I don’t know many office managers or dentists who would answer no to the question, “Do you want more new patients, higher production, and better collections?” Who wouldn’t?
Even if your office is already doing well in one of those areas, I can guarantee you’re struggling with one or two of them—most dental offices do.
Great news: I have the secret to the first step of reaching your goals.
Are you ready? Here is my secret…
Answer the phone.
Yes, that’s all there is to it. Just answer the phone and you will see an increase in your practice numbers.
You’re probably thinking, “That’s too simple and besides we already answer the phones, so how is this advice helpful?” Well, after working with thousands of dental offices, I know the truth.
You think you are already answering your phones, but you are only answering your phones sometimes – not all the time.
I guarantee if you picked up every single phone call that came in to your office, your numbers would improve. Seriously, I guarantee it.
Let me explain why I am so confident.
There have been many times over the years when I have called offices and did not speak to a person. When it comes to numbers and growth, I’m going to provide some insight into why those incidents hurt the bottom line of that office.
It is common for many dental offices to allow their office phones go to voicemail over lunch, so the staff can take a lunch break. If you want your numbers to improve, this must be the first thing you change.
Think about it from a patient perspective – for the average person, working Monday through Friday for 40 hours a week, when do you think that they handle personal things like scheduling dental appointments or paying their bills? That’s right, over their lunch break.
If they call your office and get voicemail, there is a good possibility they are going to hang up instead of leaving a message asking you to call them back.
Each hang-up means you have lost a potential new patient, a current patient ready to schedule their dental work, or a patient looking to pay a bill.
Let’s review which categories are taking a hit because of lost phone calls over lunch: New Patient; Production; Collections.
Helping Other Patients
Employees tend to let the phone go to voicemail while they are busy helping another patient because they don’t want to disrupt time with the patient in front of them.
But, what happens to the person calling? They get the message that says, “Your call is important to us. If you reach this message during business hours, we must be helping another patient, so leave a message.” It doesn’t matter your recording says their call is important to you—by not answering it, you are telling them that the other person is more important than them.
Not only is there a good chance this person is not going to leave a message about what they want, like scheduling an appointment or paying a bill, they are also taking note subconsciously that you don’t value them and their business.
Your patients are only going to do dentistry and spend money in your office if they feel valued and are not just a number to you.
(Note: if you want current patients to refer their friends and family, you must first make them feel that they are worth answering their call.)
Categories negatively impacted by you being too busy with patients to answer a call: Production; Collections; (possible) New Patient.
On Fridays or Other Closed Days
You might think that putting your office hours on your voicemail would be good customer service, especially when your regular business hours are not Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, but this can backfire when it comes to getting patients in the door or collecting payments.
If prospective new patients or current patients call your office on the day you’re closed, or a day that you open late or close early, and they realize from your voicemail message you are not be available for them right away, they decide there and then whether to pursue making an appointment or getting in touch with you about payment.
Let’s say you are closed on Fridays and a potential new patient is looking for an appointment on a Friday.
You immediately lose that patient the minute they hear your voicemail say that you’re closed on Fridays—they will hang up and call another office. Or, if your current patient finally gets some time to call your office to discuss outstanding treatment on a Tuesday afternoon, but your office closes early on Tuesdays, they will hang up frustrated.
When you don’t answer your phones every day all day, you are constantly pushing new and current patients away without even realizing it.
Likely categories impacted in this scenario: Production, Collections; New Patient.
Do you see a pattern here?
Let me summarize: every single missed call is likely to affect your numbers in terms of getting new patients, meeting production goals by scheduling the patients you already have and getting paid via collections for the work your office has already done.
The first step to improving your practice overall is to be there and available to your patients, regardless of when they call.
The telephone is your lifeline to the outside world and if you are not respecting that by answering your phone all the time, you are losing opportunities to grow each week.
There are plenty of options on how to handle this situation.
Have an employee stay even when the office is closed to answer phones; hire a college student to come in to answer during days you are closed; use a telephone answering and scheduling service to help answer your phone when your staff gets too busy – to name a few.
Bottom line: when patients call your office, they want to talk to a human. By making that happen in your office, there is no doubt you will increase new patients, collections, and production.
The only hurdle now is to address what your employees say when they answer the phones. Are you confident that your office staff is answering the phones in a way that helps your office grow and thrive?