Every practice loses prospective patients through unsatisfactory management of incoming calls. While it takes many forms, it usually happens when the caller hangs up because the phone wasn’t answered fast enough, when the caller hangs up instead of waiting on hold, or when the caller doesn’t feel a personal connection with the team member answering his/her questions about the practice.
Practices that have trained staff to effectively manage telephone communications and build rapport with patients have an easier time retaining them. On the other hand, practices that haven’t invested in properly training staff members on the best ways to connect with prospective patients can lose the opportunity to convert those callers into active patients.
Any team member who answers the phone should be able to interest callers in coming into the practice.
Calculate your practice’s rate of lost calls from prospective patients by having the administrative staff track the number of new patient calls received each week for one month. Compare that number to the number of new callers scheduled for an office visit. Some practices lose as many as 30-50% of the initial contacts. A loss of more than 20% could indicate that your staff and your practice would benefit from some additional training on managing calls.
It’s not uncommon for dentists managing practices with high rates of lost calls from prospective patients to infer that marketing isn’t effective because they aren’t seeing strong results. While marketing drives the prospective patient to call your practice, it’s up to you to make sure your team has the training and communication skills needed to make the caller want to come in for treatment.
Schedule your team for a course, program or webinar on effective communication skills if they haven’t had that type of training recently. Courses may be available through your state or local dental association, other professional associations and other sources.
Training your staff in effective communication is a worthwhile investment that pays other dividends and can convert prospective patients to active patient status.
Include your entire staff in communications training; patients often ask questions of any staff member and this could also lead to increased treatment acceptance rates.
You can assess your team’s communication skills by role-playing some of the most common telephone calls you receive from prospective patients. Another option is to record actual calls and listen to them during a team meeting; this approach allows you to coach staff on what cues should receive which response and will help them interact with first time callers more effectively. Many jurisdictions have laws requiring permission from employees and/or callers before they can be recorded. Make sure you investigate whether your jurisdiction has any such laws and always comply scrupulously with them.
Technology can also help your practice connect with prospective patients who contact the practice from a mobile device.
Consider sending “missed call” text messages to any individual whose call was missed.
This lets them know you’re aware that the call was not answered and that you care enough to follow-up. Call them as soon as possible to find out how your practice can be of service. Calls that originate from landlines cannot be messaged this way.