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Why Telephone Scripts Don’t Work, But Here’s 5 Ways To Win New Dental Patients

Big companies need to use telephone scripts because it’s an efficient way to get a lot of people productive on the phones and ensure that they follow a “recipe” to attempt to gain or keep clients.

They need to hire and train a lot of people and meet their selling goals with phone interactions, and they understand that they are giving up personalized customer service in order to get more bigger numbers of employees on the phones more quickly.

Here’s my latest encounter with a “telephone script” and customer service representatives that haven’t been trained to listen.

I recently moved from a house to an apartment that wouldn’t allow my TV dish to be installed on the building. I assumed that it would be a simple and brief call to cancel my dish service… but I was wrong.

When I called, the person on the other end of the line answered in a very robotic monotone voice, saying “What can I do for you today?” I explained my situation about moving, and I said that I had loved their television service and would keep it if I could but it was not an option in my new location. The customer service representative asked me if there was anything they could do to get me to change my mind and stay with them. Patiently, I explained again why I had no choice but to cancel my service. That’s where the conversation should have immediately switched to helping me cancel my account. However, that’s not what happened. Instead, the representative began telling me about new channels they offer and describing what features I could get for free if I decided to stay. I interrupted and emphasized that it wasn’t up to me whether to stay or cancel, so I just needed him to help me cancel. So do you know what he said next? He told me that he could work out a better price for me and asked if I would be interested in a deal in order to considering staying. By this point, I had already explained three separate times that I absolutely had to cancel and that I had no power to make a decision about it, yet he was continuing along the path of trying to get me to agree to new terms.

Once I was finally off that call, I was furious. I had loved this TV service and would have happily recommended it to everyone I knew. But now, because the customer service rep had read to me from a script instead of interacting like a human being, I am more likely not to recommend this service. The entire conversation felt like a waste of my time and not like a genuine interaction—I might as well have been talking to a recording. The worst part is that I called because I needed help with something, and everything that the representative said to me came from a script that was all about the needs of that company, not the customer.

I am sure everyone reading this been in a similar situation where you call into a business and the person sounds like they are reading off a checklist or a menu. They respond in kind of a robotic way, and many times even though they repeat what you are saying, you can tell that they are not really listening. In fact, it sounds as if they are repeating after you simply in order to buy time to find the right answer on a list of options to your comment. It is not real or genuine. As consumers, we experience this as frustrating and we remember it as a negative interaction.

Visit our Dental Receptionist Training Course here to learn about handling patient calls, telephone skills and proper telephone etiquette!

I’m aware that there are companies out there aimed at dental practices that teach telephone scripts as a way to train your employees to answer the phones. Here a few reasons why I think the phone script approach should not be utilized in dental offices.

First, we are health care providers, not corporate America. Our focus isn’t about selling to consumers, it’s about meeting our patients’ needs and maintaining their health. We are dealing with people that want to be seen as human and have their concerns heard. We are dealing with fears and pain. Your patients (customers) can very easily decide that if they are not getting heard in your office, they should move on to the next dentist.

Great dental is not just about competent care for people’s teeth—we also have to show the patients that we care in order to build long-lasting relationships and get referrals. A telephone script does not do that at all. In fact, it shows patients that you don’t care.

This is why telephone scripts do not work in the dental industry. I think the phone should be handled with H.E.A.R.T. If you use these 5 tips on the phones in your office, your patients will be happier and you are more likely to gain more new patients.

  1. Honesty is the best policy, as the saying goes. In terms of phone interactions with patients, being honest means your responses need to be genuine and authentic. Reading off a script never feels real to the person on the other end of the line, and it also doesn’t address the patient’s concerns or questions directly.
  2. Energetic, not robotic.  No matter how much you “fake it” when you read off a piece of paper, you are going to sound like you’re reading off a piece of paper.  Think about it—there’s a reason why actors don’t read their lines from note cards.  When the things you’re saying to a patient on the phone comes from you, it sounds and feels different than when it comes from a script.
  3. Attention on the patient and not on the script.  It’s impossible for an employee to really hear a patient’s concerns and respond appropriately if they are focused on the next lines that they are supposed to say, or scanning a checklist for an exact response to a specific cue. We all know what it feels like when someone is busy thinking about the next thing they want to say instead of hearing what we’re saying.
  4. Really listen to the patient to address their needs.  Communication is not only talking but listening.  Patients feel disrespected when we don’t hear and acknowledge their concerns. In contrast, when we really focus on what the patient is saying as well as their tone of voice, we are able to be empathetic and really make sure the patient feels heard. This is relationship building, which is what leads to return patients and referrals.
  5. Training is the only way an employee can learn.  Many times we have a double standard about training in dental offices. We think that front office staff can learn the job by doing it, but we would never dream of expecting clinical staff to learn how to do a procedure properly by picking up an instrument and giving it a try on a few patients. It’s important to understand that the telephone is a tool, and a very important one. The phone is your connection to the outside world, your patient base, and your potential patients. That tool needs to be respected as much as any piece of dental equipment.  You spend a lot of money and energy to get that phone to ring, so make sure to train your team thoroughly on how to handle that tool. No one should answer a telephone in a dental office until they are fully trained.

I hope it’s clear by now why I am against using phone scripts in a dental office. It is better for patient relationships and the long-term health of your practice to take the money you would have spent on scripts and invest it into thorough phone training for your team. Remember, without the phones, we have no relationship with current patients, no contact from future patients, and ultimately no dental practice.

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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.