Training Your Dental Front Desk on the Telephone

Training Your Dental Front Desk on the Telephone

Are you having trouble training your dental front desk on the telephone?  If so, you are not alone.  I was inspired to write this article due to the overwhelming response I received about this topic on YouTube.  Hopefully, it will provide a bit of insight and a few tactics to use next time you train a new team member how to handle phone calls in your practice.

If you ask any hiring manager in a dental office if they enjoy the task of replacing an employee, you will get a “heck no” response every time.  First, a current employee leaves (the stress begins).  Next, you place an ad hoping to attract that “right” person (do you know what that even looks like?).  Then, you spend countless hours interviewing candidates.  After checking references, clearing a background check, and waiting a few weeks for the new employee to begin working…  the day finally arrives. 

The new hire walks into the office on his/her first day and you can almost hear the sigh of relieve from the rest of the team.  Everybody who has been helping fill the gap is so happy that their work life can go back to normal.  If this were a video, it is where you would hear a loud bolt of lightning and a red X would appear.  Just because the new employee has officially started, doesn’t mean the rest of the team can leave him/her to sink or swim on the phone. 

Training Your Dental Front Desk on the Telephone

I was consulting with a practice owner a few weeks ago and he said, “The new girl we hired isn’t working out.”  I said, “Oh, I hate to hear that.  What seems to be the issue?”  He said, “She just doesn’t know what to say on the phone.”  Naturally, I asked, “Who trained her?  Can they give her a refresher or maybe ask someone else to train her?”  What he said next baffled me.  He said, “We trained her to use the software, verify insurance, and manage the schedule. 

If she can’t at least learn how to answer the phones on her own, she isn’t as proactive as we need her to be.”  I was so shocked at his response; I’m not sure exactly what words came out of my mouth.  I’m sure it was appropriate and professional.  However, in my mind I had the angry bird bombs going off in my head!

The dental business is 100% relational.  This means that if we want people to choose us as their new dentist, accept treatment, refer friends, and write good reviews then we need to earn it.  Patients don’t care what type of materials are used, what latest and greatest technology is in the office, or how many degrees the doctor has racked up over his/her career. 

A new patient chooses a dentist based on an emotional feeling of safety and trust.  That is why most advertising postcards have a happy family on the front.  People need to feel a connection to the office.  This connection must develop into a pattern of trust as quickly as possible.  How is this accomplished?  It begins with the very first contact…  the phone call.

When a new patient calls the practice to schedule an appointment, he/she makes over 1,000 small first impressions while talking with us.  This is the moment to shine.  The person answering the telephone has an opportunity to set the stage for a long-lasting patient relationship.  For example:  If we ask the caller about their insurance immediately, the caller will believe that we are money-driven.

If we ask questions such as “Are you new to the area?” or thank them so much for calling your office, the caller will feel that we care about them.  In the first example, we instill a false belief (almost impossible to be undone).  In the second example, we instill a feeling.  This is a skill that takes a bit of practice. 

The phrase “you never have a chance to make a second first impression” is true.  When someone calls a dental practice, they really only know two things:  they need to make an appointment and they may/may not have insurance.  If we answer the phone and wait for the caller to lead the conversation, then we will be talking about insurance and available times within the first couple of seconds.  Where is the connection?  Where is the emotional reassurance that they called the right office and we will take care of them?  It becomes a lost opportunity.  It may even result in your front desk not converting the caller into a new patient. 

Every time the phone rings, we must take control of the conversation almost immediately.  We need to lead the caller through a series of steps with the end goal of creating a connection and a sense of trust.  How can a new employee instill trust in a caller if they don’t trust themselves to know how to handle the call?  It can’t happen.  When an employee isn’t properly trained on the phone, they sound insecure and timid.  This will result in a poor first impression, lost marketing dollars (how much did it cost you to make the phone ring?), and a decline in production due to the number of new patients for the month. 

If you hire someone without experience, as so many of us do, have a training outline to follow.  Begin with insurance and end with telephone calls.  Understand that this process may take a few weeks.  A person must learn the business before they can trust themselves to be confident on the phone.  Unfortunately, this means that the team player that was helping out up front may need to continue helping for a bit longer.  This is a very small price to pay for training someone properly. 

So, before you discount the “new girl” for not sounding good on the phone you may want to provide more training.  Begin with a checklist to use as a guide, then role play the most common call scenarios, and last sit with him/her for the first few calls to make sure that they are confident before you leave them solo.  Make sure that the employee knows that you are there for any support and it is safe to come to you to ask questions. 

Training an employee is an investment that, if done properly, can be very rewarding.  Provide the tools for success and your investment will pay off for years to come both with a happy team player and a healthy practice.

View our dental practice video tips that provide dental offices with key information that can help your practice’s growth. Subscribe to our Front Office Coach channel on YouTube to be alerted when new video tips get published. To learn more about training your dental front desk on the telephone or our other custom training solutions visit, send me an email at or call 214-755-0955

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.


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