11 Ways To Convert Calls Into New Dental Patients
This post was originally published August 12, 2016, and updated May 29, 2018.
Looking for ways to attract new patients to your dental practice? We know it’s not always easy to build up a patient list, especially when you are just starting out. While there are a number of strategies you can use to get people to call your practice, you and your staff still need to be properly prepared to convert those callers into new dental patients for your practice.
Converting callers into new dental patients requires a lot of up-front work, and those efforts start long before anyone ever calls you. It may take several marketing and advertising efforts to remind people that your dental practice is ready and able to take new patients. Once someone does pick up the phone, the real work begins. Knowing how to talk to a potential patient on the phone can make all the difference in your success.
We’ve put together a list of 11 things you can do to improve the conversion rates from phone calls, taking people from potential patient to new patient at your dental practice.
Feel free to share this informative article with your staff to start the conversation about how to improve the calling experience for potential patients and build your practice in a robust way.
Keep in mind that you can implement some of these strategies right away, but others may take some time to learn and implement. Encourage your staff to adopt these tips and make them part of their everyday telephone routine.
1. Add More Staff
Many small and medium sized businesses don’t actually have enough staff to run their operation effectively. Before you implement strategies to improve new patient phone calls, make sure you have the proper support to spend more time on the phone with prospective callers.
Ensuring that you have enough people on hand to answer the phone means that new callers won’t get redirected to voicemail causing you to miss out on golden opportunities to bring on a new patient.
But how many people are enough? That’s an important question to ask. For example, you might set a goal that a potential patient never gets redirected to voicemail. Maybe you want to strive for a 100% answer rate.
That’s amazing, but it’s probably more realistic to aim for around 95% because let’s face it, nobody can be on the phone all day, every day. However, if you have enough staff to switch off when people are on break, lunch, or out sick, you can certainly strive for, and hit, a 95% uptime on your telephone answering protocols.
The bottom line is that the more people you have answering phones the more likely you are to convert callers into new patients for your dental practice.
Larger dental practices often outsource spill over phone calls to call centers, which can provide a temporary solution, especially if you are short staffed. In many cases, however, potential patients will be more impressed if they speak to the people they will see when they arrive at your dental practice for their first appointment.
Many call centers offer tempting pricing to have someone answer phones on behalf of your dental practice, but it is much more professional and personal to have in-house staff answering your phones. It builds trust and a lasting relationship from the start.
One of the best ways to approach staffing is to hire people whose sole job it is to answer phones. Do some simple math to figure out how many people you would need to allow for round-the-clock phone coverage, if that is your goal, and then add one or two people for sick and vacation time where necessary.
This means that you have a team of people dedicated to answering phones and converting potential patients into new patients for your dental practice. This means that at every turn, you are doing what you can to ensure that potential patients don’t slip through the cracks.
2. Train Your Team
If you decide to assemble a rock start team to answer phones and convert potential patients into new patients, then those people need to be trained on what they need to accomplish. In some dental practices, administrators and support staff have multiple roles and the phone is a constant distraction for them.
It’s important to talk to all of your staff about the importance of giving the caller your full attention. That’s why it’s a great idea to have a dedicated telephone team, so that they don’t get interrupted while they’re trying to process a claim: they’re just doing their job!
When you hire new staff or put existing staff on phone duty, don’t assume they have the skills or knowledge to talk and convert potential patients into new patients.
There are many things to consider when converting patients to your dental practice. Many dentists assume their administrators or support staff already know how to convert a caller, but then wonder why their phone conversion rates are lower than expected.
When someone knows how to answer the phone with the intent of converting a potential patient, they are more likely to succeed, which means your dental practice is more likely to succeed.
Professional training for dental sales is available and covers everything from how to manage tone and words to how to answer questions that works in favor of your dental practice.
In his article, Howard Farran, DDS and published of Dentaltown Magazine, provides examples of how a properly trained dental employee should answer the phones and how to field questions in a way that leads to more conversions.
According to Farran, when potential patients call, it is usually because they need something. It turns out that the number one questions people ask when they call a dental office is, “how much do you charge for a crown?” If your staff simply gives the caller the price, the chance to ask any questions has passed.
Getting more information from a potential patient means you increase the chance of converting them into a new patient. Rather than hand over the information and then let the caller decide how to proceed, inform them that there are many different prices related to crowns because there are different types of crowns.
This opens up a dialogue between your staff member and the caller. It also allows your staff member to suggest an appointment to discuss the crown options and pricing.
- Does the dentist use digital X-rays?
- Where can I apply for CareCredit?
- What are the closest cross streets?
- Does the dentist pre-medicate heart patients?
One of the best ways to ensure that your front desk staff is answering the phone correctly and not losing opportunities is to hire a professional training company to come to your dental practice and provide staff training.
The Scheduling Institute offers on-site training to help your staff learn how to increase conversion rates and improve your bottom line.
