15 Ways To Get New Patients From Every Call

15 Ways To Get New Patients From Every Call

If you own a dental practice, it is likely that you are always on the lookout for ways to bring new patients through your door.

Regular patients make the foundation of your business, but if you want to continue to grow and thrive as a practice, then you will need to be constantly bringing in new patients as well. 

There are several means that you can use to attract more people to your practice. These could include adverts in the local newspaper, sprucing up the outside of your practice, or organizing an online marketing campaign.

However, one of the most important opportunities for bringing new patients into your dental practice is phone calls. 

Your receptionists will receive multiple phone calls daily from potential patients, and each call is an opportunity.

If you aren’t answering and dealing with your calls as efficiently as possible, then you are likely missing out on a lot of new customers. This guide will highlight some of the best methods you can use to get more new patients from every phone call. 

We will cover what kind of questions and responses your receptionists should provide, as well as other small measures you can take to make your calls more effective.

Implementing all, or just a few, of these steps will help you to get more patients through your door, so you can expand and grow your practice.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and some of these methods may take time and considerable effort to implement before you start seeing the rewards. 

1. Hire More Staff 

If you want to get more conversions from calls, then you need to make sure that every time the phone rings, it is answered promptly. The longer a person stays on hold, the more likely they will hang up and try a different practice. 

However, a dental practice can expect to receive many calls throughout the day, so the best way to cut back on waiting times is to hire more receptionists.

Having more people on the call, ready to answer the phone as soon as it rings, will help massively convert more calls into patients. 

Not only does it mean that there are more people ready to answer the phone when it rings, but it will prevent your existing receptionists from burning out.

You should consider carefully how many calls you already receive to your practice and how long each one spends on hold before they reach a receptionist. 

Overall, you want to aim for a 95% answer rate, where only five of your calls go through to voicemail.

Setting this target when you only have a few receptionists is a good recipe for burnout and missed calls. Having more receptionists also means that more time can be spent per call, ensuring your patients get the customer support they need. 

If people are desperate and need a dental appointment sooner rather than later, they will likely call the closest practice to where they live.

If this practice is occupied and they can’t pick up the phone in time, they will quickly move on to their next closest option. This is why it is so important to avoid calls going through to voicemail, as each one is an opportunity you may not get again. 

Work out how many receptionists you would need for round-the-clock coverage on your phone. Always add at least one extra person to this number to account for sick days, vacations or other similar circumstances. 

Some practices may outsource excess calls to a call centre, but this is worth avoiding if possible. Customers will be much happier if they can speak to someone who works in the practice and will meet when they come for their appointment. 

Having more members of staff whose sole duty is to answer the phones will help prevent potential patients from being lost to voicemail. This will make your business seem more professional and makes it more likely that each customer will get the treatment they deserve. 

2. Create A Call Answering Schedule

Having more staff is all very well, but how many do you really need? If you hire too many receptionists, you will certainly be answering all your calls, but not as efficiently as you could be. 

Purchasing phone tracking software, or a similar program, can help massively identify the hours of the day when you get the most phone traffic.

It is easy to make a lot of assumptions about when people are more likely to call your dental practice. For instance, you might assume that fewer people will call after the practice has called or on the weekends. 

However, making these assumptions is risky, as you might be missing out on a lot more potential patients than you realize. Implementing call tracking is a great way to stop the guesswork and find out exactly when phone traffic is at its highest and lowest points.

If you do find out that you get lots of calls on the weekends, then it may be worth assigning some of your receptionists to work these days or hours specifically. 

Using call tracking will help you determine not only how many members of staff you need but also how to work out an effective schedule for them.

An effective schedule will mean the phone is rarely if ever, left unattended, but it also allows all of your staff members time off to avoid burnout.

It also gives you more flexibility since you know exactly who should be doing what. If one of your receptionists needs to take time off unexpectedly, you know exactly who you can call in to replace them temporarily. 

Creating an effective schedule will help you to answer more phone calls without needing to work your staff into the ground. 

3. Make Sure Your Staff Are Well Trained

Hiring more staff isn’t going to work on its own if they haven’t got the necessary training for the job. You can try to make the prior experience working in a dental practice part of the application process, but this may limit your options. 

