Tips to get new patients from the phone to the dentist chair
Make them feel important!!
For your dental practice to remain successful, you need to maximise your efforts to schedule new patients who call in response to your marketing and referral programs. Success provides more freedom for you to upgrade systems, buy new equipment, offer team training, provide better customer service, invest in more consistent marketing … and it provides your team with opportunities for career advancement and rewards.
For you, it means that you build your brand, your business, and ultimately, fulfil your plan for a profitable practice and freedom lifestyle.
For this to happen you must get new patients from the phone and into your dental chair.
Converting Calls To Bookings
When you consider that approximately 50% or more of all potential new patients are lost at the front desk, you can see clearly that you have a valuable resource that is already part of your team that is not being utilised to its full potential.
Think what it could mean to your practice growth if you could convert even a portion of these callers into lifetime patients. With a lifetime value of say $5,000 per patient, over a few years, you could increase your revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars … just by investing in your front desk team.
By training them how to build rapport, guide the call and more importantly ask for the appointment.
I can’t tell you how many calls I hear in my clients’ practices where the front desk team fails to offer the appointment. It’s like they forget, don’t know that’s what is needed or choke when it comes to the close and then there is this awkward moment where they are waiting for the caller to make the next move. And when they don’t they simply thank them for calling and hang up. Nooooo!!!!
People need to be directed and told what to do – just like in your marketing they need a call to action. So your front desk team must be taking the initiative, taking the lead and asking for the booking.
How To Increase Calls To New Pateints
So let’s have a look at how we can support your front desk team to convert those calls into appointments and get your callers off the phone and in your dental chair.
First of all your team have got to make that caller feel special, valued and important. If your team see the phone as an interruption and roll their eyes or get annoyed when it rings you are not conveying the right message even before you pick up the phone.
Could you imagine if all your potential new patients had to walk in and make a booking and they were greeted by an eye rolling, tut-tutting, disinterested person who looks annoyed by their mere presence? Exactly, that’s going to be turning a lot of people off and away from your practice – resulting in lost business and a poor reputation.
But this is exactly what happens when your team doesn’t value the phone and the caller.
Taking The Call To The Next Level
Telephone calls have the advantage of being fast, but it’s very different from face-to-face communication where we benefit from visual cues and body language.
On the phone, our communication skills must be more acute – we must listen carefully and use our voice and tone to convey a great first impression and build rapport. To do this, before they even pick up the ringing phone, your team needs to set the stage for a successful call. Just like they look up and enthusiastically greet your patients when they arrive, an excellent call handler conveys this same friendly message with only their voice.
When addressing telephone calls, it’s important to keep these things in mind… Always smile. Always sit up straight or lean forward slightly like you would if you had a person sitting across from you. Focus on the call.
You could have your team keep a small mirror at the front desk so they can briefly look at themselves and smile before they pick up the phone. Or have a note next to the phone that says smile your on stage or something similar as a reminder to put on a great show during the phone call.
This will ensure their smile will be heard and that their engagement is evident.
Now I know this seems a given and like I’m teaching telephone basics 101 but you will be surprised how often the phone and the person on it are not treated in a warm and friendly manner.
If your marketing material identifies your team as warm and welcoming (and it should), this needs to be 100% true, starting with the very first phone call. You need to deliver on your promises and be congruent with the expectations you are setting.
So what takes a caller from the phone to the dental chair, what is it that sets practices apart. How is it that my dental office for example can convert 70% plus of our callers not only into bookings but into kept appointments when most practices struggle and their average conversion rate is 30-50% at best.
It comes down to having the right type of people on the phone, training them and having them know their number one role is to book appointments – your front desk team must understand they are in sales and they have targets and performance goals to hit.
Why Don’t New Patients Book
So lets’ look at some of the key reasons patients don’t book in and how we can address them.
- Your team sees every patient who asks about price as a shopper call – that is someone who is just ringing around to get the best deal.
- Your team rushes the call, don’t offer enough information or ask enough questions.
- Your team doesn’t see the call as valuable and convey disinterest and are not welcoming in their tone or attitude.
- Your team doesn’t or don’t know how to close the deal and ask for the appointment.
- The caller is not made to feel special and therefore decides this is not the dental practice for them.
I believe there is no such thing as a shopper call. Do you know why people ask the price when they call?
