Can new patient calls be some of the best marketing you do? Absolutely—and there’s never been a better time to put in the effort.
By KAY HUFF
NOW MORE THAN EVER, dental practices have a golden opportunity to shine over the phone. According to a survey by Arizona State University, “customer service is worse than ever, and more people are enraged about it.” Inattentive, unhelpful, impolite interactions are becoming the norm, making it much easier for thoughtful, caring businesses to truly stand out. For dental practices, there’s no better place to start than with every new patient call.
An increasing number of people may be embracing apps, email and texting for making appointments or getting their questions answered, and you can hardly blame them. However, patients often still want to talk to a human being. That’s good news, because texting is highly inefficient. One study says that humans speak at about 125 to 175 words per minute and can absorb up to 450 words per minute, while an average typist manages to peck out only about 40 per minute—and that’s on a full-size keyboard! Clearly, you can accomplish a lot more, a lot faster, on a call.
How can you best clear the low bar for telephone customer service these days? Simple. Knock it out of the park on every call, every time. If that sounds like a lofty goal, it’s not. A new patient phone call takes about the same amount of time and effort for your team, regardless of whether it’s done with genuine empathy and enthusiasm or utter indifference.
It might be tempting to slack off a bit in times like these, when anything better than bad is good. But so many of my clients have demonstrated that a little extra effort, consistently applied, can help blow away patients right from their first interaction. More importantly, it’s the first step toward getting them to tell their friends and family about your practice.
Plus, if you’re an independent dentist, you might want to consider this: DSOs and large group practices are consolidating their operations, and an increasing number are investing in specialized call centers run by professionals and staffed by trained representatives. The good ones know what they’re doing, so it’s worth putting in some time and training to ensure that your practice is better.
Luckily, it isn’t rocket science. While there is a detailed framework for how a successful call is executed, as well as best practices within that framework, some basic high-level tips include answering the phone by the third ring, smiling while talking, giving your name, welcoming the patient, using the patient’s name throughout the call, communicating the anticipated appointment length, making sure patients have directions to the office and ending every call on a positive note by expressing how much you look forward to seeing them.
A patient’s perception is reality—especially in today’s world of social media and online reviews.
A patient’s perception is reality—especially in today’s world of social media and online reviews. Setting the right tone for each patient’s new visit is some of your best marketing. That’s why it’s worth the effort to do it right. The payoff is increased loyalty and retention, as well as better word of mouth, which is not only free advertising but also the most trusted kind.