dental practice phone etiquetteIt happens to all of us—frustration when making a phone call.

Maybe you have an urgent question and call during business hours—but after four rings, you hear a voicemail message. Or the person who answers immediately says, “Please hold.” After several minutes of music (or even worse, silence), you assume the person forgot about you, so you hang up.

Maybe you just want to talk with a human—not listen to a never-ending automated message that forces you to choose from a laundry list of options.

No one likes the above scenarios. They cause mistrust, irritation, and a lack of confidence. The results can be detrimental to a business. The customer calls the competitor instead. Probably even leaves a bad review for everyone to read.

Is your dental practice losing patients due to lack of phone etiquette? If you haven’t provided your team with proper phone training, then chances are good the answer is YES.

At Prosperity Dental Solutions, we offer coaching and consulting services to improve the profitability, accountability, and success of dental practices. Few areas can impact the health of your practice more than the telephone.

It’s important to understand that how your team handles phone calls has a direct impact on your business’ profitability. Here at Prosperity Dental Solutions, we offer phone training sessions so your team can build new patient appointments, improve patient satisfaction, and increase profits.

What first impression does your dental practice make?

As everyone knows, first impressions matter. When you consider the fact that most patients’ first contact with your practice is over the phone, you begin to realize the importance of proper phone training.

Don’t take the chance of losing potential patients to someone else because of a bad first impression.

When your practice phone rings during business hours, is it answered every single time? Ask your team. If they are missing phone calls, chances are you don’t know about it. Does your team realize the importance of the phone? If they are busy with a patient at the desk, do they ignore the potential patient who is calling? Set the expectation that the phone is answered 100 percent of the time.

The goal should be to answer every phone call on the second ring. The third ring is the “last chance ring,” right before voicemail picks up. Your team members should not allow a fourth ring to happen. And they shouldn’t answer on the first ring.

Why not the first ring?

While answering the phone is the priority, how your team members answer the phone is just as important. The tone of voice matters. Will the caller encounter a warm and welcoming tone? Or will they be turned off by an uncaring attitude? For the potential patient, the voice on the other end of the phone gives them an idea of how they will be treated in the office.

Get the first impression right. The small amount of time between the first and second ring is all it takes to focus and set the tone. It gives you the opportunity to take a deep breath, put a smile on your face, and direct your attention to the caller.

What lasting impression does your dental practice make?

Have you ever been on the phone with someone who was rushing you? Finishing your sentences, cutting you off, and redirecting you?

Maybe you’ve been met with a negative attitude from the person on the other end of the phone. You could sense the eye rolls and hear the sighs.

Compare that to the last phone conversation you had with someone who was a joy to talk with.

Now ask, what experience do your patients have when they call your practice? Are their questions answered? Do they feel valued and important?

Or are they left with the feeling that their call is a nuisance?

Do the answers they receive build confidence, or do they leave the patient feeling that the staff doesn’t have the time, patience, or ability to deal with their questions?

Sadly, many dental practice employees see answering the phone as an interruption. It takes them away from something they are trying to accomplish, and they get annoyed. And the patients sense that. If this happens in your practice, you can be certain it is costing you.

Instead, you want your team to see answering the phone as an opportunity. Each phone call can present the chance to schedule an appointment or solve a problem.

Don’t Let the Telephone be a Reason to Lose Patients

Avoid the most common phone mistakes, such as when:

  • The person answering the phone is not able to help the caller with questions
  • The team member answering the phone is distracted or annoyed
  • Patients are put on hold—and left there
  • Patients are transferred to someone else—and get voicemail
  • Voicemail messages are not returned in a timely manner

Don’t lose potential or existing patients due to poor phone etiquette. With proper training, team members can learn how to deal with phone calls the right way.

Make sure every team member who receives questions from patients has answers. Consider putting together an FAQ page that staff can refer to, so they don’t have to remember things on the spot. This not only adds to the comfort level of those answering the phones, but it also ensures that patients are given correct and consistent answers.

Let your staff know the importance of answering the phone with a smile. Did you know the brain releases endorphins when you smile? These endorphins increase happiness and reduce stress. Patients can actually “feel” the smile through the phone and will be more likely to set an appointment.

If the staff really is too busy to fully help the patient on the phone, instruct them to ask permission to call the patient back in a few minutes. And then actually call them back in a few minutes.

Emphasize the importance of focus. No one feels important if the person they are talking to is busy doing other things. Patients hear the clacking of a keyboard or papers shuffling in the background. And when staff members multitask, they miss things. Sometimes important things, like neglecting to document a severe allergy, heart condition, or history of joint replacement that requires prophylaxis antibiotics.

Emphasize the importance of a graceful goodbye. Thank patients for calling. Tell them it was a pleasure to speak with them. Invite them to call back if they have any more questions. And wait for the caller to hang up, in case they think of one more thing they want to discuss.

Start Increasing Your Profits by Improving Phone Etiquette

Your team members probably don’t want to turn patients off with their poor phone manners; they just haven’t been trained properly. Stop losing patients over the phone. Contact Prosperity Dental Solutions today to learn more about our phone training sessions.

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