A better solution is to offer all of your new staff training opportunities, so they can learn about their role and hone their skills.

Often, administrative staff in a dental practice can be burdened with all kinds of other responsibilities. This is why it is important to have employees specifically hired to answer the phone so that they can give the potential patient their full attention. 

You may think that answering the phone is a very simple task and that most people should be able to do it without training.

This is not the case, as what your receptionists are doing is selling your practice to patients over any of the alternatives. As such, sales experience, people skills and the ability to be persuasive are all very important skills to have. 

This is why training is so important, as it will make it very clear to your employees what their job actually is. If they know that their goal is to sell your practice to potential customers, they will be able to do it far more efficiently. 

Training doesn’t need to be expensive, either. Often you can arrange a time to host practice conversations with your staff where you bring up certain scenarios that are likely to come up.

Doing this can help you to identify weaknesses and impress upon your staff the importance of answering questions in a certain way. Another benefit of training is that it will make your staff far more confident in their roles. 

It is important to engage with your customers and not always answer their questions directly. One study showed that the most common question asked by people calling a dental practice was how much a crown would cost.

Instead of just giving the price as an answer, it is better to inform the patient that there are different varieties of crowns that are priced differently. 

This opens the door for your receptionist to ask patients questions about their condition and gather more information.

Doing this gives the impression that your staff care for the people they are talking to and are genuinely interested in helping them. 

4. Standardize Your Answers

When people call your practice, you want them to know they are talking to a human being rather than a robot.

As such, it is a good idea to encourage a reasonable amount of small talk, where your receptionists are interested in the issues the customer is facing. 

That said, rambling is never good, and it is vital that when asked pertinent questions, your staff give informed, straightforward answers.

This is why it is a good idea to teach your receptionists to respond to certain questions with standardized answers.

Each call to your dental practice should be answered with the same greeting. Similarly, questions that are asked frequently should also receive standardized answers that are informative and concise. 

This not only streamlines your answering process but also makes your staff sound much more professional.

It also means that your team will be consistent in how they respond to patients, so they won’t be caught off guard by different responses to their usual questions. 

Another benefit of standardizing your answers is that it will help your staff feel less stressed since they know what they need to say.

Standardized answers should be taught in training, and anyone who picks up the phone should know what they are. 

It is always a good idea to open a phone call with phrases like “How can I help you today?” This is great for patients who are nervous about speaking on the phone, as it gives them a good opportunity to disclose their problems. 

5. Always Ask For More Contact Details 

Asking for a patient’s name, address and reason for the call should all be part of your receptionist’s routine. However, it is also very important to ask for an email address and a phone number. 

You might think you can rely on caller ID to collect their phone number, but this is not always accurate. As such, it is always a good idea to ask which number the patient prefers to be called. 

Having more than one set of contact details makes it easier to reach out to your patients if something goes wrong or if they don’t show up for their appointment.

You can also use a patient’s email address to send them a confirmation email for their appointment, as well as a reminder when it gets closer to the date. Both of these practices are very good for reducing cancellation rates. 

When asking for any details from your patients, make sure your receptionists repeat the information back to them.

This allows them to confirm what they have been told, and it also gives your patients the impression that your staff are listening and paying attention. 

On the other hand, asking for a phone number makes it easier to call the patient back if the call drops for any reason. Remember, if the call drops, you should aim to call back rather than wait for the patient to do so. 

6. Ask Questions Frequently

As well as obtaining basic contact information, your staff should be trained to ask questions about each patient’s condition. Use these questions as an opportunity to suggest booking an appointment.

For instance, if a patient calls saying they have a severe toothache, you could ask which teeth are hurting. This can then be followed up with offering an appointment to learn more about the source of the pain. 

Receptionists should aim to keep patients on the phone, so they can gather as much information as possible until an appointment is booked.

It is important not to coerce your patients into arranging an appointment, and the call should be politely ended once it is clear they are not going to do so. This prevents any wasted time on calls with patients who have no intention of booking an appointment. 

Always end such calls with a final offer to arrange an appointment if they change their mind. So that your caller puts down the phone knowing that you care and are willing to help. 

