Front Office Phone Skills Are Essential
While speaking with prospective clients, I continually have to remind myself to follow my own advice.
Improving my own phone skills by keeping talking points focused and brief helps conserve both parties’ precious time and expedites benefits to the dentist.
It’s much too easy to let a phone consultation ramble on across myriad topics concerning online marketing; sometimes it’s my fault, other times the dentist just wants lots of details.
The dental practice may ask for complex information, or opinions about other companies, site design, how SEO works, payment options, or even other marketing approaches beyond my services, or expertise. Often dentists or their liaison want me to check their websites and propose a course of action right then, over the phone.
The impossibility of conducting detailed analysis of a dental website over the telephone is similar to how a dental practice cannot diagnose, suggest treatment, or prescribe drugs over the phone. While giving concise, accurate answers, I must remember to gently direct our conversation back to the central call to action, that is, to ask the dentist for a retainer first so we can evaluate their needs, determine a plan and get started on their project.
Keep The Ultimate Purpose In Mind
While I’m more of the craftsman, or the mechanic behind the website, the dentist’s FD or whoever takes new patient calls must learn about phone sales. Since a steady new patient flow is the lifeblood of any practice, she must adopt the somewhat unfamiliar role of “sales person” and have no problem suggesting an appointment date to callers.
Asking patients questions such as:
- “what day would you like to come in?”
- “can we set an appointment for you today?”
- “we have an opening next Thursday, would that be good for you?”
…can each be effective — and refined as needed.
Get A Commitment
I cannot help the dentist use the Internet to attract more patients with their website until they commit to their goals. Likewise, the dental practice’s dialog with a potential patient should always return to its main goal; which is (invariably): always get the patient in the dentist’s chair for diagnosis and treatment planning. You cannot bill for telephone consultation or small talk.
Being helpful, polite and friendly are must-have people skills for productive phone etiquette, however, if your front desk person allows the patient inquiry to become too informal, the conversation can drift away from the primary goal, which is to schedule a visit with the dentist.
Front desk staff should be qualified and more than capable of answering callers’ questions regarding insurance coverage, payment options and the benefits of dental treatment. Adequately addressing these concerns should be the foundation for suggesting a visit and converting the call into a patient.
Ask any sales pro the #1 reason why most beginner salesmen have mediocre success and they’ll tell you — its mainly because they don’t ask for the sale.
Train Your Staff
Additional training to help your staff engender trust, convey courtesy and capture the appointment over the phone are available from a number of providers. Here’s an inexpensive tutorial I found that offers good, solid advice. » Handbook of Essential Phone Skills. They also have a healthcare edition. For larger budgets, here’s a course designed specifically for the dental practice.
…and another excellent resource for nurturing professional telephone skills.
Lost Advertising Dollars
As you’ve no doubt realized, if your front desk doesn’t interface with the public well, or staff neglects to solicit an appointment from callers, no matter how much you spend on marketing your dental practice, a certain percentage of potential patients can be slipping through the cracks.
For The Visible Dentist, I’m John Barremore (non-salesman extraordinaire).