June 22, 2018

4 Ways to Improve Your New Patient Phone Calls

Doctors spend a significant amount of their hard-earned revenue on marketing; therefore, converting prospective patients to people who are a part of your dental family is significantly important. For this reason, we need to teach our team members that a new patient call is so much more than gathering information and (hopefully!) scheduling an appointment. Too much emphasis is placed on the task of gathering insurance information (yes, it’s important too), but not enough emphasis is placed on how to “be” during a call that is so rich in opportunity. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, how should my team “be”? Here are 4 things they need to “be” to improve your new patient phone calls!

Do You Have a New Patient Phone Call Issue??

Each month, I have a client who sends me the number of new patients for the month, the referral source, what was diagnosed, what was accepted and the case acceptance percentage. In addition, this client works with a marketing company that records incoming calls, allowing us to also identify the number of new patients that called, but never scheduled. When we finally had the ability to track this number, it was disturbing to find that the conversion rate was less than 50%!

My client clearly had a new patient phone call issue!

Furthermore, when I conduct a Practice Analysis, I always ask the Appointment Administrator what percentage of the new patients show up for their appointment. If I hear—and I have—“it’s a miracle if the patient shows up!” Then I know we have a real new patient phone call issue to fix.

4 Ways to Improve Your New Patient Phone Calls

So, how should your team “be”? Here are 4 things they need to “be” 100% of the time:

1. Be Welcoming.

When the patient identifies himself or herself as a new patient, say, “That’s wonderful. We sincerely appreciate you calling our office.” Instead of the far too common reply, “Okay, what’s your name?” or “What insurance do you have?” or “Do you have any concerns?” Those questions will come, but set the tone by being welcoming first.

2. Be Gracious.

Ask the patient, “Who may we thank for referring you to our office?” Believe it or not, “Who may we thank” is powerful; it shows appreciation. If the patient mentions the name of a patient of record, say, “We think the world of Bill. He’s one of our favorite patients. We’ll be sure to thank him!” Now, isn’t that so much better than the silence that often comes after a prospective patient mentions a referral source? You bet it is!

3. Be Empathetic.

When a patient shares a concern, for instance, a prior dental experience that didn't go well, say, “I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had challenges in the past. I’m confident when you meet, Dr. Wonderful, and our team, you will feel much better. Our team is kind and sincerely wants to help patients like you.” Unfortunately, I don’t hear a lot of empathy when I overhear phone calls. Calling a new dental practice can be frightening for some and dental pain can be awful. When a patient shares a concern, it should be natural to be empathetic first.

4. Be Sincerely Interested.

During the new patient call, you’re getting to know the patient and gathering the information needed to help the whole team serve them better. Also, you’re starting to build a relationship. One way to help foster that relationship is by showing sincere interest in the patient. A wonderful way to wrap up the call is to ask the million dollar question: “Mrs. Jones, is there anything else you’d like us to know to help make your visit as comfortable as possible?” Bingo! Who does that? Not many in healthcare, so sincerely asking this one, little question will set your office apart. People will thank their lucky stars they found you. Plus, you may actually learn something that will help you to care for that patient in a more profound way. It’s a win-win.

The Tone Used Needs to Be Consistent With the Intention

One last thing. The mini-scripts above will be helpful—only if the tone used is consistent with the intention of the words. Seriously, I don't care how pitch-perfect the words are if the tone is off—indifferent (the kiss of death) or you sound like you’re in a hurry—even the best script won’t help the lackluster feeling the caller was left with.

My Best Tip: When your team talks about what to “do,” also address how to “be.”

About the Author

Debbie Castagna Headshot

Debbie Castagna is one of the dental industry's most experienced and accomplished management consultants, authors and speakers. Owner of Castagna Coaching, author of numerous articles for industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dental Products Report, Progressive Dentist Magazine and the California Dental Association Journal, she has been among Dentistry Today's list of Leaders in Consulting since 2005.

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