7. Always Take Notes

While your receptionist is on the phone, they should constantly take notes about what is being said. This could include contact information, details on the specific dental issue that needs addressing, or other pertinent information. 

It is also helpful to make a note of small talk, even if it seems inconsequential. If a patient mentions something from their personal lives in one call, and your staff mention it again in a separate call, it will make a very good impression. 

Taking notes is a great way to connect better with your patients and make them feel more special. It allows your staff to get to know them without having to remember every tiny detail by themselves.

Notes can also be passed on to other staff, so they know what pertinent questions to ask and the kind of conditions this patient has faced before. 

Notes that detail medical issues should be passed on to the dentists and hygienists before an appointment, so they can get a rough idea of what to expect. Doing this will help to keep things organized and efficient.

Names are especially important to make a note of. Calling your patients by their names will make the call feel more personal and like the person on the other end actually cares. 

Notes can also be a very helpful training tool, since you can use them to spot issues with your staff’s responses. When used correctly, this can help you to give appropriate and helpful feedback to your staff, so they can keep improving their performance. 

However, you should always observe correct data protection rules. Notes containing sensitive information should not be shared with anyone outside the practice. They should be stored safely and properly disposed of once they are no longer relevant. 

8. Make Setting Up An Appointment Easy

Your receptionists need to have access to all appointment scheduling software and databases. This is to allow them to set up appointments while they are talking to potential patients without passing the call on to someone else. 

If you have to transfer calls between different staff members, it only makes it harder for patients to book their appointments.

This is the exact opposite of what you want, which is why your staff should be ready to book an appointment the moment the phone rings. 

Streamline the process of making an appointment so it is as simple as possible. Offer one date at the start, and only offer alternatives if it doesn’t work for your patient.

This prevents confusion but also allows your staff to be flexible with the times that they can arrange. 

Many patients may want their appointment in the evening to avoid clashes with their work. In these instances, your staff should know that appointment slots are limited but will see what they can do.

This will make it more likely for a patient to make an appointment at a much later date since it is clear that you are trying to take their concerns into account. 

9. Confirm Any Details Provided

We briefly touched upon this earlier, but it really can’t be stressed enough. Anytime your caller accepts an appointment, or provides specific information about their problem or contact details, make sure it is confirmed. 

Often this is simply a case of repeating the information back to them so that they can confirm it is correct. This is useful since it makes it seem like your receptionists are paying attention and properly engaging with the caller.

It also provides time for writing notes and ensuring they are correct before the wrong information is circulated throughout the practice. 

Confirmation is especially important when booking appointments. As well as confirming the time and date of the appointment over the phone, it is also a good idea to send out automated confirmation emails.

This makes it much easier for the caller to refer to the email if they forget when they are scheduled to visit the dentist. 

It also helps to send out reminders via email or text roughly 24 hours before the appointment. This is another good habit that can greatly reduce cancellation rates and boost profits. 

If you don’t make patients confirm what they have said or arranged, it could lead to mistakes. These mistakes will make your proactive look far less professional and could end up costing money to rectify. 

Your receptionists should always confirm the name and date of an appointment at the end of a phone call.

This is easily achieved by referring to them by name when you say ‘Thank you for calling’ and following this sentence with ‘We will see you on… for your appointment’. 

Doing this gives you a standardized greeting that sounds professional and reminds the caller of the commitment they have just arranged. 

10. Always Ask Before Placing On Hold

Sometimes you will simply have a flood of incoming calls, and it won’t be possible to answer them all. In these instances, it is vital that a human initially answers the call and asks the potential patient if it is okay for them to be put on hold. 

This is simply polite and lets callers know that their concerns will be addressed if they just wait a little longer. In instances where a long wait, over 20 minutes, is unavoidable, always briefly reconnect to let the patient know how long it will take. 

It is a good idea to then apologize to the caller for their wait, as this shows courtesy and lets them know they have not been forgotten about. 

11. Motivate Your Staff

As with any other business, you must motivate your staff to care about the success of your practice as much as you do.

Often doing this will involve making them feel like the business is more than just a responsibility and a job but also a place that cares about their well-being. 

Providing opportunities for training is one way to motivate your employees, as they will feel more confident in their roles.

