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How to Effectively Answer the Dental Office Telephone

Hey guys, I have been very frustrated with my front desk team member. She thinks she is great on the phone but my appointment book does not share her opinion. Ideas?
Dr. Sei Nguyen, Orange County, CA

Dear Dr. Nguyen,

This problem is one that we see all over and it does not seem to be going away. Even with the expensive “institutes” that are popping up. Sometimes it’s best to get back to basics. We would love to share some ideas from our lead coach, Betty Hayden:

Do we really need to keep talking about how to answer the telephone? Absolutely!  This is one key to your success. All of your marketing efforts lead people to the phone first. Don’t waste your money by losing the potential patient or aggravating current patients due to poor telephone skills and habits. Your entire team (clinical & admin) should be trained on how to properly answer the phone and handle the call. Answering the phone is a privilege and a great opportunity!

Here are a few tips:

  • Smile before you pick up the phone.
  • Answer the phone within the first couple of rings.
  • Answer the phone with a thank you for calling, identify the office and give your name. (ex: Thank you for calling Dr. Smiles, this is Betty. I can help you)
  • Do NOT let the caller go to voice mail (or a busy signal!) during business hours (including lunch hours). People hate leaving messages. Oftentimes, they’ll hang up and call the next office on their list.
  • Never, ever answer the phone with “hold please” or “can you hold?” Take a quick second, find out who they are and what they need. People hate to be put on hold. If you are habitually needing to put callers on hold, you need more people answering the phones.
  • For the few times when you do need to put a caller on hold – please, consider having a great message on hold service.
  • Get the caller’s name and use it often. Find out how they heard about your office (document the referral source!). “What type of insurance do you have?” shouldn’t be the first thing you ask. In fact, let the caller bring that part up. Your goal is to build a relationship with the caller, to get to know them and their expectations.
  • Offer an appointment. Sounds obvious right? You might be surprised to know how many office’s I have called as a “shopper” and was never offered an appointment.
  • There are words/phrases that should never be used on a call. Make a list of the words/phrases you want to eliminate from the office vocabulary.

Set aside some time to meet together as a team – everyone in the office should be trained on how to not only answer the phones but they should know how to handle the calls. At the very least, professionally & courteously direct the caller to someone who can help. Role playing will help all to feel more comfortable handling different types of calls.

Worried about your team members sounding like robots on the phone? Don’t be. This is what you do – create as a team your Telephone Principles (your goals & expectations for each call.)

Be Firm In Principle – Flexible in Procedure

The procedure may vary but the principles remain the same. This will allow the team member’s to customize their words to the individual caller’s. However, professionalism is always a must!

A few more things to consider during your meeting and training with your team:

What times are your phones being answered? Examine whether or not the times you’re actually available to answer the office phone is when your patients and potential patients are actually available to call the office.

What happens after hours? Ringing? Voice Mail? Answering Service? Here’s your chance to exceed expectations by answering the office phone after hours! (Forward calls to a cell phone.)

The Greeting – First impressions matter!!

Shopper Callers – Great opportunity! Typically, the shopper caller has a need and is ready to “buy”, that’s why they are “shopping”.  Don’t blow it by refusing to quote fees over the phone. By all means, offer them to come in for a complimentary consultation.

Insurance Questions – (Have a great response to: “Do you take —-ins?)

Wrong Numbers – offer an appointment anyway.

Sales Calls – Be kind, they’re just doing their job. Maybe they need an appointment. Plus, you don’t know who they know. It’s simple – always be kind.

Moms calling for donations or any organization that asks for donations – Empower your team to fulfill their request. At the very least, offer them an appointment.

Certainly, handling the phones is a big responsibility but it’s an even bigger privilege. Don’t miss out on any opportunities to set your office apart from the others by always exceeding the caller’s expectations.

If you have questions about how to successfully handle telephone calls or need help training your team, don’t wait, ask for help. I’m ready to help you.

Yours for Greater Success,
~Betty

Betty Hayden is the lead coach at The Madow Center For Dental Practice Excellence. She has over 25 years of experience in the dental profession. Her expertise is in effective telephone answering techniques, profitable scheduling, marketing campaigns, communication, social media, new patient acquisition, practice growth, and much more. She has been labeled “The Idea Woman” by many of her clients!