It’s because they don’t know what else they should ask – they are not ringing your office for fun, they actually have a dental problem or a dental need that they want taking care of.
They have picked your practice as one they are drawn to, they have already done their research looked at your website, online reviews, perhaps their friend recommended you.
They are already 75% sold on your practice all your team has to do is back that up by being friendly, taking the time to ask and answer questions and then offer them the appointment.
But if everyone sees them as a shopper – as a nuisance caller or a time waster then this negative attitude will never convert calls to new patients. Remember they are not calling because they want a pizza – they have a dental issue they want you to help them with.
So there are some simple rules of engagement when answering the phone…
Potential patients must know that they can expect to be listened to and understood … at every interaction … with every one of your team members. Use the caller’s name and use it frequently. If they don’t offer it, ask for it. One of the simplest ways to demonstrate a person’s importance is to use their name in conversation.
Note down personal information and any relevant facts about the caller that resonate. Ask questions and guide the call instead of launching right into a description of all of your practice’s services. Find out their concerns and then you can explain how you can best help them.
Thank them for calling you and let them know they’ve made the right choice. It’s not hard with some basic scripting, training and role-play to get your team to do this in a way that is authentic and consistent
Like this- “Joan, I’m delighted you called our practice and I’d be happy to tell you about xyz, but I can do that best if I know a little about your situation, so tell me more about why your calling today.” Now Joan feels like you are interested in her, she’s now talking about herself and being listened to – she’s not being given irrelevant information or being told a price. A relationship is being built. Your front desk team are building relationships to help people and get the appointment made so you can sort out their dental issues.
People are busy, your team need to help them get what they need, build trust quickly and confirm this is the dental office that can best care for that person on the other end of the phone. This does not mean rushing the call but making the call effective and not banging on for 15-20 minutes by regurgitating the contents of your entire website on the call. By considering their time from the very first call, making your questions and answers relevant, you set the standard for what they can expect when they come to your dental practice.
The ability to build a good relationship within a few minutes of a new patient call is simple and is strengthened by making the caller feel important.
The basics of new patient phone calls are simple but yet so often ignored or not practiced – your team must smile, sound pleased to be speaking with them, be friendly, get their name and use it, ask questions and respond with the right answers and avoid using dental jargon. And they must make the caller feel important.
Tips To Take Them From The Phone to The Dental Chair
So here’s some Tips to make a prospective new patient feel important:
- Show gratitude … for their time, for contacting your office, – thank you for calling goes a long way.
- Actively listen and ask questions. This shows your potential new patient that when they do visit you, their needs and concerns will be listened to and understood.
- Show appreciation for something the caller has accomplished, even if it’s only been picking up the phone to call when they have neglected their oral health for years. For many people, especially those who are fearful, making this phone call took effort on their part. Recognise that.
- Be polite, concerned, and caring. They will value and respect you in return.
- Unconditionally accept the caller. It will boost their self-esteem and make them much more likely to accept and follow your recommendations. For example if they are calling because they think they should just have the tooth pulled don’t tell them that’s a crazy idea but seek to understand their thinking or confirm them – for example, that tooth must really be troubling you Joan if you feel it needs to come out, how about we get you booked in with Dr so they can have a look and let you know what’s involved.
Remember – People don’t always want the least expensive service (even when they call and ask the price), but they do always want good customer service.
You need to showcase your team’s ability to give a new patient excellent customer service as soon as you answer their first phone call. It sets the tone for their entire relationship with you.
People Want to Be Valued
People want to feel valued. They want to feel as though they are not just a number. Treat every caller as if they’re the most important one. You must do this all day long whether it’s call number 2 or call number 102.
You never know who the caller may be and how many family members or friends they might bring with them or refer. When you support your marketing messaging with the right language, attitude, and effort at your front desk, you will create a better first impression, which will lead to more new-patient appointments and relationships that are more meaningful with those patients. Remember – People do business with people they like and trust and it’s your front desk team’s role to build that relationship right from Hello.
Next time I’ll dive deeper into how to get your team using the phones to make the most of your marketing dollars. But for now start with these basics – the phone is the number one piece of equipment in the office and you greet every person with a smile, enthusiasm, care and understanding. Make them feel important and always, always ask them to book the appointment because they are waiting for you to tell them what to do. By asking them to book your call conversion rate will increase overnight guaranteed.