Training can also be used to stress just how important their various functions are to the business as a whole and why the practice will not succeed without them. 

As well as training opportunities, you should also look to promote internally so your employees have some means of advancing their careers.

Having the option to offer your staff a career path rather than just a job will make them far more motivated to do well in their roles. 

There are lots of other incentives that you can offer your staff to motivate them. If someone does very good work, they should be rewarded appropriately to know their efforts are appreciated. 

Cash bonuses, paid time off, and awards are all great incentives that you can use to reward those who go above and beyond the call of duty.

Remember, your staff aren’t just an expense; they are essential components for keeping your practice running smoothly and efficiently. 

Keeping your staff happy will make them care more about the success of your business and encourage them to do their jobs to the best of their ability. 

12. Record All Of Your Calls

Remember the tip we gave earlier about offering training opportunities to your employees? Well, one of the best tools you can use for those training exercises is recorded phone calls.

While it may sound somewhat dystopian, recording phone calls isn’t a means of spying on your employees but rather a valuable learning tool. 

Recording calls allow you to use the recordings in training sessions to demonstrate difficult situations that your staff will need to tackle.

You can also use the responses given during the call as good examples of what to say and what not to say. It is important that your staff don’t feel they are being used as a bad example, so you should always ask them before using one of their calls for training. 

Lots of businesses record calls for training purposes, and as long as you tell prospective patients that you are recording, there is nothing wrong with you doing the same.

Recording calls can also give you valuable data about the type of people who frequently call your clinic, how long they stay on the phone for, and common issues. 

You can use these statistics to your benefit by seeing where you can streamline your calling procedure to save time.

Remember, recorded calls are subject to data protection laws. As such, they must be kept confidential and never shared with those who are not working for your practice. 

13. Set Up An Automatic Answering Machine

For busy practices that see lots of patients calling every day, it can be helpful to set up an automated answering service. This service can offer a variety of options that help customers get straight to the services they need. 

Creating an automated attendant is very simple, and it will help your receptionists to stay focused on their calls. It also means that any inquiries are channelled to the right people so that they can be dealt with quickly and effectively. 

It is worth remembering that most people will greatly prefer speaking to a person over a robot. As such, you want the greeting from your automated attendant to be brief and to the point.

If patients are stuck speaking to the robot for too long, they will likely hang up and try somewhere else. 

14. Don’t Make Calls The Only Way To Arrange An Appointment

Occasionally you may get callers who are reluctant to set up an appointment immediately. It is important to remind these callers that they can always call back to book an appointment if they wish to after the call. 

However, being able to refer these callers to other methods of arranging an appointment is even better. A lot of practices now allow you to book appointments online, and this is a great service to implement in your business. 

However, if you do provide this option, it is important that your receptionists regularly remind the caller of it as well.

This will let them know about other options for booking an appointment and won’t put too much pressure on them to book immediately. 

15. Smile, Even When On The Phone

This final piece of advice may seem very peculiar to some, but it has been proven to work. The fact is that many people can tell, even over the phone, when someone is not happy.

If a patient calls and is met by a voice that sounds tired or disgruntled, this won’t create the kind of first impression that you want. 

As such, it is vital to remind your staff of the importance of smiling, even when on the phone.

Smiling audibly, raising the cadence of your voice and makes you sound much happier, which will make a huge difference when it comes to converting callers into patients. 

It’s not like your receptionists need to be smiling every minute of every day, but smiling during greetings and goodbyes will make your practice seem far more friendly. 

Conclusion

These tips aren’t going to bring you in loads of new patients overnight, and some of them may be more difficult to implement than others, depending on your practice.

However, they offer a solid foundation for training your staff and making sure that each caller gets the respect and attention they deserve. 

Remember, the most important part of converting callers into patients is working with your staff. They should be made aware of how important their role is to the business and motivated to do the best job that they can. 

All of the tips in this article will help you to organize your staff, so they answer calls with the right responses.

However, this will only work if you have enough staff who are trained properly to do their jobs. As such, hiring enough receptionists and training them effectively should be at the top of your priority list.

If followed, these tips will ensure that when anyone calls your practice, they will be met with a caring, helpful and professional voice on the other end.