If you have a question for this column, please write to them at coaches@madow.com. If you would like to ask a confidential question, please CLICK HERE to schedule a free call.

 

 

His Fly Was Down

Recently our friend Sally got to meet a Nobel Prize nominated physicist.

She said that he was incredibly intelligent, articulate, funny, charming, and if that’s not enough, really good looking! But what was the main takeaway – the think she mentioned first and couldn’t stop talking about?

His fly was down.

There is a thing called “Negativity Bias” – a psychological phenomenon by which we have greater recall of unpleasant things than positive ones. It was first proposed and published by psychologists Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman in 2001 and has been confirmed by many follow-up studies. It’s why, for example, five minutes of turbulence and a screaming baby are what someone would remember from a five hour flight that arrived on time and landed safely.

It’s also why a cranky, unhappy patient is more likely to write a review online. And it’s why we have to do so many little things right, or the patient will remember mostly the bad.

Run late, cause pain, estimate insurance incorrectly, etc…. and there is a great chance negativity bias will undermine your otherwise excellent treatment.

What are you doing in your practice to cause negativity bias, and how can you correct it?

A simple thing to remember…

As dental people, we see all kinds of folks in our practices. And many (possibly most?) are extremely kind and appreciative.

But then there are others who are almost impossible to please. They can be combative, grumpy, or downright nasty. And that is why we always need to remember something.

Many of our patients would rather be anywhere other than the dental office – but that doesn’t mean they are bad people. And quite frequently we are seeing people at their worst.

So you can walk around all day calling people names, and asking things like “Why can’t every patient be like Mrs. Jones?”

But the thing is – the worst patients need the most loving – and when you give it to them you can transform their lives AND your practice.

The Most Common Mistake


Welcome to our brand new column, Coaches Corner! We are happy to share our years of experience working with dental offices all across North America.

Today’s question comes from a doc in Atlanta.

Hey guys, would you be willing to share the most common mistake or problem that you have observed from the offices you have worked with over the years?

Dr. Mike H., Atlanta, GA.

 

Dear Dr. Mike,

Great question. There are so many things we have observed over the years, but one thing stands out in our minds for sure. The most common problem we see even today is offices that are overly concerned with how many new patients they are receiving. Everyone wants more new patients. But most docs think that more new patients are the panacea – the answer to all of their problems.

So we get into a conversation and we ask why they want more new patients. It always comes down to wanting to earn more money. Then we ask questions. How is your cash flow? What do you mean you can’t pay your bills? Why aren’t your current patients making appointments for their recommended treatment? Why did you just go into more debt to purchase that new piece of equipment? A salesman told you it would increase your production? Do you really think it’s going to help you? Why do so many patients owe you money? You have an associate doctor who is making more money than you? Can you explain why? Do you even need an associate? What is your overhead? You don’t know? Well let us share this – it’s about 90%. Why aren’t you treating any periodontal disease in your hygiene department? Is it that your hygienist doesn’t own a perio probe? Or is it that she has no time to use it or discuss perio with your patients? Do you think your front desk person is actually getting patients to make appointments? Doesn’t look like it. She needs help badly. Have you looked through your file cabinet lately? No you haven’t. It’s FILLED with patients that need to come in. Do you know how to get them in? You are taking a course to treat headaches and you can’t even treatment plan a crown? REALLY? Do you honestly believe that dropping all insurance is the answer? Your problem is NOT new patients!

Dr. Mike – Sorry about the rant. But you asked. We see this situation almost every day.

 

Coach Rich
Coach Dave


Dr. David Madow and Dr. Richard Madow are actual dentists who have been helping dental offices become more successful for over 28 years. They are down to earth, real people who personally connect with their clients and are proud to call them friends. If you have a question, please write to them at brothers@madow.com. If you would like to ask a confidential question, please CLICK HERE to schedule a free call.

Slightly disappointed

Yes – we are slightly disappointed. In your office? Maybe. But it’s okay – it’s not too late.

