor their progress? Recording calls and reviewing them with the person who answers the phone will determine whether the training was effective and is working.

Listening to calls after they’ve happened gives all involved an opportunity to make corrections. It provides a chance for team members to hear themselves and hone their craft. Just be mindful when giving your feedback. This should come from a place of improvement and be done in a positive way. Mistakes are inevitable, but learning from them allows us to change and grow.

This article first appeared in Dental Assisting Digest. To receive enlightening and helpful articles for assistants and office managers in this monthly e-newsletter, visit

Helen B. Funk has been working as the office manager of Cosmopolitan Dental since its inception in 2006. As the primary patient liaison, Helen's goal is to accommodate the patients in a professional, knowledgeable, and personable manner. Helen is a graduate of Hunter College and attained her bachelor degree in psychology. She is currently enrolled in NYU and is working toward a certificate in leadership and organizational development. She is keen on ensuring that the office runs smoothly from the front desk, and she is also "behind the scenes." In her free time Helen enjoys writing, traveling, yoga, and exploring new restaurants in New York City.