By Art Commisso, Lasso MD

Here is an often overlooked but very real scenario when it comes to marketing your dental practice.

You just launched a beautiful new website. It went live in record time (because you understand how important your online presence is). You also threw $3,000/month at digital ad campaigns—an aggressive spend for a first-time effort, but you know you’re located in a competitive market for local dentists and that the more you spend on ads, the better the results.

You’re in a hurry to start seeing the results you hoped for, but…something isn’t adding up. Your incoming phone calls with inquiries are up 35% from previous months’ all-time highs, but your new patient numbers and total monthly production have plateaued. In fact, they’ve gone down. What gives?

For a practice owner or office manager, this should be setting off red flags.

Do Phone Calls Even Matter? Aren’t They Old School?

Yes, phone calls matter a lot. While online scheduling and new patient forms are setting the trend at modern dental practices, the reality is, 60% of consumers prefer to call businesses over the phone when seeking more information. Dentistry is personal, and choosing a new dentist is a partly emotional process. Potential patients will have many concerns when choosing a practice, and your leads will have questions that can’t be answered by a one-size-fits-all page on your website.

Pie chart

Identify Your Weakest Link

The first human point of contact a prospective patient interacts with is your receptionist. Let’s go back to the article’s opening scenario. If you’re using a call tracking or ROI tracking solution, you’ll see a list of incoming calls and where they are coming from—most likely, Google Ads.

There are several reasons why a patient might not convert after calling from a digital ad.

  • Price: That’s okay, they’re not your ideal patient anyway.
  • Location: Your ad targeting is out of whack. Don’t be greedy; narrow your scope.
  • Insurance Coverage: It’s important to communicate insurance acceptance clearly.
  • Underperforming Front Office Staff: We will cover this in the next section.

Fix Your Front Desk

If you think your front office staff is the likely culprit, before you turn into Gordon Ramsay from an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares,” you need to gather information to pinpoint the source of the breakdown.

The good news is you can do this without breathing down your receptionist’s neck. You can implement call/ROI tracking as part of your overall marketing and training strategies. From there, you can review call history with audio recordings and transcripts so you can take a personalized approach to coach and mentor your team.

10 Best Practices for Answering the Phone in a Dental Office

Make Yourself Available.

Make sure someone is always available to answer the phone during business hours. Calls answered promptly and professionally can make a significant impact on patient acquisition, satisfaction, and retention. You can dedicate a specific staff member to the task. Consider using an answering service during busy times to avoid missed calls, but make sure to train the service’s staff on how to handle calls to your practice. You can use call forwarding to a mobile phone during after-hours.

Train Your Front Office Staff.

Provide clear guidelines on how to answer calls, including on the use of appropriate language and etiquette. Setting clear expectations will ensure consistent and effective communication with patients.

Utilize Call Scripts.

A standard script for answering calls can help ensure consistency and efficiency. Make sure staff are familiar with the script and feel comfortable deviating from it as needed to provide personalized and effective communication.

Consider role-playing exercises to help staff feel more confident and prepared. You may also want to incorporate word choices that fit your brand.

Be Prepared.

Have a list of frequently asked questions and information readily available to help staff quickly and accurately answer patient inquiries. For example, invest in software that provides easy access to patient information and streamlines appointment scheduling and accommodating other frequent patient requests.

Listen Carefully.

Encourage staff to actively listen to patients and avoid interrupting them. This shows respect and empathy and helps staff to obtain all information necessary to properly address patient concerns. Consider asking staff to use active listening techniques, such as repeating what the patient says, to demonstrate they’re paying attention.

Follow Up.

After each call, follow up with patients to confirm appointments, address any concerns, and thank them for their business. This shows that your practice values their time and input and reinforces the importance of good communication. Use automated email or text message reminders to make the process more efficient.

Consider Call Volume.

Monitor the volume of calls your practice receives and adjust staffing and other resources accordingly. You can also try staggering appointment times to reduce call volume during peak hours or add extra staff during busy periods.

Encourage Multi-Tasking.

Encourage staff to handle multiple tasks, such as scheduling appointments or updating information,
while on the phone with patients. This also makes the most of their phone time.

Provide Feedback.

Monitor staff’s phone performance and provide feedback, including positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. This can help improve your staff’s skills and ensure they’re communicating with patients consistently and effectively.

Evaluate and Adjust.

Regularly check in on your front desk staff. Consider conducting regular patient surveys to gather feedback on patient experiences. Identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as needed.

Conclusion

While digital marketing efforts are important for attracting new patients, remember that the role of the front desk staff—the first point of human contact for prospective patients—in converting phone inquiries to patients cannot be understated. Incorporate the ten best practices outlined in this article, and your front desk staff will have the tools and skills needed to answer calls professionally and effectively; which can make a significant impact on patient acquisition, satisfaction, and retention at your practice.

Lasso helps dentists create predictable new patient flow through innovative digital and video marketing strategies. The TDA Perks Program-endorsed company’s ROI software gives practice owners the ability to track where their marketing dollars are being spent and verify the effectiveness of the campaigns. Lasso offers exclusive pricing to TDA members.