Posts

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.

 

 

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!!

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…..”

Simple Referral Tip

After over twenty-five years of teaching, we have learned quite a bit. And one thing that we have definitely learned is that most people will not take action, even on a good thing.

It’s pretty safe to say that if we wrote:

“Fax us your address and we will send you a crisp new twenty dollar bill” most people would not do it.

The odds get even worse with something like asking a patient to refer someone to your practice. No matter how many courses you take with some great script that is supposed to do the magic, the reality is most patients simply will not do it.

One of the problems is that when it comes time to ask for the referral, the doctor or team member makes it about them and not the patient.

Picture the typical scenario. A patient is happy with the new crowns you just cemented. They are glowing and say:

“Oh Doctor Pickles – I just love my new teeth!”

Boom! You know that’s the best time to ask for a referral. But why doesn’t it work? Because we say something like:

“That’s great Lucinda. If you have any friends or family who could benefit from the same type of dentistry, we would be glad to see them here at Pickles Dental Care.”

Okay – Lucinda knows that at this point it’s all about trying to increase your practice.

When asking for a referral – it’s crucial to work with human nature. Make it about the patient. Engage in a little conversation first before jumping on the referral question. Let’s do an example.

“Oh Doctor Pickles – I just love my new teeth!”

“Lucinda – thanks for saying that. It really made my day! But actually, you made it easy. It’s a pleasure treating you here.”

“Oh – thanks!”

“As you can imagine – in the dental field we hear all kinds of crazy stories, so it’s our goal here to make every single patient as comfortable as possible.”

“Yeah – I know what you mean. My Mom went to the dentist and they started drilling before she was even numb!”

“Oh – so sorry to hear that Lucinda. We would be glad to make room for her in our practice and would be sure to treat her extra gently. Debbie will even give you a few cards.”

See the difference? We engaged Lucinda in a valuable conversation before jumping to the referral issue. It was about her (and subsequently her Mom) – not about the practice.

And most importantly, the conversation was tailored to lead to the referral of a specific person. This is SO much more powerful than asking for a referral of generic “friends and family.”

So yes – asking for referrals can work, especially if you put a little bit of extra oomph into it, make it about the patient not the practice, and try to hone in on a specific referral.

The point is, don’t get discouraged. It’s normal for people to not take action on anything! Just keep the gentle reminders coming and don’t be too pushy, whether it is asking for referrals, treatment recommendations that have not been completed, or anything else. The goal is not always instant gratification, but the fact that when the patient is ready to refer or have their treatment completed, you are the beneficiary of the action.

Trust us – it works!!

The Dreaded Question. Here’s Your Answer.

It’s a phrase you should have at the ready – an answer to a frequently asked question that many of us dread –

“What do you do?”

I’m a dental assistant.
I’m a dentist.
I’m a dental hygienist.
I’m a dental practice administrator.

Accurate – yes. Will it turn the asker into a new patient? Not likely.

So let’s do a simple exercise.

What is the name of your practice? (Don’t worry – the questions will get tougher.)

Dr. Leonard Cohen’s office.
Majestic Hills Dentistry.
The Smile Shack.
Drs. Johnston and Simmons.

Now (a little tougher) what is a one or two word phrase that describes your practice? Here are some examples:

High-tech.
Family oriented.
Cosmetically advanced.
Center-city.
Friendly.
Modern.
Large group.

Next come up with a slightly longer phrase that tells the story of your practice philosophy.

Treating patients comfortably is our number one goal.
We believe in high-tech dentistry in a patient-friendly environment.
We make high quality dentistry affordable.

Take a few minutes to come up with one – it’s not easy!

Okay – you’re almost ready. Next time someone asks you “what do you do?” – fill in the blanks like this…

I’m a answer one at answer two. We’re an answer three practice and answer four!

Using some of the above examples, here is how it would sound.

Dreaded question: “What do you do?”

Your amazing response:

“I’m a dental practice administrator at Majestic Hills Dentistry. We are a cosmetically advanced practice and we make high quality dentistry affordable!”

If it fits the situation, add your location as well.

“I’m a dental assistant at Dr. Leonard Cohen’s office in Montreal. We’re a center-city practice and treating patients comfortably is our number one goal!”

So what’s your answer to the dreaded question? Take a few minutes now or at a team meeting and develop a great one. Feel free to send us your response.

Why Patients Leave

Mrs. Johnson is a relatively new patient in your practice when a lingual cusp on a lower molar snaps off, necessitating a crown. She trusts your practice, so she goes ahead and schedules the crown even though her best friend Gloria tells her that another dentist in town has a crown fee that is two hundred dollars lower.

The appointment for the prep and temp goes well, but at the insert visit the crown has a slight open margin. The decision is made to do a new impression and reappoint. The patient comments how difficult this is with her schedule, but has no choice but to make the appointment.

The second try goes well and she leaves with a beautiful new crown, but Mrs. Johnson has some moderate (yet typical) post-op discomfort. She didn’t realize at the time that a little pain after any dental procedure is not unusual.

No one hears from Mrs. Johnson until four months later, when a confirmation call is made for her upcoming hygiene appointment, at which point she says:

“Oh – I won’t be coming back in anymore. My new office will be calling for my x-rays.”

So what went wrong?

Were your crown fees too high? Was she disappointed in the clinical abilites of the office because the first crown didn’t fit well? Was it that the second impression and insert was too much of an inconvenience? How about the post-op pain?

According to international consulting giant Bain & Company, “A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related.”

So while this patient probably wasn’t too happy about several things, if a few simple service-related procedures were done correctly, they probably would have stayed.

The doctor didn’t call the night of the crown prep to check on the patient. They didn’t properly explain that while it was possible to cement the first crown, to get it really perfect would mean a new impression (while apologizing for the inconvenience.)

And a patient-centric office would overplay the fact that there would be post-op pain. That way, discomfort is expected and no discomfort makes you a hero!

So before we let you go for today, let’s just repeat the lesson of the day:

“A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related.”

This Won’t Make You Look Good…

Negativity is rarely a good thing. Yet there is a situation when many people slip into it at the dental office.

Imagine that someone is presenting with sensitivity on a crown they had done by a dentist in another town just a year ago. Your exam shows that the thing fits like boots on a rooster and there is already some recurrent decay.

Or a new patient comes in for an exam and you have to talk to them about their poor periodontal condition – but unfortunately they had an exam six months ago from a dentist who didn’t even own a perio probe and told them “everything looks fine!”

Our knee-jerk defense mechanism is to tell them the crown was not done correctly or their former dentist couldn’t tell periodontal disease from an ingrown toenail. But don’t do it!! There is a good chance they loved their previous dentist, and besides – you weren’t there when the crown was done or the perio exam performed.

Trashing another dentist is like negative campaigning – it makes everyone look bad.

A great line to use is:

“I can’t tell you what the situation was when that crown was placed (or that examination performed) – I can only tell you exactly what I see today.”

Repeat if necessary. Broken record. Ad nauseum. Whatever it takes to get the message through. Just don’t slip into negativity. And then turn things around with the killer statement:

“The good news is, I know what the problem is and I can take care of it!”

It works, and you look like the hero!