You see, a few weeks ago we set out to call a bunch of practices that have attended“TBSE – The Best Seminar Ever” recently to get their opinions on some things. But the project was pretty much a flop. Why?

Fewer than half of the offices we called even answered their phones! And this was during normal business hours. Instead we received voice mail messages like:

“If you are hearing this message during regular office hours, we are currently serving other patients.”

CLICK!

“We are currently at lunch.”

CLICK!

Sorry to tell you – this is simply not acceptable. The phone is where 99% of your new patients make their first contact with your office. Way too many people tell us they need more new patients, but more often than not, that is not their real problem. If your phone isn’t answered EVERY time it rings during normal business hours (and yes – that means during lunch and during your day off) you are losing new patients you never even knew existed.

How do you make this happen? That’s a lesson for another day. And honestly – you are smart enough to figure it out!! But for now, listen to our friends from Sugar Ray, and answer the phone!!

Beer

Is there trouble brewing at your office in the form of patients not accepting their treatment? This may be the reason.

One hundred years ago, Schlitz Beer (remember Schlitz??) became the number one selling beer in the country by running a radical marketing campaign. Their ad detailed how Schlitz beer was actually made. Since no one reading the ad previously knew how beer was made, they assumed this was some kind of proprietary process – and Schlitz’s sales quickly rose to the top! It became known as “The beer that made Milwaukee famous!” (Or was it “the beer that made Mel Famey walk us?”)

Fast forward to 2017. Do beer ads describe the brewing process in detail? No way. They show attractive twenty-somethings at the beach. They show beautiful crispy-clear snow-covered mountains. They show majestic horses. The goal is to get a feeling attached to their brand, so when you pick up a six-pack of Budweiser you are transported from your dull, ordinary life to a place you would rather be. We all know it isn’t true, but with annual US beer sales topping $100 billion, it seems to be working!

So what’s the point? Your patient doesn’t want to hear about how the crown is made, how the implant surgery is done, and what their composite resin is made of. They want to know how it will look, how it will function, and how it will make them feel!

Get excited about how your dentistry will transform your patient! And if you can get them equally excited, go pop open a beer!

Say this, not that…

SAY THIS

“We would love to see you as a patient in our practice! Would tomorrow at 3:00 PM or Tuesday at 11:00 AM be better for you?”

NOT THAT

“Would you like to make an appointment?”

SAY THIS

“I know what the problem is and I can help you.”

NOT THAT

“This tooth needs a crown.”

SAY THIS

“Would you mind if I place you on a brief hold? I’ll be right back and able to give you my full attention.”

NOT THAT

“Dental office – hold please….”

SAY THIS

“We have some fantastic financial options to help make the cost of treatment more comfortable.”

NOT THAT

“Sorry – it’s not covered by insurance.”

SAY THIS

“Hello Mrs. Costello, I’m Dr. Luther. What may I help you with today?

NOT THAT

“Open wide please…..”

SAY THIS

“Thank you for calling Hill Valley Family Dentistry, this is Lorraine – I can help you!”

NOT THAT

(Voice mail answers) “If you’re hearing this message during normal practice hours, we are busy treating other patients…”

SAY THIS

“When you return for your next cleaning and examination in three months, we want to pay close attention to that area on the lower right to make sure the inflammation is under control.”

NOT THAT

“You’re due for a check-up in six months.”

SAY THIS

“If you were a member of my own family, that is the treatment I would recommend.”

NOT THAT

“If you can’t afford a crown we can always do a large filling.”

SAY THIS

“Yes!”

NOT THAT

“No…..”

This word is now officially banned from your office

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

What do these books, and hundreds of others have in common?

True, they are all classics. And yes, you may have been forced to read them.

But believe it or not, all of these great novels have been banned at one time or another.

As you may know, we are not big fans of censorship, or even strict rules and policies – especially when it comes to your dental practice.

However, there is one word that we would like you to ban completely from your office, both in the written and verbal form. That word?

Cancellation.

A short time ago we were observing in someone’s office and heard this phrase:

“We don’t have anything for you next week, but don’t worry – we ALWAYS get cancellations!”

