How dental offices attract new patients is a primary concern for most practices. Today there are a myriad of ways for new patients to find a dentist in their area. Websites that are optimized for mobile access are a must to attract new patients to your practice. Also important is an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and a long list of other social media. However, when a new patient is convinced that he or she has found the perfect dental practice is when the true return on investment begins. It is not all about the advertising. No, it is about the first impression that the front office team makes when they answer that very first phone call.
If you thought you were going to learn some fantastic new way to take a better dental impression, I’m sorry to inform you that’s not what this article is about. But if you’re interested in learning how to make the best impression possible during a new patient phone call, then read on for valuable information for the entire team. There are many views on the perfect telephone scenario for a new patient, but it all comes down to one important yet simple premise.
This is nothing new or complicated, and the only requirement is time, time to make a connection with the new patient. This connection puts a person at ease and allows the dental team to focus on the patient’s concerns and needs. When we give patients our undivided attention and take the time to connect with them, we build relationships that will have a lasting effect for the dental practice.
In order to do this there must be a front office system in place that allows the front office team to focus on the new patient phone call experience. A list of standard questions should be referenced but never read. The phone call should not sound impersonal.
Here’s an example of an effective front office system for new patient phone calls:
1) Instructions on proper phone call etiquette:
a) How are calls answered? (i.e., “Thank you for calling Dr.’s office, this is __ may I help you?”)
b) Is proper grammar being used? (i.e., “may” not “can”)
c) Are calls frequently answered then placed on hold? (Prospective new patient calls should be handled with little or no wait time. If this a problem for the dental team, perhaps another front office team member is needed to help with deflecting distractions away from the new patient phone call experience.)
2) Information to collect: patient name, phone number, address, date of birth, insurance information/responsible party, reason/type of appointment being scheduled, and referral source.
3) Offer new patients two different times to determine what works best with their schedule. (Always schedule appointments as soon as possible with little wait time.)
4) Ask new patients if they need directions to the practice.
5) If applicable and time allows, mail new patients any necessary forms to fill out before their dental appointment. Otherwise have them access those forms on your website to help reduce their wait time when they arrive at the dental practice.
6) Thank new patients and reassure them that they have chosen the right practice/dentist.
Five easy front desk fixes
One chance to make a first impression
Create the ultimate new dental patient experience
While these steps will help allow for a smooth new patient interaction, do not forget that focusing on new patients is the ultimate goal. Empathize with them and truly take the time to listen to what they tell you. Too many practices simply schedule patients without listening to their needs. This leads to an unpleasant office experience for new patients and the dental team.
Be honest with new patients. If they ask a question regarding their insurance, let them know in advance if you’re in or out of network with their carrier. Will you get every new patient in your practice? Probably not. But do you really want to do the treatment and not be reimbursed for your time and effort? While numbers are very important to a dental practice, it is not the number of new patients that matters so much as the production vs. collections.
The focus should be on keeping the new patients that we schedule coming back to the office. We do that by exceeding their expectations. This starts with an excellent first impression, followed by quality dental treatment delivered by a caring dental team. All of these components will help any practice not only schedule new patients and keep them, but it will also lead to quality in-office referrals.
Truly, it is all in the impression. Make a commitment to implement a front office system that includes a detailed new patient phone call experience, which allows your front office team to go from first impression to best impression.
Lisa Marie Spradley, FAADOM, the “Front Desk Lady,” is a speaker/trainer/writer at TCB Dental Consulting, where she brings over 16 years of experience to train dental front office teams on how to focus on the patient and transform the first impression to the best impression. She is a Fellow and lifetime member of AADOM. Find Lisa Marie online at www.tcbdentalconsulting.com. Contact her for your speaking and front office training needs at [email protected].