Double your Patients with One Quick Fix!

If you are interested in doubling the number of new patients you get in a month this will be the most important message you will ever read.


Here's why:


There is a bottleneck in your practice that is preventing people from becoming your patients. These people are actively looking for dental services. They are predisposed to accepting treatment plans. Yet, at the moment when it counts the most, they are unable to get an appointment with you.


When they run into difficulty they have no choice but to go and see your competitors instead.


Those patients should have been yours... but now someone else gets to collect on their treatments.


All of this might sound absurd to you... heck! maybe even impossible.


After all, you have time available... you want as many new patients as you can get... why on earth would there be any problem getting them scheduled?


Because they have to get PAST your receptionist to get into your book!


The success of ANY marketing campaign depends to a large degree on the ability of the Receptionist to convert new callers responding to your marketing efforts into scheduled appointments!


First off, let me tell you something about your receptionist. His/Her job is demanding. He/She is probably the hardest working and most underpaid person in your office. He/She plays an important role... he/she is the single point of contact for all of your patients.


Here are some of the calls a receptionist might get throughout the day:

  • I need to change my appointment.
  • I have a question about my bill.
  • I need to cancel my appointment.
  • Can you explain my insurance billing?
  • Are you open on weekends?
  • I need to refill my prescription.
  • I'm in pain from my visit.
  • What is the cost of a crown?
  • Post-op questions.
  • Supply and vendor calls.


The two calls in bold are VERY different from the other calls. That is because they are inquiries from prospective new patients. In other words... you've got a live one here!


Now here is the wrong way to handle a new patient inquiry:


Caller: What is the cost of a crown?

Receptionist: We don't give prices over the phone.

Caller: Okay. Thanks. Goodbye.


And just like that... you lost a patient to your competitor.


When your receptionist cannot handle the caller in such a way that he or she is agreeable to booking an appointment then you have a bottleneck in your practice.


You are relying on your receptionist's judgment of how to handle that inquiry. He/She is the conduit through which all new appointments are scheduled.


His/Her judgment will determine whether or not you get a new patient.


Once it is put in that perspective you realize that your receptionist is literally handling the future cash flow of your practice!


Let's say that over the course of two months your receptionist gets 40 new patient inquiries. They are all along the line of "What is the price of a crown?" and "Are you open on the weekends?" and such. How many of those calls does he/she end up booking?


In 2010-2011 I commissioned a study to find out that answer. I wanted to know how effective receptionists were on average when it came to handling new patient inquiries and getting them to book an appointment.


I analyzed audio recordings of over 10,000 phone calls into different dental practices of all sizes across the US.


What I found out was shocking!


Receptionists, on average, will book 9.2 appointments for every 40 new patient inquiries.


That comes out to only a 23% booking average. Let's round up the 9.2 appointments booked to an even 10 appointments. That means out of 40 new patient inquiries your receptionist will book 10 of them. Only 25% of the people that contact your office go on to become new patients. This is not good!


And what about the other 75%? They went to your competitors. They called you, but your receptionist didn't close the deal.


Now nobody is going to close everyone. There will always be a patient that got away. But the untrained receptionist is treating inquiries like they were just any other phone call.


Ok, so how can we increase his/her skill in handling those calls from a 25% booking ratio to a 50% booking ratio then you will double the number of new patients you get in a month?


When he/she gets one of those calls a red alert should go off in her mind. He/She knows that it is his/her job to do everything he/she can to get the person scheduled!


And this is how he/she does it. This is the one quick fix that could double your new patients... get him/her to ask questions!


Don't just answer the caller's question and then let them hang up. You control the conversation by asking questions.


Let's take for example, "Are you open on the weekend?" and let's say that your office is only open during the week.


This is how it usually goes:


Caller: Hi. Are you open on the weekends?

Receptionist: No we are not.

Caller: Okay. Bye.


The receptionist answered the question without attempting to find out anything about the caller. Now here is how to do it by taking control of the conversation by asking questions:


Caller: Hi. Are you open on the weekends?

Receptionist: Are you looking to schedule an appointment?

Caller: Yes I am.

Receptionist: Are you available early in the morning during the week?

Caller: It would have to be at 6am.

Receptionist: We could schedule you at that time. What do you need done?


When you ask questions you open the door. When you just answer the first question the caller asks you slam the door shut. Here is how to handle another call:


Caller: What is the cost of a crown?

Receptionist: I can answer that question for you. But first let me ask you a couple of questions. What's your name?

Caller: Tom.

Receptionist: And your last name Tom?

Caller: Smith

Receptionist: Thanks. And just in case we get cut off, what is the best number to reach you at?

Caller: (888) 555-5555

Receptionist: Thank you. Did somebody tell you that you need a crown?

Caller: Well... no. I just figured that's what I needed.

Receptionist: Okay. Well to answer your question, if you call any dentist in town, the price for a crown will range from $800 to $1200. It really depends. The doctor will need to take a look at it to let you know what you need. I have an appointment on Tuesday at 4pm and an appointment on Friday at 12pm. Which would work better for you?

Caller: Tuesday at 4pm.

Receptionist: Great.


Now he/she isn't going to close every call he/she gets. But if he/she just starts asking questions, he/she will greatly improve his/her chances of getting an appointment booked.

Now, in order for your receptionist to really do their job well, he/she will need some basic product knowledge and price ranges for services. But if you can practice with him/her on how to handle some of the common inquiries then he/she will book more appointments for you.


The important thing you have to realize is that new patient inquiries are NOT free. When somebody calls your office, it's because your marketing has worked. You paid for that call. They might have seen your sign on the building; it might have been your website, postcard, Yelp, etc. Your money and your hard work made that phone ring.


That's why it is so important for you receptionist to properly handle those inquiries. With your guidance he/she will gradually increase her booking ratio. The time you spend helping him/her will pay you back in spades!

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  • Yes! Spot On! 

         The point of contact is one of the most important team members in the dental office! It's amazing how many different types of calls the front desk can get in just one day. This article does a great job explaining exactly what it's like for a receptionist. It's great that this article clearly explains that each patient has been paid for in some form or fashion. 

    It's easy to get engulfed in trying to make everyone satisfied on the team, but it's so important to stay focused on the vision. Great article Roger!

  • This is brilliant stuff.  If only dentists would read it -- and have the gumption to train their staffs to follow their protocols. 

    I am tuned into this approach because it parallels the philosophies in a book a wrote a couple of years ago called Entrepreneurial Insanity,  It is all about managing your staff with your vision, not reacting to their view of what you should do.


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