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How To Convert Phone Calls Into New Patients

By: Keisha Dunstan

Your front desk staff and the way they handle the first phone conversation can quite literally mean the difference between a thriving practice full of referrals and delighted patients and a practice struggling just to get by.

Recently, I was in search for a dentist who could accept walk ins and emergencies due to a cracked tooth caused by a popcorn kernel. I found this dentist online and called them after seeing their website. I dialed the number. The phone rang. I was greeted with a robotic voice mail, “Thank you for calling our Dentist office. We are very busy with our current patients. Leave your name and number and we’ll call you as soon as we can.” Click. So, I left a message.

One hour later, and no call back, so I called again. After the second ring, I was greeted with, “Dentist office, can you please hold.” Before I could respond I was put on hold. This was not a great experience…needless to say I hung up and did not call back.

Your front desk staff and the way they handle the first phone conversation can quite literally mean the difference between a thriving practice full of referrals and delighted patients and a practice struggling just to get by. Having friendly and sincere people representing your practice is the thing that will leave the most lasting impression on patients, especially new patients.

Let’s take a look at a few behaviors that should be a part of your front desk process:

Efficient system for phone calls and patient arrivals.

Being the voice and face of a doctor’s front office can be overwhelming, especially if your team is dealing with high call volume, and patient arrivals all at the same time. This is an opportunity to revisit your system.

Every call should be answered before the third ring.

In order to ensure the phone is answered on brand, have a little script available. And if your staff has to put a caller on hold, it’s okay. First, make them feel comfortable by having your phone attendees introduce themselves, then ask permission to put the caller on hold or ask if they would prefer a call back. If a patient arrives while your attendant is on the phone, simply give them a nod and a smile and let them know you’ll be right with them. They will feel acknowledged and will wait to interact.

It’s About First Impression.

While searching for an orthopaedic in my area, I called several offices. I made a decision on one particular office based on the phone attendee. She asked open ended questions and had a genuine interest in me and my symptoms. She acknowledged my reason for calling, showed empathy and expressed compassion for my situation. Because of these reasons I made the appointment because I figured the doctor would also be this way. When I visited the office, the reception used my name several times, came from behind the window to hand me the forms and showed me how to work the kiosk to sign in. I walked out of there feeling like this practice is truly committed to their patients and I even mentioned to the doctor this was the best experience I have ever had in an office…this was after a SHOT!

The Power of Smiling Over The Phone.

If a smile widens on a phone call, and no one is there to see it, does it make a sound? Yes, it does. The advice of smiling over the phone has been around for years, but it’s amazing how many people don’t put it into practice. Besides teaching your team the importance of smiling, set little things to help them develop the habit. Like having a mirror on their computer or having little reminders near the phone…”Shoulders Back. Smile” is an example.

In conclusion, the telephone is more than likely the first “voice” experience potential patients have with your medical practice. So needless to say the experience must be an exceptional one.

  • Answer the phone by the third ring to avoid patients going to voicemail
  • Script a greeting for your staff to use
  • Answer the phone with a big smile on your face…the caller on the other end will appreciate it
  • Train your staff to encourage the caller to schedule an appointment

There’s no mystery when it comes to converting phone calls to new patients. It’s as easy as having empathy for the person on the other end of the phone.

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