Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 07 Dental Front Office 1

5 ways to convert prospects into dental patients

July 6, 2018
Getting patients into your dental practice is more important today than ever before. Competition is fierce. Something as simple as a well-handled phone call, with a real and friendly person, can make the difference.

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.

As dentists, we spend a lot of money to attract and acquire new patients. We have fancy websites, ads in magazines and newspapers, and maybe even radio and television commercials. Marketing is expensive! When it works and motivates someone to contact your office, it’s important to efficiently move them from prospect to new patient. Here are five tips to help you make it happen.

1. Have a real person answer the phone

This may seem simple, but often first contact with a human at our offices is on the phone. Are potential patients already annoyed when they get to a live person because they had to choose multiple options to speak with someone? Ditch the auto-answer system and have a team dedicated to answering the phones. It may be a little more expensive to have the manpower, but saving just one person from hanging up out of frustration could easily be worth a month’s salary for a scheduler.

2. Consider a call center

How many times have you checked out somewhere and had to wait while the person wraps up a phone call? Or, have you called an office to be immediately asked to hold? If your office is busy enough that the front desk is constantly doing checkout or presenting treatment plans, this is good news. But, it does mean you need to look into moving incoming calls off the front desk. If you don’t have the space to do this in-house, there are companies that provide call centers specifically for dentists.

3. Keep up with the times

Is a phone call the only way to contact your office? That is the equivalent of using periapical x-ray when a panorex or CBCT is a better option. Be sure your website displays a clear option for contacting your office other than by phone. At the very least, use a contact form that asks for basic information (name, phone, email). If you already have a contact form, consider adding live chat. There are many companies that offer a low cost, easy-to-implement chat module that can be monitored by your front desk team or call center. Contact forms and chat modules overcome the obstacle when someone doesn’t have time to make a call.

4. Stay personable yet focused on the phone

Are your team members smiling when they answer the phone? It’s helpful to keep a mirror by the phone to remind them to smile. It is a small gesture that can make a big difference in your team’s attitude and the outcome of the call. Oftentimes callers can actually “hear” a smile.

When a new patient call is identified, the team member takes control of that conversation by following the script of a new patient phone call. Having a set procedure for handling new patients maintains consistency throughout the scheduling team, and it’s easier to keep a call focused on getting the patient in to see the doctor rather than distracted by the details of his or her personal situation.

Here’s an example: “Mrs. Jones, let me be the first to welcome you to our office. How did you hear about us?”

“I saw your TV commercial about dental implants.”

In addition to remaining focused on scheduling the appointment, this is important information for tracking marketing efficacy. Many times patients call about a specific procedure. Although team members want to be helpful and are often knowledgeable, the protocol is to defer those questions.

“That’s a great question for the doctor. Let me schedule an appointment for you to come in and discuss that.”

This keeps the conversation moving toward the goal of getting the patient in the door. It’s important to transition immediately into offering the patient an appointment time with a segue.

“What works best for you, morning or afternoon?”

Always give the caller two “yes” options versus yes or no questions that can stop the flow of the phone call.

5. Record your phone calls

Recording your phone calls is not micromanaging, it’s a teaching tool. After all, you’re a business owner and have a responsibility to mentor the entire team, not just clinicians. Hearing those conversations can be very impactful and you can partner with your front desk staff to improve their phone skills for higher conversion. The marketplace abounds with a range of call tracking options. Do your research and learn what level of oversight will work best for you. Do you need the calls to be recorded for your review or are you interested in having a third party monitor the calls and provide feedback?

New patients are a vital part of the success of any dental practice and prospects have endless options when choosing a dentist. When given the chance, use tried and true standard operating procedures to set your practice apart from the competition and turn prospects into new patients.

Bobbi Stanley, DDS, MAGD, DICOI, FLVI, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry and has prioritized continuing education throughout her 25-year career. Dr. Stanley is an adjunct professor of prosthodontics at her alma mater, UNC School of Dentistry. She is cofounder and senior instructor at Stanley Institute for Comprehensive Dentistry in Cary, North Carolina, where she offers classes in implants, prosthodontics, and business.