The most common question I am asked by dentists is, “Why does my team need dental front office training?” The answer varies from office to office, however the one common factor in all offices is that people need to trust their dentist. What does that have to do with the front office team? Everything. Let me explain…
When a person seeks a new dentist, the number one thing they seek is the intangible feeling of trust and security. If you’ve ever answered phones for a day at a dental office, you’ve gotten the “potential new patient call”. The first question most folks ask is, “Do you accept my insurance?”. After that, the questions are, “Are you accepting new patients?”, “How soon can I get on the schedule?”, and “Are you offering any new patient specials?”. These questions always make me chuckle. Why don’t patients ever ask “Where did the doctor attend school?”, “Where did he/she graduate in his class?”, “Are there any lawsuits against the doctor?”. After answering phones in a dental office for years, I was never asked anything about the doctor’s qualifications on the first phone call.
So, why am I sharing these thoughts with you? It’s simple. Trust is established at the first contact, which is the initial phone call. The trust is then passed from the front office team to the clinical team and eventually to the doctor. If the trust is not properly gained up front, it will hinder the chances of the patient fully trusting the doctor. This is the most common reason why a patient doesn’t schedule diagnosed treatment after the first visit.
Every Office Manager should make sure that their dental front office team understands the importance of gaining a patient’s trust. The doctor could be the best in the state but new patients will never get to experience that if the trust wasn’t established properly. Before a new patient ever meets the doctor, he/she has formed a first impression about the office and knows if they will return. A new patient calls the office, gets appointment confirmations, is emailed the new patient paperwork, walks into the office for the first time, is introduced to the clinical team, has x-rays taken, etc…. all before they even meet the dentist. If the trust is broken in any of these areas, the patient will make a judgement about the office before ever meeting the doctor.
Train your dental front office team on the importance of gaining trust in a new patient. Explain how this trust will ultimately lead to increased case acceptance.
Teach the front office team how to properly answer potential new patient questions on the initial call. Talk about how to listen, empathize, and sincerely care about the person’s dental concerns. Role play a new patient call. Remember: whatever you talk about first on the initial call is what the patient perceives is most important in your office. Example: If the first question you ask is, “Do you have insurance?” then the potential new patient will believe that insurance is important to you. In reality, it’s not because we don’t ever want the new patient to think that insurance dictates patient care or the doctor’s diagnoses.
Train your team to identify different personality types and how to respond accordingly. For example, if a caller speaks in short, to the point sentences that is how he/she prefers to be spoken to as well. If a caller tells us their life story in the first 5 minutes of the call, then he/she prefers to begin building a relationship upfront. If we show the caller that we respect their personality, it will immediately result in a great first impression which lays the foundation for trust.
There are very specific pieces of information to extract out of a potential new patient on the initial call. Remember to always smile, ask their name and phone number, and how they heard about us. Smiling lets the caller know that you appreciate them calling your office vs. the dental office down the street. Asking their name shows respect. Go a step further and use their name at least three times during the call. This will show sincerity. Last, always ask how they heard about us. This information is very helpful when deciding where to spend marketing dollars. Use this guide to illustrate a new patient call:
Answer with a smile (callers can hear the smile in your voice and it is crucial!)
- Ask name and phone
- How did you hear about us?
- Acknowledge their answer and lead into the appointment
- Give 2 appointment time options
- Ask to email the new patient paperwork and then say, “By the way, will you be using insurance?”
- End the call according to the person’s personality type
Practice, practice, practice….. Practicing will not only help your team master these skills but will also get them in the proper mindset every time the phone rings.
If your dental front office team can master this “trust” training, you will be well on your way to more new patients, increased case acceptance, and the revenue dollars will rise.
Good luck and if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call or email. As always, I’m here to help you.
About the Author…
Tracy Civick is a nationally recognized speaker, coach, and author who focuses on motivating dental front office teams to grow practice revenue and get a better handle on the daily dental practice front office tasks. Her memberships include The Academy of Dental Management Consultants and AADOM, Academy of Dental Office Managers.