3. Develop a Routine
Anytime your staff answers the phone they should use the same greeting to greet callers. This creates consistency and provides a level of professionalism amongst your staff.
It also means that when potential patients call, they are not caught off guard by what one staff member might say versus another staff member.
It can be difficult to get staff members to read from a script, and truthfully, it can sound fake, so get your team together and talk about the best “first impression greeting” you can make when someone calls your dental practice.
You can use a simple introductory statement such as, “Thank you for calling ABC Dental. My name is Jane. How may I help you today?”
You can modify and update your greetings as you wish, but the important part is that greetings are the same for all staff members who interact with people on the phones.
This is especially important when people are busy at work and the staff is feeling overwhelmed or overworked. Taking the time to properly greet someone on the phone can make all the difference and remember - first impressions matter!
4. Schedule Phone Staff Appropriately
In addition to proper phone training for your staff, it’s important that you schedule those staff members in a way that is both efficient and strategic.
Many dentists will assign people to the phones and expect that conversion to happen automatically. But with just a little bit of research and tracking, you will get a better idea of how many calls you get throughout the day and find out exactly how many staff members you need to cover the phones.
Don’t make assumptions when it comes to scheduling: it can cost you more money than it needs to in to in the long run.
Here is a sample chart that shows call volumes throughout the month in a dental office. You can see that call volumes are higher toward the end of the month. It would make sense to schedule more staff at this time to cover the busy phones.
Set up call tracking to determine your high-volume call times and schedule your phone staff accordingly (Image source).
When it comes to tracking your calls to coordinate schedules, you might need to get a little creative.
For example, you might think that you don’t need to cover the phones overnight or during the weekend, but with tracking, you might find that you get enough phones calls during “off hours” to warrant having a staff member cover night shifts and weekends. Just because you are not there seeing patients doesn’t mean that your staff can’t be taking calls - avoiding voicemail should always be the goal with callers.
Says Howard Farran:
The dentist might only work 32 hours a week, but the practice’s phones ought to be answered by live people from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday; and maybe 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday."
Howard Farran, DDS
You might find through some investigation that midday is your busiest times. This might be true because a lot of people run errands and make phone calls during their lunch break.
If this is true for you, or for any of your peak phone call times, put your best staff member on the phones during those hours. Knowing who your “best closer” is might also require some tracking, but in no time, you’ll be able to see which staff members are helping to build the practice through patient conversions and which days of the week are the ideal time to put those people on the phones.
5. Take Notes During Phone Calls
Before anyone answers the phone in your dental practice, they should have a few things on hand to be ready to talk to patients. A pen and a notebook are necessary when manning the phones.
It’s important to be able to write down questions, concerns, complaints, or comments from callers. You and your staff can review this information in meetings to decide better answers, approaches, and conversion tactics to improve your conversion rates for new callers.
It’s important to abide by information protection laws, but your staff should write down important information like the patient’s name, location, and the reason for their call. Of course, they should also get a call-back number so you can return their call if you need to get more information to serve them.
It’s a good idea to write down the prospective patient’s name because staff can use it throughout the conversation to make callers feel warm and good about your practice.
Again, it shouldn’t sound like it is being read from a script, but using a person’s name makes them feel like someone is paying attention to them and it can help with the overall impression of the caller toward your dental practice.
You’ll also need the location of the caller to ensure that they live in the area your practice serves. If they don’t live in the area, they may need directions. Again, all of this information can help build a good rapport with potential patients and show them that your staff cares about their dental health.
The reason for the call is obviously the most important piece - this can help you not only track why new people are calling your dental practice, but can help you prepare answers for your telephone staff and improve conversion rates over time.
Determining a caller’s needs and informing them how you can help before they become a patient can ease any fears or reservations about seeking dental treatment. This will also build and strengthen the patient-dentist relationship from the very beginning.
6. Smile Like Everyone is Watching
It might seem funny to say that your staff should smile, even when they are on the phone, but it is very easy to tell when the person you are talking to is not happy on the other end of the phone.
If you encourage your staff to smile when they pick up the phone to talk to prospective patients, or even existing patients, then the caller will be able to hear the cheer in the staff member’s voice. Studies have shown that smiling, even a forced smile, can produce happier thoughts and that translates to the caller on the other end of the phone.
Train your staff to smile when they pick up the phone. They do it when people walk into your practice and the same rule should apply no matter how a potential patient contacts your practice.
To bring the point home, have your staff conduct a little experiment. Ask them to say the greeting you agreed upon (see number 3 above) without smiling. Then have them smile. They will not only sound happier, they will feel better talking to patients as well. At the very least, your staff will have a more pleasant tone in their voice.
Train your staff to smile when they pick up the phone.
7. Ask for More Information
While your staff will have already collected vital information such as the caller’s name, address, and reason for calling, it is important to also ask for an email and phone number.
Getting a number right away prevents an issue if the call drops. Don’t leave it up to the caller to call back if that happens.
