7 ways to improve telephone techniques and grow your practice

By Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management

Dental offices are busy places. Team members have various tasks they need to complete throughout the day, which is why they often see answering patient phone calls as an unwelcome distraction. Instead of focusing on scheduling patients who call in or answering their questions, they do their best to get off the phone as quickly as possible—which doesn’t do much to help the practice grow its patient base. That’s why it’s so important for team members to be properly trained to handle patient calls.

Patients should never feel like they’re bothering the person who answers the phone, because if they do, they probably won’t schedule an appointment. To convert more patient calls to appointments, they should be greeted by a friendly team member who wants to help, and who makes them feel like they’re the most important patient in the practice. Improving telephone techniques will help your practice flourish, leading to increased production and a healthier bottom line. Here are my seven tips to make that happen in your office:


  1. Develop well-thought-out scripts. All too often, potential patients ask questions team members can’t answer—and that doesn’t give them a good first impression of your practice. Team members should have access to scripts that guide them through various types of conversations. When they have scripts, they’ll never find themselves fumbling for the right words—and that will give them more confidence when they’re talking with patients. I also suggest putting together a list of frequently asked questions about the services the practices provides. This will help keep messaging consistent and ensure all team members are ready to talk about what the practice has to offer.


  1. Really listen. When team members are focused on getting off the phone and back to other tasks, they tend to wait for their turn to talk rather than actually listening. This isn’t an effective way to get patients to schedule. Team members should be trained to focus on what patients are saying and to do their best to address their concerns, showing them they care. And if patients feel like both the doctor and team members truly care about their well-being, they’ll start feeling the type of connection that fosters practice loyalty.


  1. Find solutions Patients don’t want to be told “no” or “I can’t do that.” They want to know how the practice can help them. So, if a patient is interested in scheduling an appointment on a Saturday but you don’t have weekend hours, tell that patient about the flexible early morning and evening options the practice offers during the week. Rather than putting up barriers, make it easy for patients to schedule appointments with your practice.


  1. Keep conversations friendly. Your practice should be focused on providing exceptional customer service to every patient who calls in, whether they’re brand new or have been with the practice for years. Team members should never sigh or do anything that might make patients feel like their call is a nuisance. Have them focus on smiling as they talk, speaking clearly and keeping conversations natural, even though they’re using scripts. Remember, no one wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot.


  1. Be patient. This goes back to listening to patients. Team members should never finish patients’ sentences; they’ll know they’re just being rushed off the phone. Let patients explain their situation and what they’re looking for, and then tell them what the practice can do to meet their needs. 
  2. Stay calm. Sometimes, team members have to deal with unhappy callers. Maybe a patient is upset because the bill that came in the mail is larger than expected, or maybe a patient is dealing with an emergency and is frantic. Whatever the problem, team members must stay calm and do their best to help patients through these situations. It may not seem like it at the time, but patients will appreciate this and will be more likely to choose your practice as their dental home. 
  3. Follow through. When team members tell patients they’ll call back with information they requested later that day, then that’s exactly what they should do. If they forget and don’t make the call for a few days, chances are that patient has already received the information from another practice, and scheduled an appointment.  Improving telephone techniques will help grow your patient base and practice productivity. Follow these tips and you’ll soon have more patients on the schedule and a more robust bottom line.


Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.


Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #128


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