The Do’s and Don’ts of New Patient Phone Calls

The telephone is our lifeline to the outside, to our current patients, and our new patients and I believe that how we answer every phone call is a very important skill that we should train at the dental office on a regular basis. Whoever is answering the phones at your practice is the first impression new patients will have of your practice and it’s important that you train anyone that’s handling new patient calls. It’s one of the things that we don’t do well; typically, we take somebody brand new and we put them on the phones and say “Here! Let’s try you out on the phones, we’ll see how you do”. Don’t do that; get them completely trained to answer the phone and here’s a few of our do’s and don’ts to get your started.

Here are some of our best tips and tricks about new patient phone calls:

Don’t ignore the phone. There are too many offices that are not answering their phones between Monday and Friday from 8 – 5. That phone is the most important piece of technology in your dental office. We need to understand that the phone is our lifeline and it is not a nuisance, it needs to be answered and I know you’re busy, I know there are things going on in the practice, but answer the phone.

Don’t put newbies on the phone especially over lunch when call volume will be at its highest and you are most likely to have new patients trying to schedule. Lunchtime is when most business professionals have lunch too, so they are trying to make their appointments and take care of personal matters. Lunchtime is when you want an employee who’s trained on the phone and the schedule to handle calls.

Don’t put somebody who’s not trained on the phone. Many times we have somebody just answer the phone as a backup, maybe a dental assistant or hygienist, and I’m not saying they can’t be great at answering phones. Just make sure it’s somebody who likes answering phones, because you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. So, if I answer the phone and sound like I’m annoyed or nervous, or you don’t like answering the phone, that’s going to come across to the patient.

Do answer your phone with a smile. People can feel a smile and I know sitting at the front desk of a dental office feels crazy…four lines are ringing, the toilets overflowing, the doctor wants to know where his patients is, the patient just walked in and wants us to babysit their kids. Even with all that going on – make sure you are smiling when you answer the phone.

Do answer every call by the fourth ring. This means every single call during business hours and over lunch. If you cannot answer the phone, there are companies out there that can help. Get your whole team trained to provide phone back up as well. When a patient calls your office and especially if they get that voicemail that says “if you’ve reached our office during business hours and we didn’t answer the phone we must be helping another patient”, all you are doing is telling the patient they are not important to you or you don’t have time to answer a phone call, yet alone treat another patient.

Do answer the phone like a receptionist. Answer it like you care, like you want to help them, not like they’re interrupting you and they’re bothering you. Be professional and personable.

Do focus on taking care of the new patient the right way. Listen to why they are calling and get them scheduled. You don’t know how many offices I’ve called where the phone call ends and they never once asked me if I wanted to schedule an appointment. Understand what your intention is when you answer the phone and that is to schedule that patient and get #buttsinthechair.

There are a lot of offices who say “Yeah, we do all that stuff Laura, we do!” and I think that you would be surprised if you called your own office during the day. Your team may have a few of these tips, but everyone has room for improvement. Your phone is the most important piece of technology in the dental office. Get trained, master the phones, convert new patients, and you’re going to see more new patients and keep the patients that you have happier.

At Front Office Rocks, we have an entire suite of videos on how to answer the new patient phone call, how to provide customer service over the phone, and how to get new callers scheduled. We recently started a coach-led program focused on phone training because that’s how important this training is to the success of your dental practice. Train and become a pro at answering phones – it matters. #Respectthephone if you want more informaton about our phone training, schedule your training assessment and site tour here.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.