Stop Losing New Patients!

The other day I was cruising one of the many DentalTown forums, when I saw that a doctor was stunned to learn from a friend who called that he was losing referrals, not because of his clinical staff, but because of the unpleasant way his front office answered the phone. After 8 years in the contact center business for dentists, I can honestly say that the fact that he was unaware of how his phones were being answered is all too common. Most dentists are shielded from bad phone handling because they are in the back working, and when they come to the front, the phone staff suddenly cleans up its act and sounds great, so unless the news arrives from a third party who tells him how bad it is, then the dentist may lose business for years without knowing why.

As has been repeated in several of my previous blogs, everyone on the clinical side gets special training to be able to practice their job, and then receive ongoing education in the CE credits they are obligated to do every year thereafter. The front office, in comparison, is a very mixed bag. Some have had formal training for their job, but the vast majority have learned on-the-job with minimal instruction. So it is kind of difficult to complain about their work product when one considers they are not trained to answer the phone.

My partner Lynette Conway-Ross has said for years that the most important piece of dental office equipment is not a shiny new machine in the operatories, but the telephone on the front office desk. Clients don’t understand or care about the latest technology in the office. They are blissfully ignorant, as they have every right to be. They are concerned with how they are treated by those on the phone and at the reception area of the office, well before they will even be seated in the chair. If the staff members answering their phone calls are impatient, ill-tempered or rude, they may not show up for their appointment, if they make one in the first place.

To be fair, some staff members see the job of answering the phone as a chore no different than emptying the office trashcan. They may not understand that potential new patients calling to inquire about the dentist judge the office by how they sound on that initial call. They see it as only one part of their job, no more important than any other part of their workday. They may sound indifferent or hostile to a caller, if they are also trying to take care of a patient standing in front of them, or are on hold with the insurance company etc.

There are solutions to this, and the first one is phone handling training. Most people want to do their jobs well, but need some training. Give it to them. Concierge Contact Center offers onsite and live video trainings that will pay for themselves within weeks.

Secondly, you can get a phone line set up exclusively for new patients. We have dental marketing companies that contract our trained agents here at Concierge Contact Center to do nothing but answer their dentists’ new patient calls and chats generated from their marketing campaigns. This is one of the first things they do, so that the loss of new patient callers is reduced, and stream of new patients will increase. Contact center agents are not dealing with walk-in clients, existing patient calls, insurance company calls or vendor calls and visits. All they do is occupy their workstation and politely tell inquiring callers what a great doctor you are and what a helpful staff you have. They calm the callers, get them scheduled into your calendar and send you a confirmation email as soon as the appointment is made. And unlike your staff, they do it 24/7, so calls are not missed. Inquiring callers call when they think about what they want, not just during your office hours.

Contact Shea Davis at or call her at 404-937-3620. She can get you set up so you are maximizing your chances of scheduling potential new patient callers.

John Ross