Don’t assume that any number that appears on caller ID is the correct number of the caller. Always ask them which number is best for them. If they have multiple numbers, take them all down.
Email is a great way to confirm appointments with patients so encourage your staff to ask for an email address. It’s a good idea to send a confirmation email to ensure all the information is correct and to obtain permission to send future emails.
8. Offer to Set Up an Appointment
When a potential patient calls your practice, it’s important that your staff have any software or scheduling programs open and ready to go. The person taking the call should not have to transfer a caller to schedule an appointment.
The fastest way to convert a caller is to provide a one-stop shopping service. If your staff is passing calls back and forth, the chances of losing the caller, dropping the call, and/or having the caller repeat themselves is very high.
This creates a higher barrier to entry for your dental practice. Make the appointment scheduling process as easy as possible.
As your team collects information from callers, encourage them to repeat the information back to the callers to confirm that everything is correct. This will provide comfort to the caller that the staff is listening to their concerns and questions.
When a caller agrees to an appointment, the staff should be trained to offer a few - but not many - options for appointments. Often dental practices will offer one single appointment and if that doesn’t work for the caller, they will offer another date and time.
Don’t offer too many options because that just leads to confusion, repeating information, and it could cause frustration for the caller. You want to make the process as easy as possible.
For example, you may want your staff to offer two different times on the same day, or offer the caller two different days to start with, and then offer morning or afternoon appointments.
Some callers will expect to have an evening appointment because of their work schedule; talk to your staff about how to address that because there are only so many appointments to go around. It may mean having to wait longer for an appointment, but if the caller understands that your staff is trying to accommodate their needs, they might be more likely to wait for the convenient appointment.
9. Ask Questions to Improve Conversion Rates
Sometimes, no matter how friendly a staff member is, and no matter how helpful your staff has been, a caller won’t accept an appointment. The first line of defense for your telephone team should be to keep asking questions.
For example, if a caller inquires about how much it would cost to have a tooth pulled, your staff could ask which tooth is causing pain, how long has it been going on, and they could reiterate that your dental practice could help them feel better with an appointment to determine the cause of the pain.
It’s also a good idea to ask probing questions and write down any information that has been gathered throughout the conversation. Your staff may continue to talk to the caller as long as the caller is willing to be on the phone, but remind your staff not to press the caller into booking an appointment.
A good indication of when it’s time to hang up is when the caller isn’t accepting an appointment, or if they continue to repeat their symptoms or are offering shorter answers.
Again, offering an appointment or offering to book them appointment if they decide they want one later is a good way to end the conversation with the offer of help fresh in their minds.
10. Confirm Everything
It is too easy for busy administrators and staff to miss a key piece of information when they are feeling rushed on the telephone. That’s one the reasons why it is so important to have dedicated staff that have been properly trained to answer the phones and help convert callers into patients.
One of the key ways to avoid this issue is to confirm all of the information before hanging up the phone. It’s also a good idea to re-confirm all the information when the patient arrives for their appointment.
Staff should always offer to give callers directions to your location. When ending the conversation, your staff should always end by thanking the caller and remind them of the appointment that was set during the conversation.
This can easily be achieved by saying, “Thank you for calling, (name of patient). We look forward to seeing you on (date of appointment).”
When the phone call is over, the work is not done. Your staff must enter the relevant information into your filing or scheduling system and ensure that a confirmation email has been sent (if your practice offers them).
11. Motivate Staff to Get Involved
Dentists, just like other business owners, need to motivate their staff to care about the practice as much as you do. There are key tasks that need to be done on a regular basis that you cannot do because you are busy seeing patients and that is not your job.
For example, booking new patients, administrative functions, and more. Having a team of people that support your practice and work in the best interest of your business can make all the difference to your bottom line.
Give your staff opportunities to advance their skills and get proper training. Helping them feel supported throughout their career with you can go a long way in building a robust team that can convert patients for your practice.
There are lots of ways to motivate your staff to get involved in building the practice, including bonuses, time off, awards, and more. When your team is motivated to perform, your dental practice will perform better. You should never think of your employees as an expense or “overhead.” They are a vital part of your operation and can greatly impact the success of your practice.
Understanding what it takes to convert callers into patients at your practice can make all the difference in your business and success. When callers are impressed with what you can offer them, they will convert into patients.
Satisfied patients will tell others about your great service, thus resulting in phone calls for more potential patients. But all of this can only happen when your front-end staff are prepared and motivated to invest time and energy into converting callers for your dental practice.
Take these tips to heart and find time to create your own booking system, routine, and motivational tactics to get your staff up to speed on how to convert callers for your dental practice.
Keep a checklist of things that staff can do to improve their calls near phones and track stats as you go. Check in with your staff from time to time to determine how effective the conversion rates are and work together to identify areas that could be improved. Over time, you’ll notice that your phone conversions are getting stronger and your dental practice is thriving!