Yikes! Why would anyone even insinuate to a patient that a cancellation is okay?

When you make confirmation calls, do you give the option to cancel? We hope not. As a matter of fact, why even use the word “confirmation?” That still gives the patient a little bit of an out.

Here’s our suggested verbiage for what was formerly known as the confirmation call:

“Hello, Mrs. Jones? This is Emily from Dr. Sumner’s office. We’re looking forward to seeing you this Friday at 11:00 AM.”

That’s it. Nothing about if you need to change it, if you have any questions, etc.. Short, simple, sweet and positive is the way to go.

And that goes for signs in the reception area and text on your website and cards that say something like:

“If you need to cancel, kindly give 48 hours notice.”

What does that mean? It means that if you cancel 48 hours and one minute before your appointment, that is fine. But it’s not fine!! Do you really want to give a patient permission to do that?

So try it. It works! Get the word “cancellation” the heck out of your vocabulary!!

Winner or Whiner? Take the test.

Winner or Whiner? Take this quick quiz to find out!
WHINER

Complains about the team – they don’t work well together, they don’t have an “ownership mentality,” they complain and bitch, yadda, yadda, yadda….

WINNER

Hires the most exceptional team around, gets them the proper training, and pays them well. Bad apples are not tolerated.

WHINER

Is bored by dentistry but can’t quit due to their lifestyle expenses.

WINNER

Loves what they do. Takes the best courses to stay focused and motivated. Learns new procedures and throws them into the mix.

WHINER

Won’t spend money to build the practice.

WINNER

Invests in the best education, coaching, team, equipment, etc…

WHINER

Complains about all of the competition.

WINNER

Makes friends with other dentists and master-minds to share ideas that will help them all.

WHINER

Pines for the “old days” when advertising was taboo and tacky.

WINNER

Takes advantage of the best and most cost-effective ways to professionally market the practice.

WHINER

Tolerates the patients as a necessary evil.

WINNER

Loves their patients and looks forward to improving their health.

WHINER

Offers patients in-house “payment plans” and then gets all upset when they don’t pay. This includes “half at the prep and half at the insert…”

WINNER

Seeks out the best financial options possible for their patients and leaves collecting to the professionals such as Care Credit.

WHINER

Refers out everything and then complains about the “rich specialists.”

WINNER

Learns how to do more procedures in their office and also has a great relationship with their local specialists. Gets jazzed up by doing interesting services such as sleep apnea treatment, short-term ortho, and more.

WHINER

Comes to the office in a bad mood and expects others to tiptoe around them and read their minds.

WINNER

Even though life isn’t perfect, they are always pleasant, enthusiastic, and willing to help others. Leaves the attitude at the door.

WHINER

Micro-manages everything and everybody and trusts no one except themselves to get the job done correctly.

WINNER

Trusts the team and encourages them to grow. Knows that mistakes are part of the learning process.

WHINER

Leads by fear, intimidation and implied threat.

WINNER

Leads by example.

So how did you do?

TIPS Series # 3

Some of our favorite tips come from people who have spoken at TBSE. That’s why once each month we have been bringing you “TBSE Tips!” The third in this series comes from Laney Kay. Laney is absolutely the best educator we have ever met in the field of OSHA, HIPAA, and all of those other annoying acronyms. She is also incredibly hilarious.
Laney’s tips are pretty simple to implement (especially # 4) – and they will save you lots of time and trouble in the long run! So take it away, Laney Kay!
1. When it comes to regulatory compliance, documentation will save your butt.  Whenever you train your team, whenever you change the way you do things, whenever you encounter a problem, write it in your notebook.  Documentation proves that you are taking regular, positive steps to stay in compliance and maintain your programs.

2. Don’t let regulations drive you crazy.  Establish a program, set up a schedule to maintain it regularly and then stop worrying about it.  The best way to avoid problems is always to treat your patients well and do your best work.

3. Neither OSHA nor HIPAA requires you to use a certain product or endorses any specific program.  If anyone tells you that, they’re trying to sell you something!

4. Always wear underwear with a skirt.  (That’s just good advice in life.)

Thanks so much Laney! We know thousands of people just did a skirt check.